Missouri farmers markets growing in popularity

LAKE ST. LOUIS, Mo. (AP) — With farmers markets growing in popularity and sprouting up nationwide, at least four are scheduled in suburban St. Louis this summer.

Those operating them say people are attracted by inexpensive prices for fresh produce and a longing for a more rural lifestyle.

Carl Saunders of Yellow Dog Farm in Warrenton told the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis (http://bit.ly/JlRKBk) that people also like to support local farmers.

"It's really buying food from what amounts to your neighbor," said Saunders, who serves on the Lake St. Louis market's board of directors. "You're buying local and the dollars stay local."

Kathleen Huser of Wright City was among a couple of dozen vendors at a recent farmers market held in the parking lot of The Meadows at Lake St. Louis shopping center. She held up a bundle of radishes.

"We picked these this morning at 6 a.m.," said Huser, who was selling plants, herbs and vegetables. "You can't get this kind of freshness at a grocery store."

The Lake St. Louis market, which moved from O'Fallon this year, opened April 14 and will operate from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays through mid-October. Farmers markets are also taking place this summer and fall in Wentzville, St. Charles and Defiance.

"People are kind of wanting to reconnect with farms, and this is one way to do it," said Greg Krueger of Back Pasture Farms in Troy, who sold eggs at the Lake St. Louis market and will offer berries, vegetables and honey later in the growing season.

Advocates also say the food is simply good, and often unique. For example, you can buy varieties of tomatoes not often seen in grocery stores, along with asparagus, berries, squash, sweet corn and even pumpkins.

Tony Anderson, director of business development for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, said markets in Missouri are growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year. There are now about 220, compared to 57 just 15 years ago.

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