HANNIBAL — Numerous vendors gathered Thursday at the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center, reviewing rules and asking questions as the 2023 season of the Hannibal Central Park Farmers' Market is set to begin at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, April 29.
Market Manager Steve Huse and Assistant Market Manager Erin Crane and new assistant Sam Daggett provided handouts with market rules, application forms and other necessary information during the Vendors Meeting to kick off the 2023 season. Huse commended Hannibal Parks & Recreation and Douglass Community Services for their ongoing support.
Several details were shared, including a 6 a.m. setup time for Saturday mornings and market times of 7:30 a.m. to noon for those mornings. Once harvests allow, a mid-week market is planned from 3-7 p.m. Tuesday afternoons beginning mid-June. The season will conclude Saturday. Oct. 28. The market takes place on the west side of Central Park along Fifth St. If an event is taking place in the park, an alternate location has been reserved near City Hall.
Huse and Crane emphasized that all vendors must follow local, state and federal laws. Each vendor selling items by weight must have their scale approved, inspected and certified by the Missouri Department of Weights and Measures.
Vendors selling nonfood items such as crafts must obtain a merchant license from the City of Hannibal. People selling items like baked goods, jellies and other foods must receive a farmers' market permit from the Marion County Health Department.
Ensuring safety and providing customers with a positive experience have been paramount issues, leading to the positive reputation the market has earned over the years. Canopies are secured to remain safe in windy conditions, the sidewalk is kept clear for customer safety and everyone works together in a family-type atmosphere.
All items must be produced within a 100-mile radius of Hannibal, and members of management may conduct a farm visit to ensure this rule is followed. Vendors do not pay a stall fee — each week, they donate one item which is part of a customer giveaway each week.
Douglass Community Services (DCS) Chief Operating Officer Stacey Nicholas explained the details about two new programs vendors can enroll in — Regular Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Double-Up program, which allows SNAP recipients to double up to $25 in SNAP benefits per market day through a match from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Eligible foods for the SNAP program include fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals, meats, fish, poultry, dairy products and seeds and plants that produce food. The Double-Up program applies to fresh fruit and vegetables.
Nicholas explained that USDA requires special training for each vendor who wishes to participate in the programs. DCS will administer the training at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 12 at 909 Broadway.
SNAP recipients visit a booth at the market to redeem their SNAP benefits for tokens to use at the market. DCS reimburses the vendors with a check for each transaction.
Nicholas noted how 86 percent of all SNAP benefits go to households which include a child, elderly person or person with disabilities. Also, about 92 percent of SNAP benefits are received by households with an income at or below the federal poverty line.
"So, that means we're really reaching a needy population with the foods that you are able to have," she said. "That means you have more clients. It's really quick and simple."
Musicians often perform during the market, and Huse was excited that two new acts were prepared to join the event. During the Thursday meeting, there was a strong turnout of returning vendors and new vendors. Everyone was excited for the new season.
"It's going to be a great season. I'm looking forward to it," he said.
Scott Murray was getting prepared for his fifth year with the market. He sells hanging plants, potted plants — "anything that's green". So far, Murray is growing more plants than he has in the past four years. He has experienced the close-knit atmosphere of the Hannibal Central Park Farmers' Market firsthand.
"When you've been here for a while, the vendors become like parts of a big family," he said. "I lost my wife last year, and the vendors went together, and they got me a memorial for her. It was just overwhelming, that's all I can say. They're just unbelievable people."
A few tables over, Deserea Cullom, owner of Confection Obsessions Bakery, was filling out an application for her first year at the market with her mom, Jessica. She was excited for the chance to expand her customer base, meeting new people throughout the season.
Her mom expressed how special the farmers market is for the community.
"Every town — it doesn't matter if it's big or small — needs something like this. It honestly does," she said.
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