Feeding the Need: Farmers market overcomes pandemic with strong season

Vendor and board member Danny Collins, right, helps customer Susan Blythe pick out some tomatoes Thursday at his Kissingtree Gourds & More booth at the Owensboro Regional Farmers Market.

The Owensboro Regional Farmers’ Market is about to wrap up its 38th season.

And despite starting on May 16 — four weeks later than normal — and modifying its setup because of the coronavirus pandemic, Jim Gilles, board president for the market, said it was still a strong season with the roughly 26,000 guests and the overall sales that came from them.

“From May through September, our sales are about $230,000,” Gilles said. “It’s up a little bit from last year with still a month to go and starting a month later.”

With the 6-foot physical distance requirement, the farmers market board made the decision to have vendors set up on the busier Saturdays in the parking lot outside the covered pavilion, which is situated at East Parrish Avenue and Triplett Street.

Customers were able to park in an adjoining medical office parking lot before browsing the vendor area.

Gilles said having the vendors spread out outside the pavilion, where it would’ve been cramped, attributed to the better-than-expected sales.

“I think the open-air part is one thing,” said Gilles about overcoming the pandemic restrictions. “Some people felt more comfortable shopping in that environment versus shopping in a grocery store. But then the demand for local has significantly increased this year. It has steadily been increasing but with COVID-19, it has increased a lot.”

Danny Collins, a vendor and board member, sold decorative gourds and produce such as tomatoes, peppers and potatoes during the market season.

Collins, who lives in Owensboro but grows his vegetables and hard-shell gourds on 5 acres in Yelvington, said the season exceeded his expectations despite the pandemic.

“All in all, it’s been pretty good,” said Collins, who operates the Kissingtree Gourds & More booth. “I thought it would be worse than what it was.”

Typically, the farmers market closes at the end of October.

But it will extend into next month with the first-ever Holiday Market day that will be from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 7.

Gilles said that event was in response to a customer survey that was taken throughout this season.

“We’ll have several of our normal vendors there but we’ll have several other vendor-types selling crafts and more baked-good items,” Gilles said. “It will be different items that normally aren’t at the market. …So we’re just trying to feed the need.”

Until the end of this month, the market is open from 8 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

Don Wilkins, dwilkins@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7299

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