Eat fresh by buying local



February 23, 2010 - 12:00 AM

Farmer’s market returning to Iola

Allen Countians will soon have a new place to buy fresh, varied produce, along with locally created arts and crafts.
A farmer’s market, under the umbrella of Allen County Farm Bureau, is set to begin offering garden greenery — and more — in May. Along with the Farm Bureau, Thrive Allen County and Elm Creek Community Garden will have a hand in seeing the market succeed.
Local gardeners and farmers, along with crafts people, are welcome to sell their wares at the market, which will be located on the west side of the Iola square Thursday evenings before the Iola Municipal Band hits the stage.
“Each vendor is considered an independent business,” said David Toland, executive director of Thrive. “They will have to keep track of their own sales.” That includes collecting sales tax, Debbie Bearden of the Farm Bureau said.
“I would hope that the farmers would price things so that they can easily collect the tax,” Toland said, such as a head of lettuce for 92 cents — an even dollar adds the right amount of tax — or simply charge $1.25 and subtract the tax from that after customers have gone home, Bearden suggested. Either way, Thrive will help vendors fill out the requisite paper work for tax purposes, Toland said.
Monday evening’s meeting at the Thrive office was the culmination of a fistful of such sessions ironing out parameters and guidelines for the nascent market.
Next Monday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the New Community Building in Riverside Park, the board will meet with those interested in selling at the market, which will run May 13 through Oct. 14.
Vendors will park along Washington Street and sell from their vehicles, streetside from 5:30 to 7:30 each evening. Washington Avenue will be blocked to oncoming traffic so that pedestrians can stroll among the vendors’ stalls safely.
A fee of $5, which will cover the entire season, will be collected from each vendor prior to initial sales.
For fairness’ sake, pricing will be kept consistent among producers.
Produce and craft items must be grown or made within Allen County, or no further than 50 miles from the county line. Vendors must fill out a participation form declaring they meet the Allen County market’s regulations.
Nuts, vegetables, jams, honey, baked goods, cut flowers, fruits, eggs, frozen meats, wool, needlecrafts and more are allowed. A complete list, including regulations, can be found at the Kansas Rural Center Web site, Click on the link for “Rules, Regulations and Resources for Farmers’ Markets in Kansas.”
One notable exception is that bedding plants cannot be sold unless a vendor obtains a state license costing $250.
Two vendor stalls will be set aside each week for non profits, including school group, use. The stalls can be reserved by contacting the market manager. Use will be rotated among groups. Those who wish to sell more regularly should reserve a booth by paying the $5 vendor’s fee, the board decided.
The virtues of a farmer’s market intertwine, Bearden noted.
Produce will be fresher than that available at commercial markets due to the local nature of its origin; a wider variety of produce should also be realized that way; a market provides a venue for growers to earn a living locally; and consumers can be educated through meeting the people who grow their food.
“The biggest part is educational,” Bearden said. As people in the community become more aware of health issues generally, consumers “want a face on” where their food comes from, she noted.

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