COLUMBIA — On the first day of spring, the Columbia Farmer's Market celebrated its opening day, in spite of light snowfall and 33 degree temperatures. Softball-sized clumps of snow hit the pavement as vendors bundled in overalls and winter coats attempted to keep their white tents from collapsing under the weight.
Market manager Caroline Todd said she estimates just over 200 customers came. A previous Missourian story states that last year roughly 1,200 customers came out. Todd said she thinks the snow had an impact on turnout.
WHERE: Behind the Activity and Recreation Center on the corner of Clinkscales Rd. and Ash St.
WHEN: Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon (March to Nov.)
Mondays and Wednesdays 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. (May to Oct.)
"We are here every day that we are open," said market manager Caroline Todd. "It doesn't matter what the weather."
She said the idea of rescheduling because of the weather was never considered. In her sixth season as manager, Todd said it was the first time there was snow on opening day.
"We call it making a memory," she said.
Todd's husband, Dave, while operating their stall selling cage-free eggs, said consistency is key when it comes to running a market.
"Sometimes you have to come out and set up even though the sales may not be that good," Dave Todd said. Todd Farms plans to have yellow squash, zucchini squash, yellow corn and snow peas later in the season.
Despite the low temperature and fat snowflakes resting on shoppers' eyelashes, 18 different vendors had stalls.
Available for purchase at Saturday's market were fresh meat and fish products, homemade baked goods, honey, fresh spinach, green onions, fresh pasta, soft and hard cheese and eggs.
Also available were flats of fresh plants like blueberry and blackberry bushes, herbs, scallions, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower.
"We're still getting some good traffic coming through, we have people that come year after year," Caroline Todd said.
Meera Sood is one of those loyal customers.
"I have just been waiting all winter for the market to open," Sood said. "The lure of fresh food brought me out."
Jennifer Muno from Goatsbeard Farm said she hopes that the promise of local food brings more customers to the market during the 2010 season.
"We're hoping to have an increase and with more and more interest in local food and eating local I think we might," Muno said. "We have a great farmer's market season planned with lots of great vendors coming."
Shopper and food writer Scott Rowson said his family makes a big breakfast on opening day of the market and sees it as a way of celebrating the start of spring.
"We kind of make a big deal out of the first day of the year," Rowson said.
Caroline Todd emphasized that food stamps can be used at the farmer's market, even for the food that can be planted at home.
Even in the frigid temperatures, Art Gelder from Walk-About Acres said shoppers were buying his honey ice cream.
"There are some hardcore ice cream eaters around here," he said. "Honey makes it very smooth and creamy. People say it has a better flavor than Haagen-Dazs."
If customers were looking for something sweet but not quite as chilly, the Patric chocolate stall was offering five flavors of locally made chocolate and something a little more cozy — hot chocolate to drink.
Given the cold weather of the season opening, vendors found creative ways to display the goods they will have in the future. Ronda Thiessen from Sandy Creek Farm flipped through pages of a colorful scrapbook to show photos of peach, cherry, apple and pear trees.
"The first week in June we start to have sweet cherries, then sour cherries and then we start into our peaches," Thiessen said.
The market will be open 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays from March through November. From May through October, the market is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday and Wednesday.
It is located behind the Activity and Recreation Center on the corner of Clinkscales Road and Ash Street.