BELLA VISTA – When Samantha Moser took over the Bella Vista Farmers Market in 2017, she did not realize it would take over her life each summer.
Now, her children spend every Sunday among the farmers, crafters and musicians who make up the market each week. And the family stops at every farmers market they come across when they travel.
“It’s my labor of love,” she said. “I always say I’m not doing it again, but I always do.”
Bella Vista’s Farmers Market, which is set to open for the April 24 season, is one of the newest in the region. It started in 2016, and Moser joined a year later. It takes place on Sundays, which gives the vendors the chance to also sell at one of the surrounding Saturday markets.
The hours are set up in a way that people can shop either before or after church, Moser said. It opens at 9 am and closes around 2 pm If there are lots of customers, they may stay open after 2 pm, she said, although in the summer by 2 pm it’s very hot.
The market has moved a couple of times over the years, but Moser said she is happy with its current location in Village Center, the shopping center on Lancashire Road that includes Duffer’s and the city court building.
Like other farmers markets, Bella Vista has guidelines that Moser enforces. Since Bella Vista is right on the border of Missouri they do not limit their vendors to the city or county; instead they use a radius around Bella Vista and anyone who lives within the radius is eligible to apply for market space.
Everything must be handmade or homegrown. Moser enforces those rules by visiting many of the vendors. She often ends up helping to pick or weed during those visits. Farmers, she explained, are very busy.
There are four regular farmers who supply most of the produce at the market. The farmers get to know each other and network each week.
Several vendors bring homemade food including pies, bread, jams and jellies. Moser shares information about what “cottage industries” can sell and not sell. She deals with health department inspectors that come by occasionally, but there’s never been a problem.
“I have a really great group of vendors,” she said.
There are also craftspeople who sell everything from woodworking projects to home decor. One vendor always has a selection of scarves and wraps.
One young vendor did well last year selling compost she created on her parent’s farm. She often brought along a goat who was very popular with all the shoppers.
Most weekends the market includes a local musician who has the chance to earn tips and sell music. Moser said she makes sure to feature many styles of music throughout the season.
“You just never know who you’re going to run into,” she said.
Some vendors are nonprofit groups who want to get their name out. The nonprofit groups aren’t charged a fee as long as they can show that they have the nonprofit paperwork in order.
One nonprofit group has been especially successful at the market, Moser said.A group of craftspeople make soup bowls at the studio behind Wishing Spring Gallery and sell them at the market. They’ve raised thousands to help feed people in need, she said.
The only thing Moser has not been able to bring to the market is a food truck. Customers ask about a food truck all the time, but she has not found one willing to make the trip. Except for the ice cream truck, of course. It’s a very popular vendor at the market.
Vendors have to be accepted, Moser said.Applications can be found on the city website: bellavistaar.gov.
Space at the market can fill up, she said, but right now there is space available.
The market has its own Facebook page (facebook.com/bellavistafarmersmarket) and messaging Moser there is the best way to reach her.
“I never planned on doing this long-term, but the thought of not doing it is just unacceptable,” she said.