National Farmers Market Week: Seymour Area Farmers Market manager improves experience


Before the ringing of the bell opens the day, Jo Boehlke bustles around the Seymour Area Farmers Market going over all of the little details in the Walnut Street Parking Lot.

Whether it’s organizing where the vendors need set up, setting up special events or posting pictures of plump produce on social media, Boehlke is always making sure she’s promoting local farmers, bakers, cooks and craftsmen.

While Boehlke’s list of responsibilities is almost endless, one goal never changes in her position as market manager: Making sure the market provides the highest level of customer service to vendors, shoppers and volunteers.

Boehlke is in her second year as market manager in Seymour, a position that she hadn’t thought about until she was approached for the position while running her own business, The Sweet Life of Seymour, at the market.

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Three years ago, the Seymour resident started selling baked goods as a way to make a few extra dollars for travel money for her family. She started by selling candy and other baked goods, like toffee, caramel corn and fudge, and fresh flowers that she grew.

After making some dietary changes at home, Boehlke changed her business to gluten-free products. She now sells flavors of granola, pumpkin spice muffins, cheddar biscuits and five different types of cookies at the market.

Boehlke sold products for a year before replacing Celeste Bowman, who worked as market manager in 2016 and ’17.

"In January (2018), I was asked to be the market manager. I had just sold products for a year," Boehlke said. "I think they wanted someone that kind of understood selling products but also knew a little bit about the agricultural side and the pressures that come with the weather and timing of it all."

It didn’t take until the summer for Boehlke to get her feet wet with the new position, as she started looking over applications in the spring. In the months leading up to the first market, Boehlke nails down a plan for the season.

Boehlke said she works closely with farmers market committee chairwoman Carrie Smith, who handles a lot of the important administrative duties as well as the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce farmers market committee.

This year, the market has 35 vendors. Boehlke said there are 25 consistently each Saturday.

She also is responsible for regulatory compliance, financial management, community outreach and market promotion in her current position.

One of Boehlke’s big focuses this year has been getting youth more involved in the market. She has helped set up multiple events, like last week’s "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?" stop, which has helped educate kids on where their food comes from and about agriculture.

While the job can be stressful, Boehlke said it’s well worth it.

"I get to promote a lot of things that I believe in, and not a lot of people can say they necessarily get to do that with their jobs," she said. "I like all the vendors and promoting food that is grown right here in Jackson County. The dollars stay here. When you buy it here, it all stays here. We’re helping out our community and small farmers."

While there isn’t that much space left in the lot to fill with vendors, Boehlke wants the market to grow in participation.

"We have a lot more customers now," she said. "I have a lot more customers now, and I think a lot of vendors are experiencing that. A lot of vendors are selling out a lot earlier in the day. I would like everyone in Seymour to come to the market at least once. You get to meet someone who grows their food."

Boehlke said the market is looking for more sponsorship and would like to provide more live entertainment, like live music, each weekend.

If she’s not working at her table with her 11-year-old daughter, Victoria, Boehlke can be found elsewhere at the market when its opens Saturday morning at 8 a.m.

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The Seymour Area Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon Wednesdays and Saturdays through the beginning of October in the Walnut Street Parking Lot.

Special market events are planned for the third Saturday of each month and include cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, music and more.

The market accepts SNAP benefits.

There also is a wagon as a partnership with Old National Bank and Friends of the Jackson County Public Library.

Information: Email Jo Boehlke, market manager, at [email protected]


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