There was plenty to find at the Seymour Area Farmers Market Saturday morning as the market opened its 2017 season.

This is the second year in which the market has operated under a new format that offers set hours of operation.

Marjorie Lambert was anxious for the market’s opening and took advantage of all the offerings the market has.

The Vallonia resident had several bags full of items she purchased while making her way through each vendor. She said she regularly attended the market last season and plans to do the same this year to help support local farmers and vendors.

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“I like to take care of the home vendors and buy things for them to support them,” she said.

Lambert said another reason she returns to the market so frequently is because the quality of the offerings is so good.

“The food is delicious here and everything I’ve ever had or tried has been delicious,” she said. “I really like the ice cream and the cheese over there.”

The market offers food items for people to purchase other than just produce, like baked goods, ice cream, cheese, burritos, fresh meat, eggs and more. This year, the market has around 40 vendors registered, while averaging about 20 every Saturday participating. That’s because some of the vendors are seasonal.

Lambert said there is something for everyone at the market, even for Man’s Best Friend.

“I even bought some treats for my dog,” she said with a laugh. “You can’t forget those.”

The market features Bobbie Lou’s Biscuit Company, a local company that makes fresh, homemade dog treats.

The owners, Sheryl and Kevin Burke, began making treats for her dog Lucy — the company’s official taste tester — when she became concerned about the ingredients large manufacturers use.

“A few years ago I became concerned about the treats you buy because the Chinese chicken was radiated and dogs were becoming ill and the preservatives you can’t even pronounce,” she said. “I finally decided that since my dog goes crazy for treats, I could just make these myself.”

When she began making the treats, her dog loved them just the same, only they were not as “pretty” as the store-bought kind. After a few adjustments, the treats looked better and friends and family told her she should start selling them.

“I thought it was worth a shot,” she said. Burke said the response has been tremendous, something she wasn’t expecting. “I’ve been really amazed by this and we have a lot of repeat customers.”

The treats are made from recipes online with ingredients found in the average kitchen. The best seller is the “Fat Elvis” treats that feature the favorite foods of Elvis Presley.

“That has peanut butter, banana and bacon,” Kevin said. Others featured are sweet potato chew rolls, chicken jerky, garlic and beef treats and more.

One thing that has really helped their business is becoming a vendor at the Seymour Area Farmers Market.

“It’s our main outlet,” Sheryl said.

The market doesn’t only help them with sales, but also with networking opportunities, Kevin said.

“We’ve met so many people and we’ve made a lot of contacts in the community and it’s really a lot of fun setting up here,” he said.

Sheryl said she can tell the market is only going to grow with the new changes, citing an atmosphere that the community will support.

“There’s such an energy here to see everyone out shopping,” she said. “There are a lot of great vendors here.”

Sara Bane, the farmers market committee chairman, said there is much for local residents to choose from this year.

“We have new vendors and returning vendors and I think we have a great variety of products to offer,” she said. “I’m excited we have good produce this early and I think people can make this part of their Saturday morning shopping routine because they can get their fruit and veggies, get their dairy, get meat, get breakfast and coffee and just spend some time here.”

One big change the market has for 2017 is the market’s ability to accept SNAP benefits (food stamps) from local residents.

The market became SNAP-approved late in the season and Bane said it will help accomplish the committee’s goal of bringing fresh, local food to all families.

“One of the missions of our committee was to bring healthy food to all, regardless of their income and so we really worked hard to become a SNAP-approved market,” she said, adding that becoming one is a lengthy process.

The market has a program where they will offer double SNAP bucks. Residents who have SNAP benefits can purchase tokens at the market and the market will match the amount they spend, doubling their purchasing power.

“There are no strings attached and that can make their food dollars go a really long way,” she said.

Another new change is the time the market will be open. Last year, the market was only open Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. This year the market will have hours three days a week, Monday from 2 to 6 p.m., Wednesday 8 a.m. until noon and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon. On Saturday, the market will accept SNAP benefits and there will be a market manager on site.

The new hours will give residents confidence on when the market will be open.

“I think it helps the general public and we’ve heard back from our customers and they like knowing exactly when the market will be open and when they can find a concentrated amount of vendors at a given time,” Bane said.

The changes also increased the amount of traffic the market saw last year, Bane said. “It helps us with advertising the hours and what we have here.”

Bane said the market also needs volunteers to help coordinate the market each Saturday. The market needs around four volunteers each week to help set up the book wagon, help vendors set up, help elderly in and out of the market and help with the general operation of the market.

“Our committee members are a big part of that,” she said. “But you can sign up online through our Facebook page.”

Bane said it was exciting to see the market open for the new season.

“It’s really exciting to see how things have grown and see familiar faces whether they be customers or vendors,” she said. “I think people are really starting to see that this is a community gathering place, not just a place to grab tomatoes and leave, but to come hang out, socialize, grab breakfast and get your shopping done for the week.”

At a glance

This year the Seymour Area Farmers Market will have hours three days a week, Monday from 2 to 6 p.m., Wednesday 8 a.m. until noon and Saturday from 8 a.m. until noon. On Saturday, the market will accept SNAP benefits (food stamps).

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Jordan Richart is a correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.