OZARK, Mo. It's a beehive of activity just off the main drag into Ozark off Jackson St. as crews are busy getting the area about two blocks from the refurbished Ozark Mill ready for the May 2nd opening of the Ozark Farmers Market.
"It's a godsend," proclaimed Katherine Dowdy, the Ozark Farmers Market treasurer.
Officials are excited because they feel the farmers market has finally found a perfect home at the new Finley Farms area started by the Johnny Morris family to promote the town's rich heritage.
"We feel like we're back in the country," Dowdy said. "We're back towards the river. We're back downtown where the atmosphere makes sense for a farmer's market."
Now in its 13th year, the farmers market used to celebrate its mix of music, crafts, and locally-grown produce on the downtown square before leaving five years ago.
"We got so big it was just a logistic problem," Dowdy explained. "We caused a lot of impact to parking and courthouse business."
From 2015-2018, the farmers market was held at the Ozark Community Center. But again it was felt a change was needed.
"We had been hoping for something a little more rustic and a little more downtown," Dowdy said.
This new location allows them to get back some of the attractions they'd lost over the years like the music program and expand their craft and food offerings.
"In this area we'll have food trucks and tents," Dowdy said while pointing to a large lot before heading into an enclosed structure nearby. "And this is our market shed where we'll have a lot of vendors."
Starting later this summer their next door neighbor, located in what used to be an industrial garage, will be The Workshop, part of the Finley Farms project which will offer coffee, cocktails and artisanal food as well as workshops from area craft experts.
"It could be weaving, it could be a culinary class," explained Sarah Stracke, the manager for The Workshop. "Either a farm-to-table dinner or a pop-up dinner, or maybe a class on knife skills."
When it opens at a date still to be determined, hours will be 7-11 a.m. Monday-Saturday plus 5-9 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.
"We're really the first phase (of the Morris family project) and access point to the community," Stracke said. "The experience that we're cultivating there is definitely driven by a sense of wanting to support and enrich the community. One of the biggest things that we're focusing on with the Ozark Mill and Finley Farms is sustainable farming and teaching practices. So the Ozark Farmers Market fits right in with that."
The farmer's market will be open from 3-7 p.m. every Thursday from May through September. In its new location the promise, according to Dowdy, is to be bigger than ever.
"It's going to be the Ozark farmers market that we all miss and want to see grow."
In case you're not familiar with it, the Ozark Mill project is an attempt to restore the landmark built in the 1800's back to its long-standing role as a community gathering place.