Visit Market Square: Ironton's Farmers Market

Bridges Magazine

    It’s a Saturday morning and the rush of the workweek is fading away with no alarm clocks and the leisure to start the day off visiting the local farmers market. Visiting a farmers market is like visiting one of America’s great institutions. It is the most wholesome snapshot of a community you’ll ever find. Not to mention eating locally grown food is healthier.
    This particular Saturday morning, the Ironton Farmers Market is buzzing much like bees in a field of clover going from one similar bloom to the next, a fitting scene for the “Honey Man,” Clarence Fowler, a vendor who sells local honey, beeswax, honey sticks and candy. Across from his honey station is a table full of fresh vegetables picked the day before from Pedro, Ohio.
    Frequent patron Carol Allen asks “Do you have any eggs left?” Judy Balmer shakes her head. “Sold out early this morning, but I’ll hold some back for you if I know you’re coming next week,” the 35-year veteran farmer says.
    Roadside sellers scattered Ironton street corners for a number of years, but it was six years ago, the Ironton Farmers Market formalized with the newly covered venue at Market Square on Second Street. Today Ironton aLive’s executive director Sam Heighton manages it. “When we organized, we got these people together. We just this year started charging for spots because interest is growing."
    Heighton expressed how community support is first class from the CAO (Community Action Organization) moving its vans for parking to US Bank being generous with its parking spaces. “It’s like a big family. All the vendors are very friendly and work together. You see people run into people they haven’t seen in years. It’s definitely a social place.”
    To sell at the Ironton Farmers market, the goods must be home grown, locally grown, or can be out of the area during the early season but never outside the U.S., according to Heighton who adheres to state policies on farmers markets. Some vendors advertise if it was homegrown and the rest have most likely brought in produce from within the county or a neighboring one, he said.
    Crafts and home-baked goods are also gaining popularity at the market.  There are giant sized cookies, tarts, pies, homemade soaps from Nubian goat’s milk, special hand cut beef jerky and cut garden floral bouquets.
    Newcomer to the market Karen Hogsten couldn’t be happier with the scene. “First off, it’s centrally located under this beautiful pavilion. It’s really a community thing and people really enjoy being there.”
    The horticulturist who frequents garden clubs and Mother Earth classes was looking for a business venture when she started cultivating chemical free flowers in her backyard. Her five-lot Ashland property, which used to be part of the old Ashland Country Club, proved fertile ground for her labor of love. Her booth has proven popular as she sells out nearly every Saturday morning.
    What makes a market more special is that connection between grower and consumer. To sample a jar of homemade jam and ask specifics like, “What is Christmas Jam?” Or vice versa, to be handed a spoon from Becky of Becky’s Jams and More, “See what this tastes like,” as she hands over the golden colored gelatin.
    “It’s dandelion jelly.” Then she explains how one makes dandelion jelly.
    These exchanges go on and on. It’s truly an organic experience and one that has to be observed in person.
    The Ironton Farmers Market is open Fridays and Saturdays, 7 a.m. until 3 p.m.