Early-risers mingle among tables, tents and farm trucks as they eye baskets and bins overflowing with a colorful bounty of freshly-picked, home-grown produce. Some carry plastic bags as they go from vendor to vendor, money clinched in their hands ready to make their selection. Friendly smiles and generous conversation punctuate the welcome atmosphere of the Owensboro Regional Farmers’ Market.
“We try to plant so that each week, especially on Saturdays, we have something new, whether it is strawberries or peaches or blueberries—we want something new to offer [at market],” said Julie Trunnell, who grew up in a farming family. The Farmers’ Market officially opens Saturday, April 18, which is a slow-opening since limited amounts of produce are available. The big kick-off will be May 23, featuring a Kids’ Day event with bouncy houses, school choruses and a variety of child-related activities provided by each vendor. Julie (Trunnell Farms), Suzanne Cecil White (Cecil Farms), Jim Gilles (Hillview Farms Meats) and Hannah McCormick (Blueberries of Daviess County) are coordinating this special event.
“It’s been a long winter, and the opening of the farmers’ market is a sure sign that spring is finally here,” said Suzanne, a Farmers’ Market board member. “The market is a healthy and affordable alternative for families. It also supports our farmers and our regional economy.”
Trunnell’s produce truck is among the 45-50 vendors that gather in the parking lot of Owensboro Christian Church, 2818 New Hartford Road, each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 6:30 a.m. to noon, to sell their locally grown fruits and vegetables. In addition, a Harvest Market will be available on Tuesday afternoons, 1-5 p.m., at Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, 1201 Pleasant Valley Road, beginning in June. SNAP/EBT, WIC and Senior Nutrition Checks are welcome at all locations.
Saturdays at the market will feature live music and unique events. Pure Barre, Edge Body Boot-Camp and Creative R U are among the special guests. A Summer Fest and Health & Wellness Family Fest are also in the works.
Farming and marketing involve the entire family. Julie and Kevin Trunnell are fourth-generation farmers, and the fifth generation—their five children—work alongside Mom and Dad. Daughter Ashton, a freshman at Georgetown University, manages the family’s presence at Farmers’ Market throughout the summer. The family farms a 3-acre mixed garden of vegetables; 10 acres of sweet corn; and 32 acres of pumpkins, fall squash and gourds. Kevin is responsible for planting, growing, spraying and harvesting crops. Julie oversees the displays and setup at Farmers’ Market. Their children, ages 11-19, not only work on the farm but also help prepare for the market—picking, grading, washing and loading produce.
According to Kevin, June and July are the busiest times for the producer market, a market in which 75 percent of everything sold must be grown locally. One mainstay at market is tomatoes, grown hi-tunnel in Kentucky to allow for early home-grown tomatoes that are picked vine ripe. This process allows tomatoes to be grown in-ground under a hoop house. Sweet corn is also in high demand throughout the summer, as well as watermelons and cantaloupes. The Trunnells take all of their homemade breads, plus locally-produced honey and sorghum, to the weekly market. The baked goods, along with a wide variety of canned products, are also available at their roadside market, which is 5 miles south of town on Hwy 431.
Farming is hard work, and growers do face a few challenges. Weather is the number one challenge that impacts their growing season and work schedule. Second is finding great employees who are reliable and committed to their job. Competition from non-local sources ranks third as a significant challenge. Kevin explained that some sources consider “local” to be within a 360-mile radius, but local farmers do not concur. If the Trunnells need to supplement their produce, they stay within a 50-mile radius.
Along with the challenges come many rewards. Chief among those is “. . . getting to do what we love to do every day, to be here on the farm and to raise our children here,” Kevin said.
“We want our farm to be our customers’ farm; we talk about that all the time,” Julie said. “I love these sweet, little ladies who say they are not able to garden anymore, and they have been buying corn from Kevin since he was 18.”
So, how do farmers measure their success at Farmers’ Market? “We don’t bring anything home,” Julie said, with an immediate echo from Kevin.