Even without a variety of fresh local produce available, the River City Farmers Market remains busy through the winter months, vendors said Saturday.
"Just because there aren't fresh vegetables to sell and buy doesn't mean there isn't a need for the farmers market," said Linda Fagan, of Fagan Family Farm in Lower Salem. "There is still meat, cheeses, eggs, baked goods and crafts; produce is really just one of many things the farmers market has to offer."
The market, located in the Home Arts Building at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Marietta, is open from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. each Saturday and is the only farmers market open year-round locally.
The fact Marietta's market is not seasonal is why cheesemaker Bill Marietta drives the more than two hours from Fredricktown, Ohio, each week.
"I found this market online when looking for year-round markets and with a name like Marietta, I had to try it out," he said.
Not only was the name of the location perfect, but those who regularly shop at the market have taken to the handcrafted dairy foods.
"I've been part of this farmers market for two years and have never had a bad week," said Marietta. "During the summer I average $500 in sales each week and in the winter $400, which is good."
Each week, his Ohio Farm Direct booth offers about a dozen cheeses made with certified organic grass-fed cows' milk.
"I have loyal customers who come in and patronize me weekly, which I greatly appreciate," Marietta said. "People tell me they come in just for my cheeses."
Crafter Debbie Cunningham said this winter season has seen more new customers than in the previous six years.
"This winter has seen pretty steady business and all of us are seeing our regular customers," Cunningham said. "This year, it seems that we are seeing a lot of new people and I think, unfortunately, it is because of the fire."
On April 29, a fire in the Rabbit and Poultry Building, where the farmers market had been housed, destroyed thousands of items belonging to dozens of the market's vendors. Cunningham said the news of the fire reminded people of the market.
"There are a lot of people who have come in who have never been to the farmers market and want to see what is available," she said. "It's nice to see new faces, but a terrible reason they have come."
Nicole Melin, of Dayton, and her sister-in-law Alanna Kanawalsky, of Pittsburgh, purchased locally grown meat, apples and fresh cider Saturday.
"We are here to visit family and decided to see what is available at the farmers market," Melin said. "I love farmers markets and can't pass one up. It's not a grocery store and you can get local, fresh food that is so much better than what you get in a big store."