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Farmer's Market Organizers Hope for Community Atmosphere, Fair Weather

The Clayton Farmer's Market opens May 7 near Straub's.

Organizers are hopeful that a shift in market location, along with the addition of musicians and other features will bring people to the Clayton Farmer's Market to experience community.

"We want to create an event for people," market manager Deb Henderson said.

Owner Trip Straub said the market is a separate legal entity , the grocery store his family has operated in Clayton for years that also serves as a market sponsor. The idea is to pair farmers with residents in a way the store can't. It is Straub's way of giving back, he said.

This year's market will open May 7, on the eve of Mother's Day. Because of that, Henderson said, she and others are encouraging families to make a day out of a visit to the market.

The market began 11 years ago as a project of the City of Clayton. It happened along Central Avenue between Maryland Avenue and Forsyth Boulevard. It was the first market of its kind in St. Louis: People could only sell goods if they had grown, produced or made them.

Later, Straub's partnered with the city. Sauce Magazine also is a sponsor. The grocery store's off-street parking made it a good fit for people who wanted to leave their vehicles and visit the market, which originally happened in another Straub's parking space across the street.

This year, visitors will be able to park in the Straub's lot and visit the market in an adjoining Brown Shoe lot that has trees. Organizers hope those will provide shade to visitors, encouraging them to stay for longer periods of time.

Straub also said this year's market will feature amenities such as picnic tables. Other features will include bike racks and a place for bicyclists to take a pit stop and get water.

Henderson said the market gives visitors the opportunity to have face-to-face interaction with farmers whose products they purchase in the grocery store. People want to have a conversation with them about what they are growing, she said.

Among other attractions this year: music every Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., fresh barbecue, coffee and freshly squeezed juice and a food truck. For tagalongs not interested in the market, free Wi Fi will be available on the Straub's patio.

Market organizers had verbal commitments from 30 vendors earlier this month. Last year, Straub said, about 15 to 20 vendors regularly attended the weekly market. It generally maintains a farmer-to-artisan ratio of 80 percent to 20 percent, respectively.

"The economy's trickling back, hopefully the customers are back to supporting the local," Straub said. If the weather cooperates—he points out that scorching temperatures were a downside in 2010—it should be a fantastic season, he said.

To Henderson, markets also are part of a package that includes local business. She said she can name off businesses that she visits when attending markets as near as those in Kirkwood or Tower Grove and as far away as those in California. Part of the attraction of a market such as Clayton's is the ability to visit neighboring businesses.

It's unclear how many people visited the market last year, Straub said. Organizers haven't kept track of attendance in the past. Older farmers' markets such as one in Columbia, MO, has about 90 regular vendors and attracts from 4,000 to 5,000 people each weekend during the season.

Financially, market organizers look to break each year, Straub said. But the event isn't about the money—it's about the vendors.

"We want them to sell out of their stuff," he said.

WHAT Clayton Farmer's Market WHEN 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays beginning May 7 and continuing through Nov. 5. Opening Day on May 7 will feature bagpiping from Matt Pantaleoni at 8:30 a.m.; a performance by Capering Roisters at 9 a.m.; music from Pik'n Lik'n at 10 a.m.; children's activities; and a pit stop for bicyclists sponsored by . During the season, will sponsor a children's activity tent; will operate the community service tent and provide health screenings for seniors; the and Artmart will provide arts and crafts for young people.
WHERE Just west of Straub's, 8282 Forsyth Blvd. in Clayton MORE INFO For additional details, go to claytonfarmersmarket.com, email marketmaster@straubs.com or call 314-913-6632. The focus of the opening day market will be Mother's Day.

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