COLUMBIA — Chilly conditions made little difference to Missouri farmers Saturday as they brought their wares to the opening day of the Columbia Farmers' Market.
Two rows of pristine white tents covered vendor tables laden with honeycomb, fresh greens, mushrooms, cheeses, eggs, fresh baked goods, peacock quills and more.
Columbia Farmers' Market, Clinkscales and Ash streets, 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, March 22-Nov. 22 4-6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, May 5-Oct. 29 Boone County Farmers Market, Worley Street and West Boulevard, 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, April 5-Oct. 25 4-6 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, May 12-Sept. 24.
The aroma of pie, coffee and herbs was in the air, and Spanish guitar music played in the background.
“It’s been a long winter,” said longtime customer Ene-Kaja Chippendale.
“This is my favorite way to spend Saturday morning,” she added enthusiastically,
The weather didn’t scare away customers. Kicking off its 28th year, the market at Clinkscales and Ash streets behind the Activity and Recreation Center attracted approximately 850 people from 8 a.m. to noon.
Victoria Day, volunteer coordinator for Sustainable Farms and Communities, said the number of customers was good for so early in the year, but she looked up at somber clouds and added, “sun would be nice.”
Despite the gray skies, some vendors said customers were buying more than expected. Dan Kuebler, who was selling spinach at his stall, The Salad Garden, had already sold out of his 60 pounds of spinach by 10:30 a.m..
“It looks like we’re going to have one of our best first days,” Kuebler said.
The Columbia Farmers' Market was started in 1980 by small group of vendors. Now, more than 60 are farmers market members, according to the market Web site.
Nearly all of the vendors are farmers and artisans who live within a 55-mile radius of the market.
Approximately 17 vendors were selling from stalls this Saturday with more to come as weather grows warmer. Several said they would be selling more produce and other seasonal items in late spring and summer.
Caroline Todd, market manager, said it was too early to sell fruit, but as the weather warms the selection will widen to include berries, peaches, melons and apples.
“We’re probably going to have peaches this year because we’ve had a really even spring,” Todd said.
Tom Gerling and his 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, both said they’ve have loved coming to the farmers market for more than three years, but haven’t always come this early in the year.
“We couldn’t resist fresh eggs,” Tom Gerling said.
Barbara Nobis, who sells eggs and bakery items with her husband, Dennis, sold one of four pies left of the 19 she had carried with her Saturday morning just as the clouds parted and sunlight shone through. She beamed with pleasure.
“I’m glad the sun came out,” she said.