Weekly Farmers’ Market returning to normal

Video courtesy of WCTV, Rachel Pellegrino

Despite last year’s increased popularity, Waynesburg’s weekly Farmers’ Market is back to “pre-pandemic” normalcy. 

Hosted by Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful, Waynesburg Farmers’ Market invites residents from mid-May through Mid-October to support local farmers, gardeners and bakers every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Farmers’ markets in Greene County have traditionally been a place where you can get your seasonal produce, locally baked goods and even get a hot lunch specifically on Wednesdays by the Greene County courthouse,” said JoAnne Marshall, Communications & Tourism Director of Visit Greene. 

For farmers, such as Fred McConn, owner of Harden’s Family Farm in Fredericktown, the Farmers’ Market is a family tradition.

“My mother and father in-law started about 20 years ago,” McConn said. “It gives us an outlet, and the people are nice.”

Even with the pandemic last year, farmers’ markets nationwide saw a spike in sales. Waynesburg’s Farmers’ Market was no exception to this trend. 

“Because so much was shutdown and supplies were harder to get, farmer’s markets grew and were essential into our way of life,” Marshall said. 

Now that pandemic restrictions have eased and consumers returned to grocery stores, farmers’ markets are declining in popularity – compared to last year – and returning to normal.

“Recovering from COVID-19, farmers’ markets have kind of declined and we’ve seen less customers coming around and that means less produce getting out into the hands of our consumers,” Marshall said. 

Even with the decline in vendors and customers, Waynesburg Prosperous & Beautiful continues to host the weekly Farmers’ Market.

Heather Gapen, owner of Willow Tree Farm Bakery, is one of the vendors that has stayed. She has been participating in the market for 10 years and continues to participate because of her loyal customers.

“It’s been a huge success for me. My customers are very loyal,” she said. “Usually every week, I have regulars. I get a few outsiders that’ll find a parking spot, but mostly everybody is workers from inside the offices close by.”

One of those regulars is Kourtney Skinner who works at First Federal Bank. Skinner’s coworkers and her attend every Wednesday. 

Skinner said she always looks forward to:

“Sue’s veggie pizza, the What’s Smokin barbeque has the best chicken quesadillas and the Willow Tree cinnamon rolls.”

Even with the recent decline, Gapen said the Farmers’ Market has helped grow her businesses over the years.

“The Farmer’ Market has helped my business in every way,” Gapen said.

McConn expressed likewise and even attributed the success to the quality of the vendors’ products.

“We do well,” he said. “They respond well and you know if you have good stuff they come back … We’re just thankful for all of the support we get here at Waynesburg.”

Marshall also expresses gratitude for the returning vendors and their welcoming attitudes. 

“I look forward to working with the vendors. I’ve known them for years now and it’s always nice to go up to the booth. They’re welcoming, they know who I am. They also know what I like and they also introduce me to new things,” Marshall said. 

Even though there’s only two weeks of the Farmers’ Market left, Greene County residents can still look forward to new products.

“The biggest thing that people look forward to is that we’ve moved on from the watermelon and cantaloupe of summer and the peaches and we’re now getting the apples. And today would be the first day for apple cider,” Marshall said last Wednesday.

According to Skinner, new fall products aren’t the only thing the community wants to see.

“It needs to keep going [but] we want to see more vendors,” Skinner said.