The Warren County Farmers and Artisans Market provides fresh fruit, vegetables, and produce along with bread, crafts and other items in Warrenton and Wright City, Missouri.
Nestled off the service road, in the parking lot of the Warrenton Armory, a series of canopies popped up on a recent Tuesday afternoon.
They belonged to the vendors of the Warren County Farmers and Artisans Market, and the canopies go up every Tuesday as the group comes together to sell their produce, breads and crafts.
This is the first year the market has been in the Armory parking lot. It was previously at the Warren County Fairgrounds, and market officials said the move definitely paid off.
“There’s a lot more exposure here,” Market Treasurer Peggy Privett said.
The same market makes its way east along Interstate 70 to Wright City’s Diekroeger Park every Thursday, giving Warren County residents two opportunities to buy locally grown and made goods.
“It’s a good thing for our community to bring out everyone who wants to sell. They’re crafting, we’ve got fresh meats, we’ve got a little bit of everything but it brings all of our community together and offers the fresh vegetables and everything for our community,” Market Coordinator Sarah Lewis said.
On a recent Thursday at the Wright City market, multiple vendors had fresh produce, with different varieties of tomatoes alongside cucumbers, sweet corn, eggplant, squash, and more.
The ability to buy fresh produce is what draws people to the farmers market, board member John Kopmann, of Marthasville, said.
“It’s just fresher and I think most people would rather buy directly from the farmer than have a middle man involved with it,” he said.
Kopmann is no stranger to farmers markets.
“I used to grow produce at home on the farm and sell it out of the yard and after I got a little older, I started going to farmers markets and selling there and so I’ve been doing it for 25 years,” he said.
Now he participates in both the Warrenton and Wright City markets as well as markets in Washington, Gray Summit and New Melle.
“Most of the people are really great to deal with,” he said. “I’d say 95 percent of the people are just appreciating you doing it.”
Kopmann had with him a variety of fresh produce, but he said his most popular items were usually tomatoes, sweet corn, and watermelons.
And when he says “tomatoes,” he means all different kinds.
This particular day he had Carolina Gold, Skyway, BHN, and Better Boy.
“I grow different kinds, but I do try new ones quite often and see how they are for taste and for durability, too,” he said.
Kopmann isn’t the only vendor at the Warren County markets to sell produce, though, but he says that benefits the people who come out to buy their fresh fruits and veggies.
“We have tomatoes, but there’s different varieties of tomatoes,” he said. “People have different kinds of sweet corn and different things.”
He then pointed to a nearby vendor who also had produce for sale.
“I know he’s got onions and cantaloupe today. I don’t have onions or cantaloupe.”
He then pointed to a third vendor selling fresh fruits and vegetables.
“I think he’s got some broccoli over there, which I don’t have. He’s got green beans and okra, which I don’t have. And I’m the only one with corn here today. So we’ve got different produce that we grow.”
Kopmann said that not only benefits the markets and its patrons, it benefits the vendors, too.
“We always talk, compare things and stuff. It’s not a competition,” he said. “If I was the only farmer here, it wouldn’t be near as good as having the other farmers here with me just because they bring in other things, too. And the more produce you have, the more people are going to come because somebody wants green beans and they come to the market and when they’re here they buy other things.”
There are plenty of other things market patrons can purchase.
“This is what’s considered a true farmer’s market. To be able to vend here, you either have to grow or make your own items,” Privett said.
“We have soap, we have baked goods, we have meats, we have produce vendors, we have crafters, we have jewelry, we have drink people, we have wood crafts,” Lewis said.
That variety is why Lewis thinks more people would enjoy attending the market that operates twice weekly from May to October.
“All of our vendors are doing something different, or their own thing is different from the other people’s,” she said.
Those vendors come from as close to the market as Warrenton and Wright City, but also draws people all the way from Mexico and Washington.
In addition to running the market, Lewis also sells her own goods.
“I sell a variety of products from herbal teas,” she said. “We have an all-natural apothecary story, so we do soaps and teas and different herbs and then we do a whole bread line.”
Another of the vendors is Jerry High, from Warrenton. High and his wife sell wooden, metal, and sewn crafts at the Warrenton market.
“I’m retired, so it gives me something to do,” High said. “I try to keep my price down so that people don’t feel bad about paying the high price. You know there’s a lot of people who can’t afford expensive stuff.”
On display from his canopy were birdhouses and tin men, among other things.
“I make little hummingbird houses, I make jaybird houses, I make those jars for the boring bees,” he said. “I make those and just stuff to help nature and to help people. That’s what I enjoy doing.”
High’s stand was one of the most colorful at the market on this Tuesday, featuring a red, white and blue tin man hanging next to his other works. The colors and the crafts help draw patrons to his end of the parking lot, and it’s those people that keep him coming back.
“Some guys will stay here for 15 minutes talking, and I enjoy talking to people,” he said. “If you listen, you learn, so I try to listen to what they’ve got to say and I think that helps them. And a lot of times, it helps me.”
It’s the people, he said, who are the most important part of the market.
“People like to get out and they like to look at different things,” High said. “It gets people out of their house and it gets them moving around. And then there’s a lot of them who come here just for the fruits and vegetables. We’re just a small part of it.”
Lewis, High and Kopmann are just three of the vendors who participate in the market. The group has 28 registered vendors, though they don’t all participate in every market.
New vendors who wish to join the market can pay $50 a year to participate in both the Warrenton and Wright City markets, or $40 to be a part of one. And for vendors who may want to test out the market, they can set up a booth for a one-day charge of $15, Lewis said.
For more information about the market, call 636-466-6994, visit Warren County Farmers & Artisans Market on Facebook, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For people who just wish to patronize the market, there is no charge.
“We have the vendors,” Lewis said. “We just need the people.”
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at email@example.com