PIQUA — The phrase “farmers market” tends to conjure up images of vendors hawking fruits and vegetables, with the occasional baked good thrown in for good measure, but the Piqua Community Farmer Market offers so much more.
The weekly market, which began its eighth season in May, is an interactive experience where members of the community can gather to socialize and shop and show off their cooking talents.
“Last week, we had a chocolate chip cookie-baking contest and we had eight entries in the adult category and one youth,” said Lorna Swisher, executive director of Mainstreet Piqua, which sponsors the farmers market. “We’re going to have a cupcake decorating contest on July 28, with a ‘Fresh from the Farm’ theme.”
Formerly held in Canal Place, the Piqua Community Farmers Market relocated this year to the front of the Fort Piqua Plaza, a move that Swisher said has been hugely beneficial to business.
“Things are going really, really well. Moving to the area in front of the library was definitely a very good move that both the vendors and customers really like,” she said. “I think attendance is up because visibility is higher for people who are just driving past, or doing business at the bank or post office. It’s been a really good move for us.”
Visitors also can learn some new cooking skills, thanks to weekly demonstrations by Chef James of Mulligan’s Pub, who said he is excited to show how to use products from the market in meals that are easy to make at home.
“The cooking demos are really adding a lot to the markets, with people coming at 5:30 p.m. just to see what kinds of products he’s using from the market,” Swisher said.
And the learning doesn’t stop there. This season, the farmers market has partnered with the YWCA to present a series of educational workshops. The series began in May with a container gardening workshop, followed by a jams and jellies class last month.
The next workshop, set for 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 19, at the YWCA, 418 N. Wayne St., will focus on preparing cucumbers to make pickles or relish using the hot water bath canning method. Led by farmer’s market vendor Tina Burns, the class is open to the public, costs $10 per person, and YWCA membership is not required.
“We use the expertise of the vendors at the market to share their knowledge,” Swisher said. “There are so many of these lost arts like canning that it’s nice that we’re able, with this partnership, to provide the workshops for folks to learn how to do it.”
Other upcoming events include a biggest tomato contest on Aug. 18, a salsa contest on Aug. 25, and an apple pie baking contest on Sept. 1.
The Piqua Community Farmers Market is open each Thursday from 3:30-6:30 p.m. and will run through Sept. 1. For more information, contact Mainstreet Piqua at (937) 773-9355 or visit piquafarmersmarket.com.
Reach Belinda M. Paschal at (937) 451-3341.