There’s something about sunshine, fresh produce and music that makes people happy. Just visit the farmers market on the square in Effingham for example.
“It takes us back to the root of America,” said Dave Jones of Effingham. “It is the people. They share stories. There’s wholesome food here. It is just a good social time.”
The weekly Saturday event runs from 8 a.m. to noon. One recent Saturday it was alive with crowds of people looking for that special all-natural doggie treat, handcrafted jewelry, baby blankets, baked goods, raw honey, plus the usual melons and homegrown vegetables.
Acoustic guitar player Jeff Corman of Effingham provided the music at the gazebo.
“It’s a beautiful atmosphere,” said Corman. “I started doing these farmers markets a month ago. I normally get a pastry here for breakfast and start playing.”
Corman plays music from the 1950s, '60s and '70s, on the guitar and mandolin.
“I love to add my bit of creativity to the event," he said. "I play a little bit of everything.”
When it comes to the tastes and flavors available, visitors say there’s something about knowing where these fruits, vegetables and baked goods have come from, when you walk up to a vendor at the local farmers market.
“We just really enjoy it,” said Brandi Paige of Effingham. “It is here in your hometown and you pretty well know everyone that’s there.”
Jones and Paige were there with their 14-week-old puppy, named Bailey, which is a lab/chow mix. They made it a strict rule that the pup won’t be eating table scraps, so they found her some blueberry and pumpkin organic treats at the market.
A dog treat vendor on site was Rebecca Miller of Effingham, who started out making these special snacks for pets as Christmas gifts for dog lovers in the family. This summer, she decided to bring those out to the farmers market. Her stand included a large bowl of water and there were plenty of pets and their owners paying visits to the stand.
“I use real meat and real ingredients,” said Miller. “It’s the real deal. It’s made of all natural ingredients. The word ‘byproduct’ scares me.”
She said for the past two Christmases dogs in the family have been getting these special treats in a variety of flavors. Loyal customers return each week to restock their fresh, moist dog treats.
“We love the farmer’s market,” said Sharon Moore of Lake Sara. “I’m proud of it. I really like it that people bring their crafts and their talents. We like to support local things.”
Another couple, Terry and Alice Gephart of Effingham, was checking out handmade jewelry created by Brad and Josie Shamhart of Wheeler.
“My husband cuts, grinds and polishes each stone. I do the bead and wire work,” said Josie Shamhart.
Terry Gephart said he appreciates artistry at the market, such as the jewelry.
“I think it is really neat that we have local people who bring out life in a rock,” Gephart said.
Joshua Pugh of Trilla and his grandfather, Delbert Spencer, sold out on their cantaloupe and watermelons near the end of the market time. Pugh said the melons were fresh picked on Friday in Vincennes, Ind.
“Some people claim the watermelons with seeds have better flavor,” said Spencer. “Some people don’t want seeds in their watermelons.”
Pugh said the week before they sold out of the produce shortly after 9 a.m.
But, several growers said the rainy June and July have posed some challenges with the crops this year.
“We’ve been fighting the weeds in our gardens this year, with all the rain,” said Spencer. “We have 13 varieties of tomatoes that are just about ready to come off the vines,” said Pugh. “I hope that soon, I can bring those. It’s been hard to get in the gardens this year.”
Pugh said he didn’t get the mulch down fast enough and the weeds, which thrived in the rainy seasons, took over his gardens.
Another grower, Mike Poe of Effingham, was helping out his brother and said the weather this year brought them more work.
“We garden in a big way,” he said, adding planting several hundred plants is typical.
Poe said the brothers tend to six different gardens around Effingham County. The process is time consuming and the work is hard. Timing of crops isn’t necessarily on their schedule. This week they sold cucumbers, okra, potatoes, peppers and tomatoes.
“It was much more work this year than any other normal year,” said Poe. “Having good drainage is vital to keep the plants healthy with all the rain we had.”
Poe explained to one customer that there’s been struggles with green beans due to excessive rain and many of these plants were planted a second time in hopes for produce to be ready in about six weeks.
“Oh, it is a lot of work,” said Poe. “Mother Nature chooses what we will bring each week. Our stand is different each week,” he said.
Even beekeepers like Travis Dollarhide of Strasburg said the wet months have had an effect on their honey collection. Travis, wife Laura and son Eli work together with the bees and honey. Bees like dry weather and sun, said Laura Dollarhide.
“They forage better in the dry weather, so honey production has been slower this year,” said Travis Dollarhide.
Honey has traditionally been used for both medicinal purposes and as food, he said. “Honey really never goes bad. There’s a good market for local honey and this is our hobby.”
Travis Dollarhide said the art of beekeeping is a little complicated, but quite fun, too. “I usually take care of the bees, then we bottle and process the honey together.”
But, crafters like Shanta Pruemer of Teutopolis don’t have to worry about the rainy weather outside as she hand makes baby items, such as burp cloths and tag blankets. Cotton and flannel prints make up most of her products.
“I’ve been here each week since it started on May 23, this year,” said Pruemer. “There are lots of hours wrapped up in these items. I work on building an inventory over the winter and then add to it as I sell items during the summer months.”
She said the ideas came about after her first granddaughter was born, when she made a tag blanket, both colorful and with textured tags for baby’s senses. “My granddaughter loved these. She’s 3 now and still goes to bed with one,” said Pruemer.
Bill Myers and his daughter, Evie, 4, try to visit the farmers market each Saturday for simple reasons.
“Everything is fresh and reasonably priced,” said Myers. “We like to support our locals. We usually leave with something and with smiles on our faces.”
Dawn Schabbing can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 217-347-7151 ext. 138.