Ashland Farmers Market

FRESH PRODUCT: Willa Laughlin sells a fresh baked pie to Ashland Mayor Rick Grauerholz during the Ashland Farmers Market last summer. The market opens for the season on Saturday. (Staff Photo by Suzi Nelson)

ASHLAND – An event that has become a staple of summer weekends in Ashland returns on Saturday to the downtown area.

The Ashland Farmers Market will open for the season on Saturday, June 29 at 15th and Silver streets and will run through Sept. 21, said Fayne Petersen, a member of a newly-formed committee organizing the farmers market this year.

The market opens and 9 a.m. and closes at 12 p.m.

There will be about 10 vendors to kick off the season on Saturday, with more coming later in the summer, said Petersen.

The weekly event was founded by local resident Mary Ziegenbein in 2002 as a way for her sons to sell the produce that they raised. For the first 14 years, the farmers market was held at the intersection of 14th and Silver streets.

For the past few years, the farmers market was under the direction of Lynn and Rob Spackman, who revamped it in 2016, moving it to its present location, adding more vendors and providing live entertainment.

This year, the Spackmans were unable to run the market due to other commitments. As a result, a committee of local business owners, farmers market vendors and avid customers took over. The committee includes Petersen, Gabrielle Hopp, Laura Capp, Ashley Welch, Brad Carlson and Teresa Kresak.

The committee has been working hard to add new and exciting elements to the farmers market, Petersen said, while keeping the same small town feel that has been a part of it for the past 17 years.

Petersen said she has contacted several new vendors in an effort to widen the selection of items offered during the farmers market.

“We are trying to reach out to a bunch of different people to make it bigger and have more variety,” she said.

At the same time, the regular vendors who have been a part of the farmers market for many years have been welcomed back with open arms, Petersen said. They include a pair of vendors who were there when the farmers market first opened in 2002 – Willa Laughlin and Anna Jamrog.

Laughlin, of Ashland, will be there with her homemade cookies, pies and other baked goods, along with the crafts she lovingly creates on her sewing machine. And Jamrog will sell the produce she grows on her rural Greenwood farm.

Other vendors who have been a part of the farmers market in recent years will also be returning, including Basel’s Bees and Produce of rural Ashland. They sell products made from honey and beeswax created by the bees they raise, including body creams and lip balms.

Ruth Ploof of Ashland also returns with her art, and Steve Nabity of Omaha will bring the wood furniture he creates.

Local photographer Mary Bailey will be there with a mix of organic produce and crafts, while Ashley Welch and her daughters will be selling eggs from their family’s flock of chickens and fresh flowers. As the summer progresses, look for produce grown by Kresak and her husband, Gene.

There is still plenty of space available for vendors, Petersen said. Anyone interested in renting a space for the farmers market can contact Petersen at Raikes Beef Co., 402-944-2474, or fayne@raikesbeef.co. The cost is $35 for the entire season.

Because planning took a little longer than committee members had originally hoped, there are still some details to be worked out for the farmers market.

Petersen said they are trying to line up live music, and they are hoping to snag young musicians like high school or college students who enjoy playing music for tips and donations. At least one such group is lined up; a pair of students is planning to entertain with a flute/cello duet.

The committee is also working to schedule a local father/son duet that has been a part of the farmers market for the past few years. Thomas and Micah Judds are lined up to make a return appearance with their Beatles-filled lineup of tunes at a date that is still to be announced, Petersen said.

Manpower for set up and tear down has always been an issue with the farmers market, Petersen said. This year they are enlisting local youth groups and community organizations to help out.

The ROC Youth Group and Acts 2 Church in Gretna, both under the leadership of Pastor Mike Gochenour, have volunteered for some of the season. There are six Saturdays that have not yet been spoken for, Petersen added.

In return, the groups can set up their own space to hold a bake sale, organize games or do other efforts to earn money for their organization.

“We will give them booth space to do a fundraiser,” Petersen said.

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