MURRAY — What has become a highly-anticipated activity for people not only of Murray and Calloway County but also surrounding communities is about to start its 21st year, the Downtown Farmers Market.
This year’s installment of the Murray tradition will burst to life next Saturday, May 18, on the city’s court square. The traditional vendors area is on the south side of the Calloway County Courthouse along Maple Street, but also involves much of South Fifth Street as well.
Led by Murray Main Street Inc., this activity presents the chance to purchase a variety of locally-made items, including foods and crafts. However, for Murray Main Street Program Director Deana Wright, this is more about the people – both the ones who come to buy things, as well as the ones who come to sell their goods.
“I get to see it every week, and what’s really fun to me is seeing how relationships build between the farmers and the customers from the first week through the end of the year,” Wright said of the market that is offered each Saturday through the end of October. “You can go up and talk to the farmers and actually ask them to grow something for you and they will. For example, (Murray Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director) Erin Carrico loves wax beans. She grew up loving them and her grandmother grew them and she wanted some at the market but no one had them. Now, one of the farmers (Palmer Farms in Calloway County) has been bringing them because she asked him.
“It’s funny, though. Now she has to get here really early because other people have found out about them and they’re buying them. But it’s so fun watching these relationships grow, how (buyer and grower) get together each week and just chit-chat about their families and anything they want to talk about.”
Wright said the market is also part of the Kentucky Proud program to promote food that is grown by Kentucky family farms and establishments, a response to the growing desire for people to know where their food actually originates.
“We get Kentucky Proud money every year and that helps us to market the market, and a great number of our vendors that come here are Kentucky Proud and they want to support Kentucky Proud,” she said, adding that it is not just Kentucky farmers who bring goods to Murray. “We talk about Kentucky Proud, but you have to remember our friends from Tennessee and not just Henry County. They come from all over Tennessee. We also have vendors that come to us from Illinois.
“We have several vendors who drive an hour one way to be here, and I think that’s really saying something for what people think of our market.”
That is because those vendors know they will probably do well on the court square, she said.
“On peak weekends, we can have as many as 5,000 or 6,000 people here,” she said. “Even in off-peak weekends, we’ll still have 1,000 to 1,500. Even when it rains, we get pretty good crowds in here. I want to think that the reason the vendors keep coming is because is because we have such a successful farmers market.
“It’s an experience. It’s a feeling. You get that hometown feeling of being on the court square and buying locally-grown food and other things.”
Wright said 50 vendors are already in place for this year, and that does not count the ones that are known for seasonal fare, such as corn and pumpkins. That is about 15 more than were committed to the market at this time last year.
In addition, Wright said an activity that was spawned from the market will enter its third year. This is the Kids Club that involves children ages 5-12 who are able to learn about not only the foods and other items offered at the market, but how to prepare them as well.
“They pay $20 and for that $20, they get $15 back to spend,” she said. “They get a T-shirt, cooking class and other activities that teach them not only how to cook the food, but lessons on how to buy and what to look for. Also, the market is a great place for kids to learn about interacting with other people and learning how to purchase things.”
Wright said past years’ Kids Club activities have included a pizza cooking class and a taco cooking class. Items used for making those dishes all come from the market.
Wright said registrations are still being accepted for Kids Club. For more information on the Kids Club or the market in general, contact Wright at 270-759-9474.