By Veronica Burniston
Since early America, farmers markets have been vital to the function and growth of rural communities. For years markets have been the places for neighbors to come together to sell and trade their produce, wares, and other goods; theyve been the centers of news about local happenings and opportunities; theyve served as gathering places for friends and families to meet. In nearly every region of the past and present, these markets have been the heartbeats of the people, the places where individuals come together to create communities, the places where livelihoods intersect and friendships develop.
In Johnson County, the farmers market is no different. Although small and growing every year, the market brings something unique to the city each Saturday from mid-May to late October, an experience of community and a reminder that living an exceptional life means investing in people and celebrating their victories alongside them. And on October 12, 2013, in the courthouse parking lot, the Johnson County Farmers Market did just that by celebrating its first annual Apple Fest.
Celebrating not only the harvest season, the Apple Fest also specifically celebrates the first harvest of the locally-owned Swift Hollow Orchard. Owned by Skip Holtkamp, Swift Hollow is a four-year-old orchard made up of nearly 250 fruit trees. These fruit trees include: cherry trees, pear trees, peach trees, and a variety of 13 different types of apples. This year was Swift Hollow Orchards first harvest and, in turn, the first year the apples were sold at the farmers market. Some of Holtkamps fellow vendors saw this as a great victory for him and wished to encourage him and his family along the laborious yet fruitful journey awaiting them.
On Saturday morning, beneath an overcast sky, the market vendors prepared their booths, setting their produce and baked goods and wares on the tables for the early bird customers. Some of the booths held baked goods: breads, cakes, bagels, pumpkin rolls, and Swedish doughnuts (a type of doughnut made with mashed potatoes). Another booth offered a warm breakfast of an omelet or apple wrap, while two more tents sold organic food and natural locally grown produce. The other vendors held wares as varied as flowers to handmade jewelry to photography-art.
As families and children explored the tents and various apple products supplied by the vendors for the Apple Fest (e.g. apple sauce, apple pie, apple cider, etc.), a pleasant feeling hung in the air, thick as the mist on the surrounding mountains. That feeling was a shared wonder, a growing desire to learn and discover and celebrate alongside neighbors and friends. Its a feeling that encouraged people to share their delights and passions with others, a feeling that persuaded one to venture and taste cakes and apples and Swedish doughnuts, to goggle at beautiful photographs of local barns that have decorated this area for decades and trails paved in autumn leaves on Doe Mountain. This fellowship of friends and neighbors, acquaintances and passers-through, brought a little bit of that community flavor back to Johnson County, a little bit of that heartbeat of the people.
Nearing the end of its season, the Johnson County Farmers Market will be open for the next two Saturdays, October 19th and 26th from 9 a.m. till 1 p.m. Feel free to drop by, talk with the vendors, shop, and share in the small town market atmosphere of the local Farmers Market.
By Veronica Burniston