It’s Friday night, and I pull my minivan up to the ATM. I’m as fired up as a high schooler getting cash before heading out on a big date. I do have a date of sorts – with my daughter. The following morning we are going to Joplin Empire Market.
Yes, I’m fired up about a market. But this isn’t just a place to pick up a few produce items; Joplin Empire Market is a weekly event that showcases local products and local talent, and fosters a sense of connection in our community.
I know that I will see some vendors whose storefront businesses I’ve visited and written about before, and I’ll also discover new vendors, as they rotate each week at the market. I know I’ll also get to visit with the ever-present market coordinator Ivy Hagedorn, as well as Lori Haun, Executive Director of Downtown Joplin Alliance, an organization created to foster the revitalization in the heart of our city. Joplin Empire Market is the result of this organization’s latest effort to do just that – and it’s off to a great start in its debut season.
Where It’s At
When you see the oversized yellow rocking chair on 4th Street, you’ll know you’ve arrived.
Housed in a 1907 building that was donated to Downtown Joplin Alliance by Empire District Electric Company, this enclosed, year-round market features vendors from a 150-mile radius selling produce, meats, eggs, local products, crafts, and art. There’s a huge parking lot on the east side of the building, so you always know that you’ll find a spot nearby.
The market’s open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Can I just take a second here to say how much I love these hours? I can still sleep in and get my market fix.
A market report is posted on Joplin Empire Market’s Facebook page each week listing the vendors that will be attending that Saturday, which I find helpful for formulating a game plan before I hit the market. To follow the market’s Facebook page, click here. If you want an overview of the market experience, keep on reading.
Plants and Produce
When I see the variety of plants and produce offered at the market, I often think, “They grew that around here?” I tried growing a garden one year and it yielded just one cucumber and a handful of strawberries, so I have a great respect for those who cultivate gardens which produce bountifully, like Green’s Greenhouse & Garden, Our Little Piece of Heaven, OakWoods Farm, Joplin Greenhouse & Garden Center, and Robertson Family Farm (you can also visit this farm to pick your own blueberries during the season; click here to read more about it).
If you’re hankering for seasonal items like berries and tomatoes, make sure to arrive at the opening of the market, as they sell out quickly.
Meat, Eggs, and Baked Goods
If you’re a conscientious carnivore, you can buy eggs, pork, and grass-fed beef at Black Cat Barnyard, “a family farm that focuses on raising pastured animals that lead happy lives.” Fleetwood Farmette also sells eggs as well as baked goods, including cheesy bread and sweet bread.
On my first trip to the market, I arrived around 11 a.m. and Marty Yates, the Bearded Baker, was standing behind his empty booth, since all of his artisan bread loaves were already sold out. So the following week, I got to the market earlier and was able to snag one of his Nonie loaves, which we ate with dinner that night. Who am I kidding? After eating half of that dense and hearty loaf myself, that bread was my dinner that night!
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, check out the artisan cookies at All Mixed Up Bakery. For people who enjoy sweets but have special dietary needs, stop by Sugar Creek Bakery, which offers sugar-free and gluten-free baked goods.
This fishie from All Mixed up Bakery is too cute to eat!
Unique Area Products
Finding local items that I can gift to my out-of-town friends and family is one way that I like to introduce people to life in the Ozarks, and there are several vendors at Joplin Empire Market that help me out in this endeavor. On a recent trip to visit my parents in Chicago, I brought them a bottle of Savory Sauce (great for marinades and salads), and a shaker of salt from SmokeLicked Salts (hardwood-smoked Atlantic sea salt sold in a variety of flavors – I’m obsessed with the Adobo, which is now a staple in my kitchen).
The ladies behind Savory Sauce – literally and figuratively 😉
Other great local food products include honey from Robertson Family Farm (the blueberry people), and no-sugar-added fruit leathers from Fleetwood Farmette. My daughter loves to eat these and I’m feel good about giving them to her because they’re wholesome snacks.
Local honey from Robertson Family Farm
Fruit leathers from Fleetwood Farmette
Handmade local products make fun gifts, too. If there’s a man in your life with a beard, Artisan Beardworks can help him keep it neatly groomed with their selection of balm, oil, beard wash, and combs. They also sell boxed sets, which makes gift-giving easy.
There are vendors at Joplin Empire Market that create unique, non-consumable products, too. These artisans and craftspeople bring an added layer to the market’s offerings. Let’s start with Martha Goldman. In addition selling her art at the market, Martha is also the creative force behind the market’s mural, which was inspired by Joplin’s natural beauty: the bluffs near Shoal Creek, the wondrous (and now-closed) Crystal Cave, wild blackberries, coneflowers, purple-tailed skinks.
There’s also Stone House Merchant, selling jewelry made from crystals, beads, and rocks, like these stunning wire-wrapped stones featuring the tree of life.
The Market Artisans is a group of five woman who rotate selling their goods (jewelry, textiles, pottery, etc.) at the market. One member of this group, Kristin Girard, is a jewelry artist whose work I’ve been a fan of for years, and you can read more about her here.
Fairy Gardens at The Market Artisans booth
You can bring home a piece of yesteryear from White Buffalo Sign Company, which creates high resolution scans of original vintage Joplin signs, then applies them to 24-gauge metal.
You don’t have to wait until you bring your edible goodies home from Joplin Empire Market before you indulge. The market features a different food truck each week. Past vendors include The Sweet Truck (gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches), Blondies Woodfired Wheelhouse (pizza), Cochinita Mexican Street Food (their Mexican corn is a must-try), and Take a Stand (featuring smoothies and fresh-pressed juices).
If you need a little lift to power through your Saturday, grab a cup of joe from the market’s coffee vendor (Bearded Lady Roasters and Cottage Small Coffee Roasters have been at the market).
Music and Special Events
The market is more than just a place to buy local produce and goods; it’s a place to connect with the community and to cultivate your own creativity. With live music playing in the background, it’s easy to find inspiration while crafting your own piece of art at special events like Markers at the Market.
My daughter was thrilled when WellSpring Acres brought their sweet alpacas to the market for people to meet.
Not only was it fun to pet the alpacas, but when we went inside the to the farm’s booth, we found it interesting to see all of the products made from the alpacas’ wool.
Wool dryer balls make an environmentally friendly alternative to paper sheets.
The lively, dynamic atmosphere at Joplin Empire Market energizes me each time I go. I leave there not only with bags filled with locally produced items, but with a sense of connection to my community, a community that continues to grow and thrive.
Ways to Pay for Your Goodies
In addition to good, old-fashioned cash, the market accepts other forms of payment:
Debit tokens. If plastic is the only thing you’re carrying in your wallet, you can purchase with your credit card to use at any vendor booth at the market. Vendors can give you cash back, too, so you won’t be stuck with unused tokens.
SNAP/EBT. The market now accepts Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which allows those who qualify to have access to fresh, local fruits, vegetables, breads, meats, and dairy products – basically any food at the market that’s not intended for consumption on site.
Plus, the Fair Food Network’s Double Up Food Bucks program doubles the value of tokens that recipients spend on fruits and vegetables at the market.
Market info: The market is open year-round on Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and is located at 931 E. 4th Street. Click here to find the weekly market reports on Facebook, and click here to visit the market’s website.
To read more about my adventures in the area, visit JoplinMOLife.com.