From its early days along Seventh Street to its present-day home in the shade of the tree-lined northeast corner of the Wayne County Courthouse, the Wayne Farmers Market has become a must-visit place for locals and out-of-towners who are looking for good home-made food and fresh-from-the-farm produce.
Monica Snowden, a member of the Farmers Market board from its inception 11 years ago, said the idea of the market was one that a number of people in the community seemed to have around the same time.
“There were some people at the Extension Office and in the community who were interested, and I knew that I was interested and we all got together and thought this would be a great idea for Wayne,” she said during the hustle and bustle of the season’s first opening night Wednesday.
The Wayne Farmers Market began in the parking lot of the Extension Office when it was located on Seventh Street before moving to the Wayne County Courthouse several years ago. From the early days of just a handful to a consistent group of close to 10 vendors, the market has slowly gathered a following among people in the area.
Vendors who want to take part in the market need to get a permit from the Wayne Area Chamber and Economic Development office. Snowden said they will generally allow a first-timer a chance to try the market out for free, and if things go well, they can get a one-time permit for $10 or a season-long permit for $50.
“It’s a great place to do a farmers market,” Snowden said. “We usually get some good crowds and have some very loyal customers who are here almost every Wednesday and Saturday.”
Laura and Dale Hochstein have had their business, Hochstein Acres, as part of the Wayne Farmers Market from the beginning. What started as a fundraising-effort for two of their children has become a summertime tradition for the Wayne Community Schools teachers.
“We actually started doing this at Norfolk’s farmers market for four years before we came here,” Laura Hochstein said. “Our older kids were wanting to go on the Close-Up trip, so we started this and sold jellies and jams to help pay for that trip. It’s kind of escalated from there.”
The Hochsteins are well known for not only their jellies and jams, but for some delicious pies. They also offer breads and garden vegetables when they are in season.
Opening day for this year’s market was held Wednesday, which coincided with the visit of Bike Ride Across Nebraska riders who stopped in Wayne earlier in the day. The farmers market drew a nice crowd and gave vendors and customers a chance to learn a little about each other.
“I just love visiting with people and meeting with people,” Hochstein said. “I met a guy from California who said he couldn’t believe how friendly Nebraska people were. He said he’d left his wallet somewhere along the route today, and a lady drove five miles to find him and return it to him and he was so happy. He said that never would have happened in California.”
The Wayne Farmers Market has a good variety of vendors, offering everything from breads and natural body moisturizers to farm-fresh produce and eggs straight from the henhouse. There is usually some music being played during the market, and “yoga on the green” classes are often a part of the market’s offerings when the weather cooperates.
“It’s most busy during the months of August and September, but it’s always good to see people come,” Snowden said. “Everything here is homemade or handmade by the vendors, and with the music and the yoga it’s really good to see the people come.”
Hochstein said the Wayne Farmers Market has grown slowly during its 11 years, but it’s worth the effort to be a part of it each summer.
“We’re both teachers, so this is our summer job,” she said. “It’s something that you need to work at and put the time into it to make it work, and it’s something for us to do during the summer months.”
The Farmers Market is open through fall on Wednesdays from 4-7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Check out their Facebook page for more details.