About The Greater Fair Grove Farmers Market
We support farmers, growers, producers, and artisans that are Ozarks based. This allows you choices regarding your food and other goods. You know who's growing it, who's baking it, who's canning it, who's making it. We continually strive to make stronger bonds between you and your vendors. Products that are locally grown, raised or made, and then purchased by you support and strengthen your community. You know us and we know you.
The Market accepts debit and credit cards, SNAP cards, Double Up Food Bucks and we also have vendors that can take Senior Nutrition Vouchers. The Missouri Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (MoSFMNP) provides benefit vouchers to low-income seniors 60 years of age or older. Eligible seniors receive 10 vouchers ($5 each), totaling $50 annually, to be used for fresh fruit, vegetables, honey and herbs. Click here for more information.
To use your SNAP card or shop with a vendor who doesn't take credit/debit cards, please visit the Hayes Bakery Booth and they'll swipe your card and give you tokens that can be used just like cash with the vendors.
History of the Greater Fair Grove Farmers Market
The Greater Fair Grove Farmers Market was started in 2000, originally under the name "Fair Grove Farmers Market", a community project that was funded by the Fair Grove Chamber of Commerce. The Market was set up and managed by Peggy Schletty. The Market set up on Wednesdays late afternoon to dusk, in Womack Mill Park by the creek. It was a very welcome addition to Fair Grove and the surrounding area. There were maybe 3-5 vendors at the start, but that grew quickly over the next 2 years.
In 2002, it started a Kids Farm Club, which had free seeds, plants and trees, with mini-lessons and handouts for the kids. It taught them first hand about gardening, agriculture and conservation. The seeds, plants, trees and lessons were donated by numerous vendors, seed companies, the MO University Extension, and the MO Dept. of Conservation.
The kids were encouraged to grow produce and fruits and even sell them at the Market. Plus they also had hands-on events like building trellises, cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables, and gourd painting. With community support and fundraising by the Fair Grove Historical Society and the Lions Club, by 2003 the Pavilion at Womack Mill Park was built and the Market had a permanent home. Over the years, Fair Grove Farmers Market steadily increased in the amount and variety of vendors and also expanded the areas it's customer base served. This, along with other community outreach programs helped the Market in both 2003 and 2004 win the 2nd place award in the MO. Dept of Agriculture's Farmers Market of The Year.
It later added an inspected kitchen, which along with wooden benches and picnic tables, allowed the Market to have a small café to serve fresh cooked foods during open hours.
Sometime between 2003 and 2005, the Market placed itself under the umbrella of the Fair Grove Historical Society, a registered 501 c3 Not for profit. This would allow the Market to apply for grants from various governmental agencies as well as private entities.
In 2007, Peggy Schletty stepped down and Deb VanBenthusen took the reins as Market Manager. With her determination, extensive marketing, community outreach and expanding the Growing Kids Club (aka Kids Farm Club), in 2009 the Market again took 2nd place in the statewide Farmers Market of the Year contest from Agri-Missouri and the MO Farmers Market Assoc. In addition to that, the Market also took the top award in the best event category with their Growing Kids Club, and the top award for best marketing idea category with a promotional DVD.
The Market had -for that time period- a unique trait: It shared not only vendors but also customers with other area farmers markets: The Greater Polk County Farmers Market in Bolivar, and The Greater Springfield Farmers Market in Springfield. Since they were on different days and/or times, depending on where they worked, lived or played, customers could always get some fresh produce and other foods. During a few of those early co-sharing years, Jim and CC Gulick, who were running the Greater Polk County Farmers Market, were also assistant managers with Deb VanBenthusen at Fair Grove. When the Gulicks stepped down in 2010, Brad and Writa Gray became assistant managers, while at the same time they were Asst. Managers at the Greater Springfield Farmers Market (and in 2012, went on to become the full time Managers at Greater Springfield for several years).
