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Corn Palace gearing up to kick off farmers market at revamped plaza

Kermit Black, left, buys a couple bags of homemade cookies from Laura Stahl, right, on Thursday during this summer's first Farmers Market at the Corn Palace Plaza. Stahl was one of several vendors who had a booth set up during the kick off to the farmers market. (Sam Fosness / Republic)
Kermit Black, left, buys a couple bags of homemade cookies from Laura Stahl, right, on Thursday during this summer's first Farmers Market at the Corn Palace Plaza. Stahl was one of several vendors who had a booth set up during the kick off to the farmers market. (Sam Fosness / Republic)

Despite a late start, the Mitchell Farmers Market season is a month away from kicking off this summer at a newly upgraded venue.

Traditionally, Mitchell’s Farmers Market begins in early June, but due to the COVID-19 virus and its effects on the produce sector, it prompted Corn Palace Doug Greenway to push the start date back a month to July 9. While the late start wasn’t initially part of the plan heading into summer, it provided a unique opportunity for the event to be held at a newly upgraded Corn Palace Plaza that is under construction until June 24. Greenway is hoping the revamped venue will spur a strong showing of attendance and vendors during the upcoming farmers markets.

“The new features to the plaza will make for a great farmers market experience for our vendors and attendants,” Greenway said. “The reason they built the Corn Palace back in 1892 was to bring farmers and people together, and that is what we hope to achieve.”

In recent years, the James Valley Community Center was the city department responsible for organizing Mitchell’s weekly farmers market. However, the Corn Palace has absorbed the responsibilities of hosting the farmers market this summer. This year’s farmers market will follow the same schedule of hosting the weekly events from 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Thursday, excluding a couple dates in August.

Greenway and the Corn Palace staff have embraced the new duty, as they have begun seeking out potential musical guests who could take to the new Corn Palace Plaza stage and entertain attendees. Greenway is encouraging musicians to contact the Corn Palace for an opportunity to be among the first artists to help break in the new stage during the farmers market events.

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“We hope the stage attracts some great music artists. We love how Maria Payne (former farmers market coordinator) had a lot of cool art aspects to the farmers market last year, and we hope to continue by welcoming more arts,” Greenway added.

After moving the farmers market from the parking lot on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Main Street to the plaza in 2018, it was deemed a success. And it appears the location is here to stay. Assistant Corn Palace Director Nick Bakhtiari said the revamped plaza will allow he and Greenway to get creative with the farmers market set up.

With the agriculture theme of the Corn Palace, Greenway said hosting the farmers market next to Mitchell's biggest tourist attraction is the most fitting location, noting it provides tourists with another activity to soak in while visiting the Corn Palace.

“Farmers markets have been around for hundreds of years, and it’s where produce, farmers and goods come together,” Greenway said. “It gives people and the agriculture community a chance to network and visit about the harvest seasons, so we think it is a great fit.”

Vendor fees for each event are set at the same $10 rate as last year’s, according to Greenway. In addition, an upfront cost to set up a vendor booth for the whole farmers market season that wraps up Sept. 26 will be offered at a discounted rate.

While Greenway eagerly awaits kicking off the farmers market, he hopes to attract more produce and agriculture-inspired vendors. However, he is aware that the novel coronavirus has disrupted the produce industry, causing some scarcity. Regardless, he is optimistic that some local and area gardeners and planters will have enough vegetables and other goods to sell.

“There is just not a lot of excess produce that people are selling this year, so that is also why we pushed the start date back a bit,” Greenway said. “We really want to focus on farm and garden produced goods and items that are ideally South Dakota made. It’s going to be an exciting summer.”

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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