Pittsburg Farmers Market wrapped up its 2011 season Saturday with a “Hot Soup Extravaganza” and hopes for the future.



Those hopes include a permanent structure to shelter vendors by the time the 2012 season opens, probably in mid-April, and a cooler summer.

Pittsburg Farmers Market wrapped up its 2011 season Saturday with a “Hot Soup Extravaganza” and hopes for the future.

Those hopes include a permanent structure to shelter vendors by the time the 2012 season opens, probably in mid-April, and a cooler summer.

“We had a tough season,” said Chuckie Hessong, a vendor and president of the market leadership. “When you have that many 100-degree days, it makes it more difficult to keep up the variety of produce. When you have a producer-only market, that’s one of the consequences.”

Still, vendors said they did pretty well.

“We’ve had a very good season,” said Trent Kling of Kling Family Orchards, which featured a variety of homemade jellies and jams.
“We’ve had ups and downs, but at the end, it’s been a successful season and there’s no question that we’ll be back when the market opens up again in April.”

“It’s been fun,” said Dana Parsons of Big Cookie Bakery. “We’ve had lots of fun and the market has really grown.”

Hessong said that she had seen many regular customers turning out for their last day of shopping.

“You kind of feel that sadness,” she said. “You get pretty close to your fellow vendors and your regular customers.”

“I think I’ve missed two weeks out of the entire season,” said customer Jeremy Johnson.

He was carrying bags of tomatoes, potatoes, “some of the best cookies I’ve ever had” and Jerusalem artichokes, an unfamiliar vegetable that Johnson said tastes something like an apple when eaten raw.

He said he will miss the fresh local produce during the off-season, but David Dye has a solution for that. He’ll get his fresh veggie fix from the year-round City Market in Kansas City, Mo.

“It’s worth the drive, but I don’t go there every week,” Dye said.

The Pittsburg Farmers Market had several special events during the season, and concluded with the second annual Hot Soup Extravaganza,” which brought in six entries.

Eric Rosenblad, frequent participant in area chili cook-offs, captured both first and second place.

“I got first place for Chili Colorado, and second for good old homestyle ham and beans,” Rosenblad said.

Adam Bradshaw placed third with stuffed pepper soup.

Soup entries were sold to the public, with proceeds going into the market building fund.

“We’re hoping we can get something up by the time the market opens again,” Hessong said. “We’ve been working with architect’s drawings and have some preliminary plans. We want the most vendors under coverage than we can get, and also something nice-looking, because this is the gateway to the downtown area.”

She added that market leadership wants to be very careful that the new structure fits well into the neighborhood at Second and Broadway.

“We know that the market isn’t the only thing here, and we want to be sure that our neighbors are comfortable with our project, that their needs are met as well, that they have the accessibility they need,” Hessong said.

The Farmers Market has done some fundraising, including T-shirt sales, and received a USDA grant for the project. There will also be some loans, which will be paid off by vendor fees.

“Right now we’re looking at $181,000, which will get us the bare bones,” Hessong said. “We’ll need more funding for the pretty stuff.”

Parsons said that she had done extensive research, aided by Randy Roberts at Axe Library, Pittsburg State University.
“This area here was where food came and went,” she said. “We’re standing now between two train tracks. Distributors would get boxes of fruit off the trains and take them around. With all the history here, this is the logical place for the market to be.”