As the Klamath Falls Farmers Market — which has been occupying a Ninth Street downtown block every Saturday since June — winds down for its last month with fresh fruit and veggies for the year, it also says goodbye to a few longtime organizers who find it time to move onto other things.
The last market before closing up shop for the season will be Oct. 26 and will keep the tradition of running alongside the Scarecrow Row contest and the kids’ parade, assuming the weather permits, organizer Charlie Wyckoff said.
Wyckoff himself is looking to hand over the reigns after leading the farmers market since 2009. He said once the board of directors has its annual meeting in November and gets a better understanding of the open positions heading into next season, they can start considering nominations for his spot.
He recalled when he started with the market and how it was confined to a parking lot.
“It’s definitely not a one-man show anymore,” he said.
Also leaving their posts are Sheila Kerns, who runs the lemonade booth that raises money to fund the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Match program, and Bob Pickle who coordinates the musicians. The market also lost the director of the kids’ program, Susan Smith, who Wyckoff said has been around as long as he has.
“They’ve put in their time,” Wyckoff said.
They are looking for people to fill those shoes.
“There’s a lot of support our there,” he said. “We’re hoping people will step up.”
Although Kerns runs the SNAP Match program along with the lemonade stand, she said the benefits program will continue, even if the lemonade does not.
The market received a cut of the city’s $25,000 grant award from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize that helped fund an increase in its SNAP Match program. People utilizing their SNAP benefits at the market can have their spending matched up to $10. Previously the market matched people’s benefits up to $5, but the grant allowed SNAP shoppers to double their money, which goes back to community farmers and artisans.
Last Saturday, Sept. 21, was Kern’s last day selling lemonade, and she said she’ll remember how some of her favorite customers turned out for her last glasses of juice.
“It was a beautiful day,” she said.
She reminisced on how some of her favorite customers are kids and listed a few regulars by name. She recalled the countless times parents bought just one cup of lemonade, saying they’d share with their kids but quickly realized there was no lemonade left for them once their children got their hands on it.
The biggest reward was watching people taste her drinks and watching their reactions as they discovered how good it was, she said.
“This is probably the most rewarding job I’ve ever had,” she said.
Although Kerns runs the lemonade operation that used to fund the SNAP Match program before the grant, she said it’s hard to do without helpers operating as the stand’s squeezer, shaker or money taker. While they’d sometimes recruit volunteers from Department of Human Services programs or local kids in the community, Kerns would also get help from kids of the vendors willing to spend the day making lemonade.
Kerns encourages anyone interested in taking over the lemonade operation to contact Wyckoff and said she’d help train someone. Kerns said they’re also offering to pay for someone to get their food handler’s license.
While Kerns said there hasn’t been much interest in the lemonade booth yet, she has no doubt once next season begins and there is no lemonade, that people will be shocked enough to step up.
In the past, farmers have faced major freezes or water issues, along with smoke from wildfires affecting crops, but Wyckoff said the weather was great this year and made for a good produce year at the market.
“Our mission statement is to support and promote local agriculture,” Wyckoff said. “Our focus always has been and always will be local agriculture.”
This is the time of year Wyckoff said they start to wind down and shoppers might see the occasional empty spot for the first time all season. On Saturday, Sept. 28, the 45-degree weather and kicking wind did produce a couple of empty spots down Ninth Street, but shoppers bundled up and took advantage of the fresh produce and goods that were there. The wind even blew one farmer’s canopy free of its weights and sent it flipping over another booth.
“With the cold and the wind, only the toughest of the tough vendors are here through October,” Kerns said.
For the last couple of weeks Wyckoff said they’re hoping to get some pumpkins and eggs. Eggs are one thing that Wyckoff has been hoping to get more of consistently as they’re a hot commodity for local shoppers.
Wyckoff said they’re at a tipping point in their current spot with the growth he’s seen. They can usually accommodate all the foot traffic and vendors who want to attend, but they’ve been sold out of spaces almost all season.
Looking ahead for next season, Wyckoff said they received a five-year use agreement from the city to expand the market to utilize the street and the neighboring parking lot should they need it.
While the market wraps up this year, Kerns gets to help people for a couple more weekends.
“I’ve got seven years’ worth of stories,” she said.