It is 6:50 a.m. on a Saturday. Vendors Katie Wohletz and Taylor Stuart move fresh strawberries from a big truck, and then arrange them in a row on the table at the downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market. They hurry around the booth, open the packages and water the strawberries that will soon be sold to Lawrence citizens and consumers from other cities.
Wohletz and Stuart are KU undergraduates, and they have sold strawberries for more than four years in Lawrence Farmers’ Market. All of the strawberries come from Wohletz’s family farm, called Wohletz Farm Fresh, which is located five miles southeast of Lawrence.
“I am interested in helping my family to sell these strawberries,” Wohletz said. “It is not about the money, it is a personal habit.”
Wohletz was born to a farm family, and she enjoys the life on the farm. She loves to help on the farm because she learns from the experience and shares responsibility with her family.
This seems to be the case for many American, as recently the demands for farm produce have increased. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture research report about Farmers Market Growth: between 1994 and 2011, the rate of farmers’ market growth has continually increased. Particularly during 2010 to 2011, the rate of increase was 17 percent.
For most of vendors, long distance shipping from other cities and original cultivation are two big elements increasing the price of farm products.
“The price of these products in this market would be higher than other grocery stores in Lawrence,” Stuart said. “Even if the price is higher, people are still coming because these farm products are fresh.”
In addition, the stories of farm produce attract people’s attention.
“People who come to Lawrence Farmers’ Market not only care about the fresh local produce, but they are also interested in the stories behind the products,” Wohletz said. “People believe that local producers put more care and love into these products.”
In order to find the healthiest and most sustainable method of growing their strawberries, Wohletz’s family tried many practices in the last few years. Currently the farm uses a special cultivation method called “plasticulture.” They use a larger plastic covering on strawberries in order to create a mini greenhouse. It can keep the strawberries’ growing in winter, and also avoid insects’ infestation. According to Wohletz Farm Fresh website, the benefits of using this method are strawberries’ increased growing time, reduced insect and pollution damage and reduced water lost.
People like to eat strawberries in order to get more nutritional benefits from them such as vitamin C and antioxidants.
“My husband’s favorite fruit is the strawberry. He lets me go to this market to buy Katie’s strawberries every Saturday,” said Susie Glaze, a housewife living with her husband in Lawrence. She is also a fan of Katie’s strawberries. “My husband not only thinks her strawberries are fresh, but also that eating strawberries produces a lot of health benefits.”
There is truth to that assertion. According to an article “Nutritional Benefits of Strawberries” from WebMD, an organization that provides information about health problems, strawberries contain a chemical compound called polyphenols. It can provide more vitamin C to people. In addition, strawberries are functional fruit for people to protect the heart and lower blood pressure.
“The Lawrence Farmers’ Market is a good place for us to sell our farm products,” Stuart said. “Less rent and good location make our strawberries enjoy a good trade in Lawrence Farmers’ Market.”
The Lawrence Farmers’ Market has a long history in downtown Lawrence. According to Lawrencefarmersmarket.com, it was founded in 1979 at the instigation of a vendor named Shirley Domer. The downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday, from the end of May through September. The market is open 7 a.m. until 11 a.m. or until the vendors sell everything.
News Story By Litao Qian