Hang around the Vinton County Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market long enough and it starts to feel like old home week. That’s because in a small community like McArthur, everyone knows everyone else and the folks are friendly. They’re also grateful to have a place in the county seat to buy fresh produce and plants.
Since the county’s only grocery store closed in 2013, Vinton County residents have been forced to shop outside the county in neighboring Logan, Jackson, Wellston, Chillicothe and Athens or to piece together their groceries from local dollar stores, carry-out stores and gas stations that sell some grocery items. The Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market offers an opportunity to purchase locally grown, fresh produce on a seasonal basis.
Market Coordinator Bob Rannells admits the Market is small, averaging just a handful of vendors each week, but says they work hard to keep up with customer demand. In fact, he says the demand for fresh produced is so high he supplements Vinton County grown produce with more from a network of growers that stretches from Bremen down to the Ohio River.
On the day VCNB visited, there was a steady stream of shoppers – some hurrying in for something specific and others just stopping by to see what was available that day, most of them taking a moment to chat. There was a mother with young daughters selecting flowers for a landscaping project as well as a man whose wife sent him for a head of cabbage.
When asked why people frequent the Market, Rannells listed some rather compelling reasons. “The most important reason for most people is that everything is grown locally and is fresh. Sometimes the tomatoes are picked that morning. They’re never shipped from someplace else. They’re picked fresh right here in Vinton County,” Rannells explained.
In the case of bedding plants and vegetable plants, these items are taxable. “The tax dollars are collected and paid to Vinton County. So that money stays here locally,” he explained.
Another perk is that the vendor can provide tips on care of a plant as well as ideas for how to store or prepare food items. “We try to gauge those kinds of comments with the age of a buyer and how knowledgeable they seem to be with what they’re buying. Most older buyers don’t need us to tell them how to store a tomato. Sometimes a buyer appreciates a bit of information. And of course, they’re always welcome to ask,” he said. “We try to take the opportunity to talk to them about the plant, talk about where to plant, about water and fertilizer, and about non chemical pest controls.”
Rannells is a teacher and experienced farmer who takes pride in the market and the opportunities afforded to customers and growers. “We understand that the more we do to educate our buyers, the more likely they are to return,” he explained.
In addition to produce and plants, customers may sometimes find fresh eggs, Amish baked goods and hand crafted items. Margret and Danny Bapst sell handmade wooden items including bird boxes, wooden crates and custom items like picnic tables. Their wooden crates, made with hardwoods like Oak, Poplar, Hickory, Red Oak and White Oak, are attractive and sturdy enough to stand on, as Margret demonstrated. She pointed out that wooden crates sold in Big Box stores are made with Pine and are not sturdy or durable. They even make custom crates, featuring the logos of favorite sports teams. She indicated they can even customize with local high school logos including a Viking for Vinton County. To have a custom piece made, customers can find them at the Market on Saturday or can call 740.384.0701 for information.
Rannells hopes to continue growing the Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market. “We welcome new vendors and encourage them to come back as often as they can,” he said. “We also encourage individuals who maybe just grew too much in their garden to come sell with us too. If you have produce that you can’t use, that will just go bad, why not bring it to the Farmers and Crafters Market to offer to sell,” Rannells asked.
The Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market is free to vendors but every vendor must have their own insurance. If you are thinking about being a vendor, Rannells recommends contacting your insurance agent to confirm that your homeowner’s policy will suffice.
The Vinton County Farmers’ and Crafters’ Market is open during the growing season in the parking lot on the East side of the Vinton County Courthouse from 9 a.m. to noon as well as at the Hamden Methodist Church on Mondays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.