Farmers markets in Missouri growing in popularity

In an era when a new gadget seems to constantly emerge, consumers are increasingly turning back the clock in the produce they purchase.

Farmers markets in Missouri are seeing increases both in the number of vendors and the number of customers. The Missouri Department of Agriculture’s farmers market map lists 203 markets throughout the state. Spokeswoman Christine Tew told the Southeast Missourian (http://bit.ly/qOwXTo) the number has been rising about 10 percent each year for the past decade. Nationally, the number of farmers markets is up 17 percent over last year to more than 1,000, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We’ve had real good support from the community this year,” said Marilyn Peters, who coordinates the Cape Girardeau farmers market, held each Thursday at a shopping center parking lot. “It is definitely growing. We’ve got more vendors than we’ve ever had.”

The farmers market in Cape Girardeau has become so popular that it is being extended. Normally wrapping up in October, the market will remain through Nov. 17.

“People are much more aware of where their food comes from, what kinds of chemicals and processing that’s being done to foods put out by big companies,” Peters said. “They want locally grown foods. They want to ask the person they buy from, ‘Has this been sprayed?’ and ‘With what?”’

The market this season has averaged about 25 vendors each week offering produce, meats, baked goods, honey, soaps and plants. Vendors rent spaces.

Nearby Jackson also has a farmers market, now in its third year.

Advocates say that in addition to the locally grown goods, the cost of goods at a farmers market can also be less expensive. Last week, apples, sweet corn, peppers and tomatoes were less expensive at the Cape Girardeau farmers market than the average price at local grocery stores. Honey, fresh-baked pies and bell peppers cost slightly more at the farmers market.

“Plus, you’re getting it fresh off the vine, within 24 hours,” said Dimple Bridges, who shops weekly at the Cape Girardeau farmers market. “There’s not a week that I’m in town that I don’t come here.”

Jeanne Brumleve of Cobden, Ill., and her family operate a 55-acre farm, growing sweet corn, peaches, watermelons, squash, peppers, tomatoes, green beans and more. She and relatives sell their goods at eight markets each week.

Brumleve said the fruits and vegetables she brings to the Cape Girardeau farmers market each week are picked that morning.

Vendors and customers also develop relationships that make a trip to the market feel more like a family reunion. Swapping recipes or cooking techniques is commonplace, Brumleve said.

“It’s neat when parents will have children visit and they’ll bring them to market and say, ‘This is Jeanne, she’s the one I get the tomatoes from’ or ‘This is who I get the corn from.’ You get to be part of their family, too.”

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Information from: Southeast Missourian, http://www.semissourian.com

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