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Farmers markets provide opportunities for shoppers

by Angela Spencer | May 6, 2019 at 9:40 a.m.
Jan Farmer holds a lamb at Willowbrook Farm. Farmer sells lamb meat and cheese in farmers markets, including the Searcy Certified Farmers Market, and said she hopes people understand and value the work farmers do for their craft.

Now that winter has passed and spring has sprung, local farmers, growers and craftsmen are kicking off the 2019 farmers-market season.

Jan Farmer of Willowbrook Farm outside of Searcy said farmers markets are a great place for her to sell her products and help support her family. Willowbrook Farm deals mainly in livestock products.

“It’s an avenue for me to be able to create something natural,” Farmer said. “We want to share with others in the marketplace and provide some kind of income.”

Farmer started selling lamb meat five years ago. That’s how she got into the farmers-market circuit. She sells at the Searcy Certified Farmers Market, and in the offseason, she sells at ongoing markets in Little Rock.

“I occasionally sell at Beebe,” she said, “and I’m thinking about branching out to different markets.”

Like with many other market vendors, the markets give Farmer a chance to sell and try new things with her products. Lately, Farmer has been producing fresh and aged cheese, a new venture for her that she said she is enjoying.

“It’s a work of art and requires passion,” she said. “In the future, I want to see what I can do with sheep’s milk.”

Even before the 2019 season started, the Searcy Certified Farmers Market began promoting its vendors on Facebook. Willowbrook Farm has done a lot with fellow seller Dripping Springs Farm, pairing the two farms’ products for buyers.

The Searcy Certified Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and Tuesdays on the Courthouse Square in downtown Searcy.

The relationships between vendors, markets and shoppers are mutually beneficial. In Jacksonville, the Parks and Recreation Department has seen the value in a farmers market and is putting in effort this year to revitalize the city’s market scene.

“We’ve had the market pavilion open every year, but it’s been a while since we’ve pushed it,” said Megan Vandergriff, facilities and programs administrator for the parks department.

The Jacksonville Farmers Market is open from 4-8 p.m. Tuesdays and from 7 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Oct. 26.

“We’re going to try to do some new things this year,” Vandergriff said. “It’s something we’re slowly starting to build up.”

The parks department is calling for local farm-fresh produce, as well as handmade arts and crafts for the market. A permit to sell for the whole season costs $25 and can be purchased by calling (501) 982-4171 or going to the Jacksonville Parks and Recreation Department.

“It’s going to be different every day it’s open,” Vandergriff said of the market and its variety of sellers. “That’s why we’ve got it open so many days.”

Elsewhere in the Three Rivers Edition coverage area, the Cabot Farmers’ Market will be open from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday through Sept. 14 in the parking lot of ReNew Community Church, 1122 S. Second St.

The Beebe Farmers’ Market opens at 4 p.m. each Thursday at First United Methodist Church, 302 N. Main St. This year, the Beebe market will have a kids program called the Power of Produce — or PoP — Kids Club. The PoP Kids Club, intended for children ages 4 to 12, will include weekly activities and chances to earn money to spend on local veggies and fruit. More information can be found on the Beebe Farmers’ Market Facebook page.

In Batesville, the Main Street Batesville Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon the first and third Saturdays of the month, May through September. The market features activities for kids, live music, local produce, artisans, crafters and more. Booth spaces are $10 each day or $90 for the season.

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