WICHITA — Kathy Roush, of Wichita, said even though her business is shut down due to COVID-19, she did not want to miss the farmers market.
"I’m here to support the farmers," Roush said. "We need our economy again."
Many farmers, bee keepers and ranchers came to the opening of the Kansas Grown Farmers Market on 21 Street and Ridge Road in Wichita, outside the Sedgwick County Extension Office. The majority of the 30-plus vendors traveled from farms outside of Sedgwick County.
"We’ve come for five years," said Joyce Benning, of Moundridge. "I am excited that the market is open. We’re all trying to take precautions."
The Bennings run Benning Ranch Beef. They sell sausages, steaks and burgers at farmers markets and raise cattle for feedlots. Because the market did not open last month, the Bennings were thankful for the market’s opening on April 11.
"We’ve got heifers that we needed to sell in March," Craig Benning said. "We’re hanging onto them because the prices are low. I’m not going to give them away."
The Bennings, like other vendors, rely on the farmers market for a part of their income. On Saturday, they wore face masks and gloves. Like the other vendors, they had hand sanitizer at their booth and conscientiously wiped surfaces down.
The market placed vendors more than 6 feet apart. Buyers waited at a marked distance before they came up to purchase goods.
"The crowds are staying pretty far apart," said Randy Clark, of Clark Farm in Buhler. "It’s been pretty good today."
Clark was apprehensive about coming to sell his lamb and eggs. But he said once he started selling and seeing customers were spread out, he was relieved. He was selling honey for a beekeeper who usually has a table next to his but did not want to attend today’s market.
Linda and Keith Long said they did not want to miss the market. The couple sells grass fed beef and lamb, including sausages, pot roasts and beef jerky. Like the other ranchers, they raise their hormone-free animals on their ranch.
The Longs own Graze The Prairie in Latham. This Butler County farm is close to the Cowley County line.
"It’s been pretty good today," Keith Long said. "We were a bit concerned with the turnout, but it was OK."
The bright sun, warm weather and slight breeze made for a perfect Kansas day. Customers smiled at each other — from a distance. Several wore masks. Many walked away with several packages.
"We’re in the open air," Linda Long said. "It’s so much better than being in a store."