Brenda White makes a purchase of fresh vegetables from Phil Lancaster of Lancaster Farms on a Monday afternoon at the Hitching Lot Farmers’ Market in Columbus. The market at Second Avenue and Second Street North is open Monday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
July 9, 2014 10:51:59 AM
Saturday mornings from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Hitching Lot Farmers' Market in Columbus are lively affairs, with not only fresh-picked produce from local growers, and crafts, but festivities that range from live music to cooking demonstrations and corn shucking contests.
But look again: The action isn't confined to Saturdays. The market offers two additional options for vendors and consumers to connect -- Mondays from 4 to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 7 to 10 a.m.
"I'm not a morning person," laughed Beth Sims, a farmers' market fan. "Monday afternoons are just ideal. When I was last there, the vegetables and fruit were so fresh and pretty, and I always see somebody I haven't seen in years; I love seeing and visiting with people."
Sims and others like her are just the customers the market hoped to accommodate by adding an afternoon and extra morning to its schedule.
"The market has been open on Thursday mornings for several years, in addition to Saturdays," said Anne Freeze, chair of the market advisory board. "We added Monday afternoons maybe three years ago to try and attract people who don't want to get up early!" Weekdays also appeal to shoppers who prefer a smaller crowd; the afternoon option appeals to those who like to drop by after work.
Barbara Bigelow, director of Main Street Columbus, said, "What an advantage for the community to have the market available not only on Saturdays, but on Monday afternoons and Thursday mornings as well. It provides more opportunities to pick up fresh, local produce throughout the week. Keeping things local helps your community flourish and keeps you and your family healthy."
Tony Rose is the daily market manager.
"On Saturdays, we're having about 40 vendors, and on the weekdays we're having about 20," Rose said. He's pleased with the variety of sellers this season. (On a typical summer Saturday, the mix includes 15 to 20 farmers, eight to 10 baked goods booths, eight to 10 arts and crafts, and three to five plant and flower vendors, he said.)
A good number of shoppers browsed the stands Monday afternoon, chatting with growers, asking questions about everything from bright yellow squash and plump, juicy tomatoes to cucumbers and ripe peaches, among other items.
There were homemade sweets and poppyseed bread, honey, plants, sunflowers, German pretzels and apple strudel, and even European breads. While the majority of arts/crafts vendors usually set up on Saturdays, on this day there were some fabric crafts, vine wreaths and Grassroots candles.
"There's so much here to choose from," said shopper Amy Wilson, carrying a bag of blueberries she planned to use in a dessert. "I'm so glad they're open on an afternoon; Saturday's my day to sleep."
Phil Lancaster is a 19-year vendor and a proponent of having multiple market days. They give growers more opportunities to get produce to the public at its freshest.
"This stuff doesn't wait," he grinned, referring the vegetables and fruits he brings to town from Lancaster Farms in Hamilton. The sheer volume of produce would be more than many vendors could get to market if they could only sell there once a week.
The community gathering place at Second Avenue and Second Street North has undergone a roster of improvements in the past several years and looks forward to more. The wish list includes more shaded space, said Rose.
Shop the market. Get local produce and goods and cook a homemade meal. You'll taste the difference.
Visit hitchinglot.org for market news, special events and recipes.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.