The Fort Smith Farmer’s Market is gearing up for a busy summer season

FORT SMITH — A weekly event is gearing up for its busiest season. The warm summer weather brings many visitors to the Fort Smith Farmer’s Market.

The market began downtown in 2003. Every Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon, more than 60 vendors congregate on North Second Street and Garrison Avenue to sell a variety of fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, jams and preserves canned, organic, grass-fed eggs. beef and crafts. Street performers, local musicians, community organizations and tourists also regularly attend.

The event is so well attended during the summer that a second market takes place from 8 a.m. to noon on Wednesdays, usually from June to August.

“It won’t be open until we get the vegetables because that’s the main reason to open it these three months when the vegetables are at their peak,” said market secretary Kathy Mazyck.

Mazyck said it’s typical to see 500 to 600 people at the market during peak season. She described it as a true farmers market, explaining that there are approximately 75% food vendors and 25% produce vendors, which is different from a flea or craft market.

“We’re one of the few farmers’ markets to have certified organic farmers there,” she said. “We’re focused on produce and encouraging people to eat healthier. But we also have great baked goods. Some are gluten-free and dairy-free. We have farm-fresh, non-GMO eggs, and we just try to offer the best products we can that are healthy.We try to have good prices so that everyone can afford them.

Mazyck has also been a market vendor for five years, selling French-style baked goods through his business Lucky Spreads and Pastries.

“I’ve been a market patron for 20 years and have always been a pastry chef, and when I retired I thought I might do a little bit at the farmers market every week, for something to do that I ‘loved,’ she mentioned. “It turns out that now I can’t do enough. I sell every week and I work on it all week.”

Mariah Newman said she and her husband, Aaron, also got involved in the market about six years ago. She said they wanted to spend time doing something creative, and they knew about the farmers market growing up in the area. Their solution was to sell glass art and handcrafted jewelry under their combined business name, Aariah Sol Glass.

“It’s a nice community event,” she said. “We had been there a few times and kind of heard from the vineyard that it might be a place where we could maybe sell and set up our wares. And I’m glad we did, because we got l feel like we fit in perfectly. They’re pretty much like a second family now.

Michael Farquhar said he and his wife just got involved in the Farmers Market last year, selling flowers, fruit and vegetables and started through their business Pleasant Acres Garden. He said he’s seen a great response from the community so far and thinks they see the value in supporting local businesses.

“We have a bit of a follow-up,” Farquhar said. “We have our regulars who are going to get in touch and ask us for certain things. We provide them. We let them know ahead of time when there’s something new available. So there’s a conversation that happens between the producer and the customer, which I think is beneficial. So I like it.”

“We are also a bit educational,” he added. “I think we’re introducing more exotic and weirder foods. We’re kind of changing people’s diets in some ways. I think we’re also giving people a chance to save money with the start of l ‘factory. If you can grow your own food, that’s an act of empowerment. I think we’re contributing to that process. And that’s part of a better understanding of food, where it comes from, how it is produced, who produces it and who consumes it. I think we are all out of this conversation.”

Mazyck said a new thing the Farmers Market is doing this year is selling tokens for a dollar, which work the same way as a gift card. She said they can be distributed to community members to entice them to visit the market, and a portion of those proceeds will go to the Hope Campus in Fort Smith, which provides services for the homeless.

“So we’re really excited about that,” she said. “We didn’t know how it would turn out initially, but we’ve had it for three weeks, and in the first two weeks we’ve already sold over 400 tokens.”

James V. Payne