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Paducah's Farmers' Market in bloom

by Becca Schimmel rschimmel@murraystate.edu

The Farmers' Market is in full swing in downtown Paducah.

Even though heavy rainfall in the spring caused many crops to come in late this year, there is plenty of variety at the market.

"We have beets, green beans, tomatoes, green tomatoes, ripe tomatoes, sweet corn, cucumbers, watermelon, squash and all kinds of good stuff," said Minnie Miller of Ledbetter, who has been a vendor at the Paducah market, located at Second and Monroe streets, for 30 years.

Miller was a vendor at the first farmers' market on Broadway. The city of Paducah moved the market to its  current location 18 years ago because of a need for more parking space.

"I guess I enjoy the people more than anything, visiting with them," she said. "So many of them I know and they know me."

According to Miller, this year has been busier and more profitable than last year, thanks in large part to the city's increased promotion of the market through Smashin' Summer Saturday events.

More people are coming in from out of town, Miller said, and the locals are getting out to see what's being offered this year, especially on Saturdays.

Louis Kirchoff, a fourth-generation owner of Kirchhoff's Bakery and Paducah native, said he has been coming to the market since he was a child and tries to visit two to three times a week.

"My mother dragged me down there, in the late '40s and early '50s, when I was a kid," Kirchhoff said. "We would never buy anything on the first pass. She would always go around and see what everyone had and what everything was going for."

Which is exactly what Kirchhoff does.

"I'm always looking for fresh vegetables," said Kirchhoff. "I buy some meat down here." He said he tries not to play favorites with the vendors, but says Miller is the embodiment of what is great about the Farmers' Market. 

"She IS the Farmers' Market."

For some vendors, opening a booth at the market begins as a way to keep busy after retirement.

That's what Paducah native Mariana Mocanu's parents did. When they retired from Mocanu Farms, a family farming operation that shipped vegetables, they began selling their produce at the Paducah market. 

Today, Mocanu carries on the family tradition, maintaining a booth at the market every Saturday for the last 17 years even with a full-time job. She sells squash, zucchini, cucumbers, four types of tomatoes, three types of eggplant, onions and 15 different types of peppers.

Mocanu doesn't use pesticides and tries to keep everything as natural as possible. She said that's a big seller for people.  

"It's healthier," she said. "You're not getting stuff that has been shipped in and has been sitting in coolers for a long time or getting the flash-frozen produce, so it's healthier."

Not to mention the taste difference.

"It is easy to tell the difference when buying a tomato from the store and a home grown tomato," she said.

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