In 2011, the Market hosted the award ceremony for Dr. Larry and Josephine Dowell for the 2011 Champions of the Year Award from Agri-Missouri and the Mo. Farmers Market Assoc. This award was for their tireless work promoting locally grown food, gardening, and farmers markets. The Dowells were Master Gardeners and had been long time members of the Market and were huge contributors to the Growing with Kids Club program.
Because of all the hard work and community outreach of Deb and the vendors, in 2010 and 2012, Fair Grove Farmers Market won the Farmers Market of the Year award from Agri-Missouri. Sadly, in early 2013, Deb Vanbenthusen received a cancer diagnosis and stepped down to concentrate on her health. In late 2014, Deb lost her battle, but she gave it a courageous fight.
For the 2013-2017 Market Seasons, Debi Lovelace Phillips took over as Market Manager. Being a Fair Grove small business owner herself, having a background in graphic arts and marketing, plus being a team member and coordinator of the Fair Grove Heritage Reunion Craft Show, she had a unique perspective on community relations and market operations.
In June 2015, the Market started a Senior Citizens Farm to Table Dinner Series, to run the month of June. The Chef from the Odd Fellows Café would make a dinner from what was available at the Market that day. The cost of the dinner was $5.00.
Also in June 2015, Debi, with the help of Fair Grove Historical Society members Leon Beaty and Carl Buckner, was able to win a $30,000.00 USDA Grant won for a large walk-in cooler that also has a freezer, and storage shed. The cooler and freezer has helped the Market expand it's vendors' offerings for items that need to be kept refrigerated or frozen while waiting to be sold.
From the 2015 through 2017 Market Seasons, the Market also helped with fundraising efforts for the construction of the Fair Grove Senior Center by allowing their fundraising committee to have a free booth to give out information and solicit donations on Market Day.
In early 2018, needing to expand and concentrate on her growing business, Debi stepped down as Market Manager and the reins were picked up by area resident Lysa Castillo. During Lysa's tenure, the Market held a once a month live animal sale, held on the northeast end of the Mill Park. Unfortunately, Lysa's health started to deteriorate and in early 2020 Lysa stepped down as Market Manager. Sadly, Lysa passed late winter of 2021 and in April Debi suddenly passed also.
In March 2020, the Market reorganized as the Greater Fair Grove Farmers Market and became vendor board run. The lead-up to the April 2020 Opening Day was extremely challenging as the Market had to contend with restrictions, limitations, and the societal upheaval from the early days of the Covid-19 Pandemic. Opening day of the 2020 season was phenomenal, even with all the COVID-19 protocols in place. Our patrons were able to remain safe while enjoying their market experience. The Fair Grove area community soon recognized that the open air atmosphere of the market was a great and safe place to shop.
The current Board is Martha Weeks of Ironwood Greenhouse, Johnathon Hayes and Jeannine Hayes of Hayes Family Farm and Bakery, Sandra Meyer of Botanica Basics Handmade Soap, Tom Dickenson of Whatzpoppin, Kim Hickman of Kiki's Jewelry Works, and Dennis Kolarik. Martha is the market manager and Johnathon is the assistant manager, Sandra is the marketing media specialist, Tom and Kim are Advisors and assist in the Market's operations and Dennis is our wise sage. All members actively work and assist the vendors and customers. The reorganization created a renewed mission and commitment to the Fair Grove area. The Market is striving to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones throughout the Fair Grove community and area.
The Market's goals are to expand the vendor base and products offered, and expand our educational outreach regarding farming, gardening, home food processing, plus other endeavors. It's the Market's hope that with you, the Fair Grove and surrounding area communities support, these goals and many more can be reached.
Please click HERE to access pdf files of old news articles regarding Fair Grove Famers Market. It's with much appreciation and many thanks to the Buffalo Reflex and Springfield News Leader for allowing access and reprints of these historical articles.
Deb VanBenthusen: Former Manager
Lysa Castillio: Former Manger
Debi Lovelace Phillips: Former Manager
Carl Buckner: Fair Grove Historical Society, a much loved vendor and a great friend of the Market.