Farmers market unites local community

Every Saturday in downtown Siloam from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. community members from farms and houses inside and outside city limits come to sell their wares. From tomatoes to succulents, and wood carvings to soaps, Siloam Farmers Market offers a variety of options for community members and students alike.

Kathy Fergusen sells handmade arts and crafts, pet products, jewelry and watercolor paintings at the farmers market. She has been in Siloam since 1999, and teaches crochet classes at the senior center in Siloam in her free time. “I grew up with people in my family doing crafts. . .I learned to sew and do things. The local farmers market has really changed over the last few years since our new market manager, Stacy Hester, has taken over,” Fergusen said. “We have demonstrations here, we have live music at times, there are lots of things going on. Last week we had a cooking demonstration going on and last month we had a blacksmith demonstration.”

Fergusen said that because of the farmers market, it has been easier for her to get to know people in the community. “I knew a lot of people in town already. . .but I’ve gotten to know more. I’ve got regular customers,” Fergusen said.

Micah Park, another vendor, started selling soaps and goat meat from the farmers market about three years ago and sold almost every weekend for about a year. Now, she is back at the farmers market selling her soaps and bath products, including bug spray and lip balm, to the local community.

“When I started with the farmers market, it was not nearly this big. They used to do Tuesdays and Saturdays. Tuesdays there would be six of us out here and Saturdays there would be about ten. Today there were 20 vendors on our list and we had a few had cancel, but it has definitely grown. I know a lot of their produce vendors work with 28 Springs and I think some of the other restaurants too to do fresh local produce. I think [the farmers market] has grown as far as bringing people out to kind of see what’s offered,” Park said.

Troy Coleman of Arkansas B Farms in Fayetteville, an alumnus of Horticulture from the University of Arkansas, is getting back to his horticultural roots. “Terry, my buddy that I do the farmers market with, got us signed up for the Siloam Springs farmers market. The thing about Siloam was there wasn’t a waiting list. Some of the other big markets have a substantial waiting list—up to a year,” Coleman said.

“We do it on our property. This is our first year to break ground and actually even have a garden, so we are brand new at it,” Coleman said. “We are getting to the age where we are looking for work, and the whole foods movement is huge right now and we are just kind of getting on the bandwagon with it and enjoying it.”

Coleman said that the farmers market is “a valuable way to meet members of the community and meet new people. One of the things we’ve noticed is that when out of towners come through to visit, they come to the farmers market. So, whether it was a family reunion or relatives getting married, they would always come through to check out the market. It really draws people. Siloam has done a really good job of promoting it and getting it out there.”

Coleman said that Tontitown just opened their own farmers market. They currently have six vendors set up, but Coleman said they might only see ten customers in a day because the market hasn’t built itself up yet.

“They’ve done a tremendous job here just to get people to even come through their market. Whether it’s fishing derby day for the kids, a kids’ day, or something special like cooking or doing hamburgers, they do it here,” Coleman said. “So, Stacy [the farmer’s market coordinator], you’ve got to give her credit because they do a tremendous job just to bring people out here for us.”

“We have had up to 600 people a day come through. Some of the bigger days, Stacy has gone through and counted and we’ve gotten up to 600 people to come through. You would never guess. Today, maybe 50 people. They come through in waves,” Coleman said.

Siloam Springs is growing in produce and crafts as well as in community due in part to the farmers market downtown. It brings more people to check out Siloam and what it has to offer. The farmers market can even be browsed online. “You order it by Thursday and you pick it up Saturday morning. When you go to the site, it will tell you what’s available,” Fergusen said.

To find out more about the farmers market, like their page on Facebook and take a look at their website online at the Siloam Springs Main Street website. Use the website to order produce and crafts, or to ask questions about the farmers market.

“In the past it’s been like, ‘Oh, Siloam Springs, it’s just a little town, what can they possibly have?’ It’s kind of cool to see that you have all these different crafty people that can do all kinds of cool stuff in a small community,” Park said.

KATIE ARNOLD – Copy Desk Chief