Saturday, August 16, 2008

Campers Flock to State Fair Farmers' Market

Story from: The Sedalia Democrat
Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Visitors at the Missouri State Fair’s public campground are enjoying a new shopping experiment: the AgriMissouri Farmers Market in the Agriculture Building.

Lane McConnell, a marketing specialist for the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Ag Business Development Division, is heading the new operation.

"Since it’s our first time doing this, we had no way of knowing if campers would utilize the market," McConnell said. "A ton of campers have come back multiple times, as well as fair visitors and people who live in Sedalia looking for farm-grown produce."

Part of the incentive for campers to use the market is the free delivery option. AgriMissouri, a marketing assistance group for Missouri farmers markets, has provided a John Deere Gator and a golf cart to make produce deliveries to the campground.

"All the campers have to do is give us their cell phone number, and we meet them at the gate with their produce," McConnell said.

The market sells fruits and vegetables from nine vendors. The homegrown goods include bell peppers, sweet corn, onions, potatoes and several varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

"I know sweet corn is popular this time of year, but I never dreamed we would sell so much," McConnell said. "I can’t even count how many huge bags we have gone through in the last six days."

Campground Superintendent Rod Baxter said the farmers market gives campers more purchase options because there are only two vendors permitted to sell on the campground. The A OK Co. sells recreational vehicle supplies, and the Sedalia Rotary Club provides a convenience store that sells various food items and toiletries.

McConnell said the delivery service at the market is booming despite the "turnover" Baxter has noticed at the campground.

"Friday evening we had a line of recreational vehicles waiting to get into the grounds," Baxter said. There was another line of people waiting to leave on Sunday, he said.

"I figure the crowds are bigger during the weekend when people are typically off work," Baxter said. "If the weather stays as nice as it is, I’m expecting the same thing to happen this Friday."
Baxter attributes the campground not meeting maximum capacity to its continuing expansion. Two years ago, area was added on the north side of the grounds. Also, more pedestals have been added that provide water, electricity and sewage disposal for RVs.

"I think the farmers market has added a lot of life the Agriculture Building and the fair," McConnell said. "We are looking to have a permanent farmers market set up in Sedalia so people can enjoy this produce all the time."

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