Dining With Denise Neil

Season of change for local farmers markets, which open Saturday

The Old Town Farmers Market opens Saturday with new managers and a new vision.
The Old Town Farmers Market opens Saturday with new managers and a new vision. File photo

The Old Town Farmers Market will return for the season on Saturday, but it will have a whole new feel and a farmer-centric, vegetable-focused mission.

The changes will come courtesy of Luke and Amy Snow, who announced in August that they would be taking over management of the market from Pat Randleas, who had run it since 2004. The Snows own the Farmshop at 1136 N. Bitting in Riverside.

Luke Snow said that he, Amy and a group of advisers dedicated time from August to February working on market research and questioning community members about what they’d like to see at the market.

“What we’ve found is downtown is desperate for locally produced food,” he said. “We’ve focused a lot of attention on bringing back the farmers to the market down there, on focusing on the farmers.”

So far, the Snows have completely redone the market’s website (www.oldtownfarmersmarket.com) and created a new logo, which now features a sunflower and a fork.

They also created a strict new list of “market standards” as well as rules and regulations for vendors.

That means some of the booths people were used to seeing at the Saturday-morning market will be gone, and several more will be added.

Old favorites like Pastalicious, which makes colored pasta, and Newton baker Crust & Crumb will still be there. So will Holmes Made Salsa and T’s jewelry.

But the bulk of the market will be farmers selling the produce they’ve grown, Snow said.

“There’s a significant increase in farmers, without a doubt,” Luke said. “There still is some of the arts and crafts represented there, and we definitely feel like arts and crafts play a part in a farmers market. But that the focus has to be on the farmers.”

The Snows also are starting new programs at the market. One is a weekly market-to-table event that will happen each week. The event will feature chefs, local foodies, home cooks and farmers demonstrating and offering samples of recipes made using fresh ingredients from the market. These will be separately ticketed events, and they’ll likely start in early May.

Also likely to launch in May: A new online marketplace where individuals and chefs can place orders for fresh produce and pick it up at the market without having to arrive at 7 a.m.

“It’s a really easy-to-use platform that allows you to go through and buy as little or as much as you like,” Luke Snow said. “It’s also a fantastic program for local chefs.”

The market will also continue to have live music, Luke Snow said.

It will again be open from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. During the first weeks, Luke Snow said, people can expect to find cool-season crops like salad greens, radishes, kale and carrots. When May arrives, even more cool-season crops will start arriving, including beans and peas. Tomatoes don’t arrive until early July.

But the market will also have a grass-fed beef vendor and lots of farm-fresh eggs for sale, too, he said.

Kansas Grown Farmers Market is Kansas Growing

There are changes, though not as drastic, at Wichita’s other big farmers market, which also opens for its 27th season on Saturday.

The Kansas Grown Farmers Market at the Sedgwick County Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road continues to grow, said marketing manager Gunter Hansen, and this year, it will require more room. Vendors this year will fill the parking lot area on the Ridge Road side of the center.

In the fall, the center paved large sections of its once-dirt parking lot to the east, so the lost spaces shouldn’t create a big problem for shoppers, he said.

The market has lost some longtime vendors to retirement but has added 20 new ones, he said. Farmer Bob Happy has retired and won’t be back, as have the owners of a plant booth called Fern & Foliage. But several new farmers have signed up to take their places.

Customers liked the addition of food trucks to last year’s market, Hansen said, so they’ll have access to two a week – one on either end of the market. Musicians also will perform on either end of the market.

The 21st and Ridge market will be open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to noon starting this week and will run through Oct. 28.

Kansas Grown also will add a fourth market to its collection this year. The Green Acres store at 21st and Amidon is adding a 20-vendor market that run from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays starting May 3 and running through Sept. 27.

The Green Acres at 21st and Rock also will have its market back from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays starting May 2 and running through Sept. 26. And the Derby market will return at 512 E. Madison and run from 7 a.m. to noon May 6 through Sept. 30.