Becky Parmelee was already busy with her home-based business, Parmelee Homestead Creations, when an opportunity arose she couldn't pass up.
"I find a lot of value in the Bella Vista Farmers Market and I don't want it to disappear," she said. So when the former market manager moved out of the area, Parmelee took on what amounted to a second full-time job.
That's not the only change the market will see this year.
The Farmers Market season will open on Sunday, April 23, and it will be back in its original location at One Mercy Way. That location will give them room to grow, Parmelee explained, and Mercy has always had a mission similar to the market: supporting healthy living. The market started there in 2016 and only moved when the parking lot was being expanded to accommodate the emergency room.
But Parmelee has another move in mind as part of her Five-Year Plan for the market.
"I want a permanent location in the next five years," she said. A permanent location might include a pavilion where vendors can set up demonstrations and shoppers can get out of the sun.
The hours will be slightly different this year as well, she said. The market hours will be earlier, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., which should help the vendors avoid the hottest part of the day this summer. Some products don't do well if they have to sit in the sun too long, she explained.
The grand opening on April 23, with an 11:30 a.m. ribbon cutting, is only the first event that Parmelee has in mind for the 2023 season. She's looking for ways to draw the entire community in for a unique shopping experience.
On both Mother's Day and Father's Day, Parmelee plans to give the first 100 children to visit the information booth a token for $5 so they can buy their parent a gift. She's also instructed vendors to have gift items available for $5.
"It will be a fun thing for the kiddos to do," she said. She also has plans for Memorial Day weekend. Later in the summer, she's planning a "Touch a Truck" event and a BBQ event. There may be a bike rodeo for the kids as well. And at the end of 2023 season, the Farmers Market will celebrate a Halloween event, she said.
Residents can find out more about the special events by visiting the market's brand new web site, BVFM.org. There are still spots for businesses to sponsor the market or the special events.
"We've always had makers at the Farmers Market," she said, referring to vendors who sell their arts and crafts creations. Although the new location gives them more space, Parmelee is limiting the non-produce vendors by selecting only two for each category. The categories include apparel, home decor, handmade soaps, wood working and more. There is also a knife sharpener and food trucks scheduled for most Sundays.
Bella Vista has the only Sunday market in the area and that's not likely to change, Parmelee said. Although some residents and even vendors find it a challenge to attend both church and the market, the Sunday hours have one big advantage. Many vendors, including Parmelee herself, attend a different Farmers Market on Saturday. It gives the vendors an opportunity to sell more products and it ensures that there will be enough vendors for the market to compete with the larger cities in the area.
There is also space for nonprofits to set up with no fee for their spot. They can set up a demonstration at 11:30 on Sundays. Applications for nonprofit spots and other vendor booths can be found on the website, BVFM.org. There are already 48 vendors signed up for 2023, but there are still part time openings which Parmelee is sure will fill up.
Also on the web site are copies of Arkansas Farmers Market Guidelines and the Arkansas Food Freedom Act. Links to like USDA Cooperative extension the Spring Creek Food Hub are available to help vendors. Parmelee is happy to help answer vendor's questions.
"We are a rain or shine market," she said. Although some vendors whose products can't get wet -- like the artists -- may skip a rainy day, produce vendors are expected to attend. The market will only close if there is lightening in the area.
Another new service this year is a SNAP program. People who receive help paying for groceries can bring their EBT card to the information booth for tokens that will double their benefits. The tokens can be used the same way at the market as at the grocery store -- only for food items. EBT tokens can't be used to purchase prepared food or any of the craft items. At the end of the day, Parmelee will reimburse the vendors for the tokens they accepted.
There will also be an ATM at the information booth, so people who don't bring enough cash can use it and continue shopping.
Parmelee Homestead Creations, with products like homemade jam and salsa, will still be at the Farmers Market although Parmelee won't be running her booth. While she's busy at the information booth, she hired someone to run her own booth.
The last few months have been very busy for Parmelee, but she said she wouldn't change anything.
"Bella Vista is a great place to have a business," she said. "It still has the small town atmosphere but with bigger town amenities."
There are also many more home-based businesses in town then most people realize and those businesses can and do help each other be successful.
"It's a great thing to see all your hard work come together," she said.