Suzanne Stumbo, who serves as the Pike County Extension Agent for Agriculture & Natural Resources, is looking to bring the Pikeville Farmer’s Market back to life after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses worldwide beginning in March of 2020.
The Market is a place where fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers can be found. It also has things such as crafts, food, samples of different foods, and demonstrations.
Typically, the Market begins operation in May and ends it in November. It is only open on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Stumbo said she is hopeful that this year will be more normal than the past.
“We’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do this year, because COVID really messed everything up last year,” said Stumbo. “I’m hoping we can rebuild. We do not officially open until May 29th. However, some of our farmers have early crops that are ready to be sold, so we’re doing some pop-ups. The last Saturday in May is our official grand opening.”
Stumbo mentioned that the market should have normal offerings such as onions, lettuce and kale when it opens back up. She also mentioned the drastic decrease in sales from last year compared to the year before last, due to the pandemic, and she recognized the negative impact it had on the market.
“Last year, we were way down for about half the sales we had the year before last,” she said. “It was a pretty dramatic effect. They still made more than I thought they would, considering our regulations and all that. What they will do this year kind of depends on how much they loosen things up.”
Despite last year’s madness, however, Stumbo has an optimistic outlook for the market in 2021.
“When they allow our nutrition people to come and do demonstrations and actually give recipes out and samples, and I watch sale after sale after sale when they give samples out, people go back and buy what it’s in that recipe, and it encourages them to cook healthy,” said Stumbo.
Stumbo said healthy and good can go together in terms of food.
“Normally, healthy and good don’t go together, but with the recipes our ladies do, they fit both categories,” she said. “It helps with all of our health problems in Eastern Kentucky. When they
can eat healthy recipes that are delicious and they will make again, it’s a big bonus all the way around for everybody.”
As the country and East Kentucky in particular recover from the pandemic this year, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think that there are people wondering if certain events, no matter how big or small, will take place in 2021.
If people who enjoy coming to the market are wondering the same thing, then hearing what Stumbo has to say concerning whether or not the market will hold events would probably give them a large glimmer of hope.
“We’re working with the city on a fishing tournament on May 8, and we’ve got some crafters coming in on May 15,” said Stumbo. “We’re hoping to have a bunch of different things going on. It’s all according to how much they all loosen up and allow us to do. We like to feature different farmers and crafters, there’s just so much potential in this area that allows us to show what people can actually do.”
Stumbo also elaborated on the fishing tournament, which begins on May 7 and ends during the evening the next day.
“We will be there from 10 a.m. until noon on Saturday, and they’re (the city) just our guests,” she said. “They’re going to have several people canoeing and fly-tying and different kinds of things. We’re still working out details, but I think it will be interesting to bring a different crowd in.”
Like Stumbo mentioned, the pandemic put the market in a very tough spot last year. However, she hasn’t allowed the struggles the market saw last year to linger.
“The main thing we’re pushing is healthy eating and locally grown,” said Stumbo. “We’ve got several farmers that are doing a wonderful job. Several have added greenhouses and various other things, and we have a person that already has green beans ready to sell. This is a direct result of high time. We just want to try as much as we can and see what we can actually build it to.”
Stumbo has nothing but praise for the farmers who helped keep the market afloat during the pandemic.
“Eastern Kentucky is considered a food desert, and if you’ll remember when the pandemic started, there was a shortage of vegetables,” said Stumbo. “I think that’s what saved us last year, because we had vegetables. Our guys just keep growing and doing a better job. We just have to continue to build on what we’ve got.”
Another valid opinion would be that the farmers and crafters Stumbo speaks so glowingly of are likely to appeal to the people of Pike County, and she echoes that sentiment.
“We’ll have some new farmers coming in and new crafters,” she said. “We do allow the farmers as well as the crafters, it kind of showcases our local people and what they’re capable of doing. It brings a lot of new people in, because they’re always interested in what’s going on. A lot of them are amazed at the talent the people around here have.”
Despite the fact that Stumbo likes the shape that the market is in right now, she isn’t satisfied.
“I can’t say anything but positives, but, again, with COVID, hopefully it’s slowing down enough and enough people have shots and everything so we can continue to build,” said Stumbo. “Last year was kind of an anomaly for everything and everybody. We’ve got a lot of rebuilding to do. We lost several farmers because they just couldn’t get everything organized and ready, but hopefully we’ll pick up some new ones this year and just keep growing and expanding. We hope so, at least.”