Farmers’ Market allows relief from chains

Handmade goods Handmade goods, like the bags above, allow shoppers to find unique items not found anywhere else. This brings in shoppers not needing food items.

Elise Barnett

Every Saturday, beginning in April and lasting all the way into November, local farmers, craftsmen and artists gather in a spacious parking lot in down town Topeka. They do so for many reasons.

Namely to sell their goods, but also to meet new people, hear about news around town and catch up with old friends.

The Topeka Farmers’ Market has been in existence since the 1930’s when farmers would gather to sell fresh crops. Over the decades, as national industry has begun to dominate local business, the Topeka Farmer’s Market has stayed local, homegrown and organic.

This year a total of 81 vendors make up the Saturday attraction, turning what used to be a simple vegetable market into a grandiose affair including: soft goods, jewelry, soaps and even coffee.

Elaine Krug, a soft goods vendor, makes purses, totes and small pouches out of old denim jeans. She likes the market because it gives “access to people I wouldn’t normally have access too.” Her bags are intricate in design and each one is handmade, so no two are alike.

Fashionable, practical, and affordable items can be hard to find, but not at the Topeka Farmer’s Market. Even hygienic products can be found at the market. Isaac and Rebecca Cason of Cason Naturals come to the market vending soaps and bath salts.

“They’re all organic, vegan, and biodegradable,” said Isaac, a student at the Washburn Technical Institute. “It’s not just about being clean, it’s also about health.”

A bar of their all-natural soap costs five dollars, perfect for the Earth conscious student with a tight budget.

Molly Hall has a children’s boutique in her tent at the market, selling custom made clothing and accessories. Apart from vending she enjoys the atmosphere of the market.

“I like to support local business. So I like that people come down here and support me,” said Hall. “It’s a nice atmosphere. It’s different than going to the store and buying your produce.”

Produce is definitely still going strong at the market. Each week brings a different assortment of crops as new harvests ripen. About a tenth of the vendors this year sell produce and even a few vendors whose primary good may be something else, also bring fruits and vegetables from their home gardens. Elaine Krug had two small tables of vegetables and houseplants stationed in front of her tent of purses and totes.

A notable produce vendor, Rees Fruit Farm brings vegetables such as squash, green beans and zucchini, along with their fruit and famous apple cider. Along with being the oldest orchard in the state, founded in 1900, they also love people. Instead of free advertising or for the purpose of selling more products, Cathy Blaceter said “people, getting to see people” is why Rees comes to the market.

So the next time you’re up early on a Saturday morning in the spring, summer or fall, direct yourself to the corner of Huntoon and Harrison to support local business or maybe just to see what all the Topeka Farmer’s Market has to offer.