On a recent Saturday morning at the Farmer's Market in Washington Park, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the temperature was somewhere between too warm and outright steamy. The heat was not too much for a group of ladies doing Zumba under the trees, following the moves of their very pregnant leader. Fortunately for the less intrepid souls, most of the action was in tents carefully placed beneath the trees.
Gary Hull is one regular who has been bringing his array of produce to various farmer's markets for 18 years. He enjoys his "part-time" hobby, which includes going to four different venues each week, driving around the area from his home near Mendon and Ursa. His produce is fresh and chemical free, a reflection of the way he lives his life. Gary proudly embraces his "old school" mentality and feels strongly about keeping the water table and his onions free from pesticides. In fact, Gary doesn't much care to embellish his vegetables even at home. While he admits to eating the occasional slice of zucchini bread, he prefers his onions, zucchini, and green beans served fresh and without much to dress them up. Of course, Gary doesn't think air conditioning is a good idea, either, and he only has a cell phone because his family members gave him one in an effort to track him down more easily. His grandson Karson, who is soon to be 15, helps his grandad raise the vegetables and sell them, although he sometimes has to be awakened by Gary's tap on his bedroom window.
Stone River Farm is another regular at the park. Randy Stone from Philadelphia, MO, has been selling his produce, which includes outstanding eggplants, for six years at various places in the area. His wife Elsie has been working with him and selling her goat's milk products for nine years. Her line of 250 types of lotions and a similar number of soaps was originally created to help her daughter Catie, who was born with cancer. As a child, Catie's skin was often dry and itchy, and no regular skin products brought her relief. Elsie began to research and found that goat's milk offered a pH balance and natural enzymes that are particularly kind to human skin. Her formulas lock in moisture in a way that most over-the-counter blends containing petroleum products do not. Sadly, Catie died a few years back, but the Stone's business continues to pay tribute to her short life while helping others find relief from their skin issues.
Hannah Simpson, Farmer's Market Manager, notes that the market operates from 7-12 am every Saturday until October 29th. Every market day, Hannah sits under her own tent, handing out information with a smile. She is the first one to tell you that the stories at the Farmer's Market are as good as the merchandise.