Farmer’s market on the decline

Table after table of produce, baked goods and crafts bring in visitors from all over the county. Shoppers wander slowly from vendor to vendor, eyeing the pickup bed piled high with sweet corn, tables crowded with boxes of tomatoes, fresh watermelons, crisp greens, pungent onions, spicy peppers. Home bakers with freshly made breads, fruit pies, cinnamon rolls smothered in sugary frosting, sweet smelling sticky buns and every sort of cookie imaginable. Crafters set out their goods and show off their talents. One may even find fresh flowers for sale. Customers help themselves to a barbecued pork sandwich, a snow cone or a freshly made latte or fruit smoothie. In the evening, everyone is treated to live music. The musicians provide an excuse for market visitors to linger awhile longer and enjoy time spent on the square with family or friends. This is the Broken Bow Farmers Market of just a few seasons ago. Today, if you come for a visit, you may find five or six tables with just a few goods to choose from. September is harvest season, the season of bounty but that bounty seems to be absent this year. A recent visit to the market produced a few tomatoes and watermelons, a table of honey, a van full of mums and a pair of ducks (live ones, for pets not eating). Where there once was almost two sides of the City Square lined with market vendors, only five or six sellers remain, desperately clinging to what was once a thriving affair. The market started fairly strong this season in June with a dozen or so vendors, but the numbers continued to fall as customers stayed away. Glen Buchta, a long-time market vendor acknowledged that some of the decline could be blamed on early bad weather, which caused some crops to be delayed this season. A late frost also hindered some areas of apples, strawberries and other susceptible produce. Gary Lawrence, Broken Bow Farmers Market coordinator, said shopping was still strong and that he was making a fair amount of sales. It’s not hard to miss, though, the absence of some long-established sellers: the chicken producer, the pie lady, the pickup full of corn. Absent this last Thursday were the Secret Garden’s trailer serving iced coffee and smoothies and Ed’s Redneck Catering is nowhere to be seen. It’s nearly impossible to find any crafts for sale and entertainment has also been lacking for several weeks. The mysterious culprit guilty of this year’s poor showing appears to be an assemblage of offenders: poor weather and buyer apathy. Weather is out of our control but buyer apathy is curable. Talking with local residents, there still seems to be much support for the Farmers Market; or at least the idea of a Farmers Market. Some seem to want a weekly market on the square but not in its current form. Despite the long history of the market, it is still very valid and, in fact, very in style these days with the increase in interest in eating healthier, organic foods and buying locally. Only time will tell, however, what the fate of the Broken Bow Farmers Market is to be.