HURRICANE — Offering fresh produce and other homegrown artisan goods every Saturday, a new farmers market has taken root in Hurricane.
Organizing the Hurricane Farmers Market has been largely a one-woman effort by Andrea Wittwer. Inspired by a sense of community and the Hurricane Valley’s rich farming history, she hopes to not only bring her neighbors together to support Southern Utah growers but also to include more of those local growers in future markets.
“Going to someone’s house and picking up fruits and vegetables is nice, but you don’t get that community feel,” Wittwer said. “This is just something that’s highly needed with everything that’s going on around us.”
In July, Wittwer started a public Facebook group out of curiosity to see how many people in the Hurricane area had an interest in buying and selling locally grown produce. It quickly grew to over 400 members and now boasts more than 670.
“It just spread like wildfire, and people started asking for something real, something tangible that they could shop at,” she said. “St. George has their farmers market, Cedar has their farmers market – where’s our farmers market?”
Wittwer and her husband, Dr. Casey Wittwer, own the Zion Veterinary Clinic and have resided in Hurricane for eight years. She grew up in a small Indiana town where friendly social gatherings to buy and sell fresh eggs, honey and vegetables were a part of life. As a certified nutrition coach, she recognizes the role that locally grown food plays in dietary health.
“It’s a way to bring in that extra revenue for local growers. I know things are hard, especially with more commercial farming and things coming in,” she said. “It’s also helping out the community by bringing in more nutritionally dense foods that are local and indigenous to this area.”
Kimberlee Henderson, a flower farmer and the owner of Blue Sky Blooms, said she was really excited to see someone put in the energy to make a farmers market happen in Hurricane.
“There are so many passionate produce growers in the Hurricane area,” she said, “and I think it’s wonderful to have a venue where they are able to connect with their community and sell what they so lovingly grew.”
The first market was held Saturday on the lawn of the Hurricane Community Center and will continue in that location on subsequent Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon. Despite the heat at the first event, Wittwer estimated that about 150 shoppers passed through their five vendor booths.
She said the family behind Southern Utah Microfarms was pleasantly surprised to sell out of microgreens and plans to attend future markets. Another vendor selling homemade dog treats to raise money for a local animal rescue group sold out of jerky and also plans to return.
“The majority of people were just so excited that we had something going that they were ecstatic to tell their neighbors and their friends and family,” Wittwer said. “It’s a growing process. Some people came with pull carts hoping to get a lot of produce, so the need is there for vendors and farmers.”
Use of the community center was donated by the city of Hurricane, something which Stephen Nelson said fit the city’s vision for the area.
“We’ve been wanting to bring more activities and business into the downtown area, and a farmers market was one of the ways to do that,” Nelson said.
Anyone interested in selling at the farmers market can visit the public Facebook group to learn more and fill out a vendor application. There is no charge to become a vendor for the time being. Booths will be staged 6 feet apart to encourage social distancing.
In addition to seeking more fresh produce growers, Wittwer is currently accepting vendors offering homemade baked goods, canned foods, florals, plants, herbs, spices, honey and eggs. Resale items are not allowed. Any grower within 100 miles of Hurricane is welcome.
Wittwer said many of the farmers she has reached out to expressed interest in participating but have been struggling to maintain their crops through a summer of extended drought and triple-digit temperatures. With recent flooding and the monsoons approaching, she is hopeful that the tide will turn in their favor. She aims to continue this first market season through the end of October, drawing more of the community each Saturday.
Southern Utah’s other weekly farmers markets started slowly at the beginning, Wittwer said, but have become staples of their communities. She is confident that the people of Hurricane will show their support as word continues to spread.
“Even if you have two or three bushels of tomatoes, come and sell those two or three bushels because that’s something that somebody’s going to need,” she said. “It’s all about building community.”
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