Square Market

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 29, 2011

Webster Mehan (left) and Tom McGovern were among the crafts vendors who set up shop at Wednesday’s Square Market in Batesville. The Panolian photo by Glennie Pou

Crowd thins but sales ‘fair’ at Market

By Billy Davis

The Batesville farmers market is soldiering on for a second summer despite sweltering temperatures and a noticeably thinner crowd.

The number of participating vendors has shrunk, too, though vendors are reporting decent sales of offerings that include fresh-picked produce, baked goods, eggs, and jars of jams, jellies and relishes.

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“I think it’s going real well even though the crowd is average,” said Annie Lou Curtis, who fills two tables with sweet treats each week with her sister, Alma Pund.

Curtis and Pund, who call themselves “The A-Team,” participated in last year’s market. Teacakes and fried pies are their best sellers.

“It was brand new last year,” Curtis said of the market. “Maybe people were more gung-ho.”

Other vendors told a reporter this week that business was “fair,” even though at times there was an empty street.  

The Square Market began its tenth week Wednesday with 18 vendors — five of them selling crafts — set up on the Square. That number is noticeably lower than last year, when vendor participation peaked at 41 vendors even when summer heat was chasing away customers.

Square Market is set to run through October, allowing vendors to bring pumpkins and other fall produce and to continue selling baked goods and other foods.

Some vendors have simply run out of produce and others have endured a difficult gardening season, said Colleen Clark, whose Main Street program at Panola Partnership oversees the Square Market.

Clark noted that J.P. Hicks of Batesville, who was absent Wednesday, had exhausted his supply of blueberries and black-eyed peas.

She said Main Street had been in contact with Jason Kent of Oxford, who operated from a mobile produce stand last summer.

“He said it was a bad year,” Clark recalled,  “and he just didn’t have anything to sell.”  

A vendor from Cedar Hill Farm in Hernando told Clark Wednesday that his supply of heirloom tomatoes was gone and he wouldn’t be returning, she said.

Despite those losses, a would-be vendor asked Wednesday about bringing eggs and chickens to the Square Market, Clark also said.

Clark and Main Street have resisted moving the Square Market to Saturday because other vendors have said they’re committed to other venues.  

The mid-week market also allows vendors to sell produce that has been picked after the weekend, organizers had said.

The Batesville farmers market operates from 2:30 to 5:30 each Wednesday, which is only changed slightly from last summer.

Clark polled vendors about the hours of operation in early June and did not find a demand to adjust the time, though daytime temps at the time were peaking in the lower 90s.

Even if vendor numbers remain low, Clark said Main Street will continue to support a farmers market, because it serves the needs of local sellers and appreciative customers.

“I applaud the vendors who sit out in the heat and, even if there are five vendors, we will be in the heat with them and support them,” said Clark.

“What needs to happen is for everybody who said, ‘We’re pro-farmers market,’ to come and shop at their own farmers market,” said Clark.  “Mark it on your calendar and support the vendors.”