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— The Cabot Farmers’ Market is more than just a place to get fresh vegetables and handmade soap. To coordinators and growers, the market is a place to meet new people and foster community.

“It’s about healthy eating habits and a sense of community,” said Matt Webber, one of the market’s managers. “We’re really proud of the atmosphere we develop in our market. From what I’m told by our vendors, who have sold at various markets, we’re a very friendly market.”

The Cabot Farmers’ Market will open May 5 with special opening-day activities from 8 a.m. to noon. The market is located in the Renew Community Church parking lot at 1122 S. Second St. The market will take place every Saturday through Sept. 8.

“We’re going to have live music and bouncy houses,” Webber said of opening day. “We may not have a lot of produce to start with other than strawberries, but I’ve been getting a lot of crafters, baked goods, canned goods and vendors like that.”

Webber said the market has averaged 15 to 18 vendors for the past couple of years, but he hopes that number will increase.

“I’m very encouraged by the contacts I’ve been getting,” he said. “We want to grow this thing until we can’t fit them in the parking lot.”

One of the great things about seeing other vendors each Saturday is the sense of community at the market, Webber said.

“We’ve got a couple vendors who have become friends and even vacation together,” he said. “We miss each other when we don’t see each other.”

One of the vendors that has been with the Cabot Farmers’ Market for years is Barnhill Orchards, and the Barnhill family has formed relationships at the market that have led to partnerships in other endeavors.

“It’s great for us to engage in our community,” Katie Barnhill Zehr said.

The Barnhills will be at the Cabot Farmers’ Market throughout the season, and Zehr said some of the partnerships that have developed through connections made there and at other markets will be evident in the family business’s newly revamped corner market.

The Barnhills’ local honey supplier, Lake in the Willows Apiary, will showcase its observation hive at the Corner Market Store’s grand opening Saturday, and some of the items for sale, in addition to Barnhill produce, will include Wayne Plantation sunflower cooking oil, Purely Essential 4 Life soaps and lotions, and Loblolly Creamery strawberry ice cream, made with Barnhill berries.

“It’s all about supporting businesses that support us. We want to keep it local,” Zehr said. “It’s just a great way to showcase their products.”

Further north in the Three Rivers region, the White River Farmers Market in Batesville will open soon.

“We’re hoping to start the last weekend of April, and if not, we will open the first weekend in May,” volunteer Jean Larson said.

The White River Farmers Market will take place Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of every week until it closes for the season.

Larson said she was encouraged that sellers at the market are very focused on selling items that they grow instead of shipping items in, which is what some vendors do.

“A great majority of the farmers are selling what they grow,” she said. “It’s so good for the local economy and for your health to support local.”

Also in Batesville, the Main Street Farmers Market will open from 8 a.m. to noon May 5 in the Main Street Pocket Park. Opening day activities will include music, vendors, balloon art, goats, fresh doughnuts and a kids’ garden. The 2018 market days will be May 5 and 19, June 2, 16 and 30, July 7 and 21, Aug. 4 and 18, and Sept. 1, 15 and 29.

Also in the Three Rivers Edition coverage area, the Searcy Certified Farmers’ Market opened April 7 and will run from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and from 3-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Nov. 20.

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