History of the Market
During the 1980s farm crisis, many farmers were looking for other ways to sell the products of their farms. Commodity and livestock prices were low and people were tired of just taking whatever they were paid at the coop or livestock auction. Farmers’ markets were just starting to see a resurgence and one of the first to reorganize in our area was the Newton market. Earl Polk, with his family history of orchards and farm stands, was one of the first to participate. During the fall of 1984, Bruce Shultz ,an Arlington area farmer, contacted Bob Neier Reno County Extension horticulturist with the request to start a market in Hutchinson. They found that Midwest Feed on Avenue B was hosting a group of Amish Mennonite families in their building across Mani from the Anchor Inn. These families included Dan Nisly and his daughters Fannie and Lizzie who were famous for their angel cakes, noodles and eggs, and David and Mary Miller who sold homemade pies. After some initial discussion, a charter committee was formed Which included Bruce Shultz, Earl Polk, Wayne (Rusty) Morgan, David Miller and Bob Neier. They incorporated the Reno County Producers’ Market as a not for profit corporation and wrote by-laws that were adopted by an initial membership on April 4, 1985. The first board that was elected was President Bruce Shultz, Earl Polk, Rusty Morgan, and David Miller. We held our first market in the spring of 1985 under the parking garage to the First National Bank.
There are 3 remaining members still selling at the market from that first brave group- Earl Polk, Marlin and Esther Yoder and Sheila Corn. We had many learning curves that first season- We didn’t know how the price our produce, so we all waited until Earl Polk put his prices out then adjusted our signs to be in the same ball park. The bakers were recruited to bring a particular item to sell- Mary Miller brought pies of every fruit imaginable, Fannie and Lizzie Nisly were in charge of angel food cakes and noodles, and Marlin and Esther brought cinnamon rolls. When we were talking about the markets beginning, Marlin Yoder remarked that “ Originally the bakers were afraid of competition- I’m glad we got over that!” We dealt with near darkness on cloudy days, cars parked in the middle of our market area, no clue how to advertise the event, and price wars. We developed many of our policies from our experiences at 1st National- our manager Otis Griggs is the one who started the tradition of ringing the bell to start the market, we recognized the need for reserved spaces and we soon realized that we should each set our own prices and packaging and let our customers decide what they wanted. We also made 2 important friends- Joe Palazois, asst city manager and Sam Ontjes, downtown businessman. These men were instrumental in helping us move to the Pavillion that we enjoy today. Joe engineered an agreement with the city that let the building be built on a city parking lot and Sam and his family donated the funds for the building. The columns for the market building have their own history- they were repurposed from the Newton train station and were refurbished by the inmates at KSIR.
As we start our 35th year here at the Farmers’ Market, I have observed that as much as things have changed, much is still the same- we are in the middle of another farm crisis, we are selling local foods downtown, and Marlin and Esther Yoder are still baking goodies for John Withrow who has been coming to the market since its bank days.
Sheila Corn - RCFM Board President