Leafy greens, juicy tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers are just a few summertime favorites that will soon be popping up at area farmers markets.
The upcoming farmers market season, which begins this month, will feature at least six weekly markets featuring dozens of local food growers around Cass County.
While chilly, wet weather has delayed spring planting season in Missouri by about a month, at least a sampling of farm-fresh food will be ready for opening day of the Cass County Farmers Market on Saturday, May 4.
Farmers market connoisseurs can also pick up home-grown items at the Community Market in Garden City and at the Peculiar Farmers and Artisans Market this month.
The 16-booth Cass County market, located in the parking lot at Mill-Walk Mall in Harrisonville, draws local food producers within an approximate 50-mile radius.
Among the selections of one of the county’s oldest farmers markets, market manager Sherry Warren said the market offers a variety of local samplings – including produce, honey, eggs, jewelry and crafts.
The market is set to be open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays, and 3-6 p.m. on Wednesdays beginning in June.
The Harrisonville community will be gaining a second farmers market this year for area residents.
Sheryl Stanley, spokeswoman for the city of Harrisonville, said the city is actively looking for produce vendors for the new market that will be open on Saturday mornings beginning in June on the historic Square.
Produce vendors will be selling the fruits and vegetables of their labor from 7:30-11 a.m. on Saturdays. Baked goods and plant vendors are also welcomed to sell items.
The idea for a second market in the area came about as an effort to improve the city, Stanley said.
“Several years ago we had a strategic planning program through the National Civic League and they made a number of suggestions to the city, and one of those was to bring more activities and focus back to the square,” Stanley said.
One of the ideas formed was a farmers market to feature green thumbs throughout the state of Missouri, or within a 35-mile radius from Harrisonville on the Kansas side of the state line.
There is no charge to be a vendor at the Harrisonville market, and interested individuals should contact John Teague at 816-507-2838.
The city of Harrisonville is also again hosting their annual “Junk in the Trunk” sale on the second Saturday of the month from 5-7 p.m. in May through October, in which local growers can sell produce, as well.
The Garden City market is organized by Alvin Poisal and is open May through October.
In addition to produce, the Community Market also showcases a variety of arts, crafts and flea market items for sale. Interested vendors should contact Poisal at 816-773-6695.
Northern Cass County communities will also soon be hosting weeknight farmers markets.
The Peculiar Farmers and Artisans Market, which has been held on Saturdays in the past, is moving to Wednesdays, and will be open 3:30-7 p.m. beginning May 15.
The market is located at 500 Schug Ave., in the front parking lot of the Lions Club.
Belton’s Farmers Market, which features more than 40 booth spaces, is opening an hour earlier this season, at 3 p.m., and will close at 8:30 p.m.
"They’re usually all full," said organizer Peg Elkins, of the vendor booths.
Opening day in Belton is set for June 20, and the market is located on Loop Road between Walnut and Chestnut Streets.
Raymore’s Original Town Farmers Market is set to be open June through October from 4-7 p.m. on Tuesdays near the 200 block of South Washington, behind the First Baptist Church.
A list of Missouri farmers markets is available from the Missouri Farmers Market Directory at www.agebb.missouri.edu.
Farm Outreach specialist Jeff Yearington of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, working out of the University of Missouri Extension Office in Harrisonville, said leafy greens, radishes, asparagus, and possibly broccoli and cauliflower, are what market-goers can expect to see early in the season.
Summer squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes are expected in June and July.
Yearington said sweet corn may be a little late this year depending on how soon farmers are able to plant.
Later in the summer, patrons will be able pick up watermelons, cantaloupes, and fruits of those sorts.
Yearington said farmers markets can be a considerable asset to many communities.
"Sometimes, especially here in Cass County, they are one of the most underutilized things (residents) have as a food source," Yearington said.
"You get good, fresh vegetables that haven’t been trucked across the United States, and most of the time you know the person that’s growing them."
The benefits of eating local are two-fold, Yearington said.
He said eating local creates a positive economic impact for area farmers, and that consuming food that is fresh and local is more nutritional.
"It’s a win-win for the whole country," he said. "Knowing where your food comes from is an important thing, and if we don’t have to truck it 1,500 miles, that saves on the carbon footprint."
The Extension Office has a number of resources, including workshops, to help residents learn more about the benefits of gardening and food preservation.
For more information, contact the office at 816-380-8460, or visit their website at www.extension.missouri.edu/cass.