Two years ago, agriculture-development representative for South Dakota, Chase McGrath told the Capital Journal that the number of farmers’ markets was increasing across the state, putting the figure at roughly 60. But, he couched that description with a caveat: Sometimes farmers’ markets close down while others start up.
That ebb-and-flow is apparent in the Pierre area this summer, as last weekend the Country Farmers’ Market sold its final produce from its location at the Northridge Plaza near the now-defunct J.C. Penney store. But, since early July, a new farmers’ market in Fort Pierre, organized by the same crew that runs Capital City Farmers’ Market in Pierre, has provided a Tuesday-evening option for locally-grown-food enthusiasts.
That makes the count of Pierre/Fort-Pierre-area farmers’ markets stable at three. The other one is Riling Produce Farmers’ Market, operating near the intersection of Wells Avenue and South Adams Avenue in Pierre.
When the Capital Journal spoke with Terry and Ernie Lehmkuhl about ending the Country Farmers’ Market, they echoed a sentiment posted on the market’s Facebook page: “Time for old Ma and Pa to sit back and enjoy life.”
They operated their market for a half-decade at the Northridge Plaza location, after selling their produce at the Capital City Farmers’ market for two years. Terry said that she and her husband, Ernie, are getting into their 70s, summing up the effort it takes to keep a farmers’ market going as, “It’s a lot of work!”
Lehmkuhl also noted that when Deb Haka died of brain cancer in December of last year, it left an empty place. Haka sold goat-milk soap at the market, and would sometimes bring her baby goats along.
Asked if the closing of the nearby J.C. Penney store had a negative impact on business, spurring the the Lehmkuhls to shutter the market, Terry said that the store’s closing wasn’t a factor. Markets are required to keep counts of customers to qualify for grants, and it stayed steady at 280-300 customers, she said.
The Lehmkuhls still are looking forward to the East Pierre Landscape and Garden Center’s Fall Festival, to be held on October 21 from 1-5 p.m.
The Garden Center is owned by Art Smith and Mary Eckstrom. Smith told the Capital Journal that this year, the second Fall Festival, he’s expecting more than the 20 vendors who sold goods last year.
At the Fall Festival, the Lehmkuhls plan to offer raw honey, winter squash, decorating gourds, pickled beets, and salsa. The salsa comes in four categories of hotness: mild, hot, nuke, and nuke nuke. Carolina Reapers, the chili pepper that allows the salsa to exercise the nuclear option, was the Guinness World Record holder in 2013 for hottest chili pepper. An average batch of Carolina Reapers scored 1,569,300 in Scoville Heat Units, which is the standard measure of hotness for chili peppers.
They’ll also be selling birdhouse gourds – a size suitable for wrens.
The new market in Fort Pierre is being organized as a part of the city’s bicentennial celebration. But in July Fort Pierre Mayor Gloria Hanson told the Capital Journal she hoped it would continue into the future.
Fort Pierre market organizer Lindy Geraets, also runs the Capital City Farmers Market, and with her husband, Matt, sells B & G Produce there. She told the Capital Journal Tuesday that the experience they’ve had at the Fort Pierre location has been “really good for us” and she felt like other vendors had enjoyed themselves as well. As far as next year goes, she said about other vendors, “If they’re in, we’re probably in as well.”
Geraets said that not all the vendors at the Country Farmers Market would necessarily be able to migrate to the Capital City Market. According to Geraets, one difference between the Country Farmers Market and her market is that Capital City requires their vendors to make, grow or raise the products they sell, whereas Country Farmers market required only that the products come from South Dakota.
Geraets said two vendors who previously sold at the Country Farmers Market will be now joining the Capital City Farmers Market: BLC Ranch and Nancy’s Nest.