HANNIBAL, Mo. - The temperature was on the rise Saturday morning, but the balmy conditions didn't stop crowds from turning out in large numbers to pick out their favorite produce, baked goods and other homemade items at the Hannibal Central Park Farmer' Market.
Steve Huse, owner of Hope Farms and assistant manager of the Hannibal Central Park Farmer's Market, said the crowds and the number of vendors have been expanding despite hot temperatures and a growing season shortened in the early stages by cool temperatures and heavy rainfall. More and more vendors have been coming to Central Park on Saturdays mornings and Wednesday afternoons throughout the season, and Huse said customers were lined up early, ready to pick out their favorite crafts, treats, produce and other homemade goods.
He said farmers are reaching the peak of the season for produce, and his stand featured items like spaghetti squash, cucumbers and eggs for sale.
“We've seen a large increase in our traffic flow this year,” he said. “Just as an example, I had 80 pounds of tomatoes sold out by 10 o'clock this morning.”
Huse said the vendors were “very happy” with how the season was going so far, and he felt that customers shared similar emotions.
“At nine o'clock this morning, this place was totally packed,” he said. “We had people lined up, waiting in line to get into our booths. It was a great turnout, and compared with years back, we've seen each year, it seems we get a little more traffic.”
He said there are usually 15 to 20 vendors gathered in the park each week, with new vendors joining members who have been coming for years. He pointed out that several vendors had already sold out of their goods by 10 a.m.
David and Betty McNeill have been operating Betty's Baked Goods at the market for 12 years. They said the heat brought some customers out a little earlier, but they see a good number of regular customers and fresh faces each week. In addition to homemade baked treats, they bring vegetables and sunflowers to the market.
Next door, Jeshua Noel set out varieties of his homemade peanut butter for sale, named kaomi after the Hawaiian word for nut and for hand-pressed. Noel has been a vendor at the market since September 2018, and he said the experience has been welcoming and rewarding so far.
“It's great. Being a younger person, I felt very welcome and kind of loved on by the other vendors,” he said.
Noel said market manager Jimmy Large has helped him to encourage more young vendors to join the market. He noticed the strong turnouts each week, too.
“Today we had kind of an early rush, because everyone was trying to beat the heat — and I don't blame them for that,” he said. “It's been really good.”
The growing crowds include dozens of regular customers each Saturday and Wednesday. Karla and Alijah Clark, 2, were among the group of patrons who keep coming back.
“We just never miss it. We come every week,” Clark said. We're always looking for fresh vegetables.”
Alijah repeated “vegetables,” and said he liked the flowers the most.
She purchased two fresh-cut sunflowers from David McNeill for Alijah. Their next destination was the water fountain just down sidewalk.
“I want to see the fountain,” he said.
Georgiana Hawkins, owner of Gannie Cakes, said she enjoyed her first month at the market, selling homemade items like cakes, cookies and cinnamon rolls.
“I've really enjoyed it. I see people I haven't seen in a long time; I meet new people,” she said. “Even the vendors, there's the camaraderie. We all just along and we all work well together. So it's a really good thing.”
The Hannibal Central Park Farmers' Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and 4-7 p.m. on Wednesday. For more information, visit hannibalcentralparkfarmersmarket.com or call 573-248-3836.