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Monday, July 28, 2014, 3:20 a.m.
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Off to the market

Wooster Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market opens Saturday

By Tammy Keith

This article was published April 10, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

a-variety-of-fresh-vegetables-and-fruits-will-be-available-at-the-wooster-farmers-and-crafters-market-the-market-opens-for-the-season-on-saturday

A variety of fresh vegetables and fruits will be available at the Wooster Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market. The market opens for the season on Saturday.

The Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market at Wooster ended last year with a big celebration and will open Saturday with one, organizers said.

Gerri Johnson, board member and craft vendor, said the market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday in Wooster City Park, followed by the Wooster City Easter Egg Hunt.

“We’ll have a bouncy house, face painting, photos with the Easter Bunny and free refreshments,” she said.

She said photos will be at noon and that “babies to fifth grade” can hunt for eggs at 1 p.m., followed by refreshments at 1:30 p.m.

Emily Harris, president of the board, said the market got off the ground late last year — in August — but is starting off strong this season.

“We have the commitment from half a dozen local farmers to be on-site with fresh, locally grown produce throughout the season,” she said.

The market will be held each Saturday through Oct. 25.

“Last year, we were just kind of loose and open and letting people come whenever they wanted,” Harris said. “This season, we have full-season membership available.”

She said that for $50, growers can bring in watermelons from Hope or tomatoes from Warren, for example.

One-day passes are $5, “but it has to be something that you’ve grown,” she said. Setup can begin at 7:30 a.m.

Approved and registered vendors may participate for free on opening day and May 3 to try the market, Harris said.

The market also has free memberships available for nonprofit organizations.

She said another perk of the market is that it has been approved through the Arkansas Department of Health as a Women Infants and Children market. The WIC program provides federal grants for supplemental foods.

“So when women go get food vouchers, they’re provided additional ones to take to the market,” Harris said.

“Five of our vendors have been approved as WIC vendors. It’s also great for the market because it puts our name out there on a couple of state-supported websites,” she said.

The market was started last year with a grant from the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention Foundation.

The grant was given to the Roadrunners’ Extension Homemakers Club, which sponsors the market. Harris is president of the club, as well as president of the Faulkner County Extension Homemakers Club.

“Already this year, we’ve received a minigrant from the Blue and You Foundation for Sustainability for $1,000,” she said.

Harris has bigger goals in mind for the market than selling fruits, vegetables and crafts.

She said a team will go Tuesday to Bryant for Digging Deeper, an all-day “immersion training” on creating healthier communities. The program is offered through the Arkansas Coalition for Obesity Prevention.

In addition to Harris, the team will include Wooster Mayor Terry Don Robinson and Justice of the Peace Damon Edwards of Wooster, as well as Kami Marsh, the Faulkner County extension agent who has assisted with the Wooster market, an elementary teacher and other members of the Roadrunners’ Extension Homemakers Club.

“[The training] opens the door for us to apply for more-substantial grant funding,” Harris said.

One of those grants is the Arkansas Joint Use Agreement Grant, she said, which pays for a school to be used in off-hours.

Wooster Elementary School has a garden, Harris said.

“It would enable the garden program to continue throughout the summer and students to come back and work at the school garden,” Harris said. “The farmers market would allow them the opportunity to actually take that produce and sell it, sort of come full circle.”

Another goal of Harris’ is to obtain a grant to fund a community-demonstration garden.

“People would have the opportunity to look, learn, listen so that they could put in their own gardens and get some mentoring and some assistance,” she said.

The market also gives senior citizens, many of whom are on a fixed income, a “safe and comfortable” place to sell their crops and crafts, Harris said.

Wooster City Park, 30 Parkway Ave., is “nice,” she said, “with grass, trees, bathrooms and a kitchen.”

She said although the market got a late start last year, an end-of-the-year celebration in October brought about 200 people together.

“The best thing that I think came out of the market last year was the opportunity for like-minded souls to network and share information. … ‘My strawberries aren’t as pretty as I want them to be; what do I do?’ ‘What do I do about these bugs on my tomatoes?’

“If [vendors] can share their knowledge, expertise and enthusiasm, that to me is a total win-win situation, regardless if the market makes any money or not,” Harris said.

“We’re still actively searching for additional board members and to increase support from the community,” she said.

The next board meeting will be 10 a.m. July 12 at the market.

For more information on the market, email Harris at WoosterMarket@gmail.com, or call her at (501) 733-2409.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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