Kim Ross starts her Wednesdays at 5 a.m. during the summer and fall months. During those early morning hours, she sets up her tables at the Charleston Square, getting ready for the new crop of customers at the weekly farmer’s market.
She doesn’t mind the early hours, though. For Ross, it’s not so much a job as it is a midweek pick-me-up -- it’s something she loves.
Ross, an Eastern alumna and current Charleston resident, started growing produce on her home farm, Embarras Valley Farm & CSA, just for her family. Now, she’s expanded to selling her crops -- like tomatoes, cucumbers, chard, kale and apples -- every week at the Market.
Ross is in good company, too. Fifteen to 20 other vendors line the streets of the square, offering fruits, vegetables and baked goods, as well as specialty woodwork items. The market began the first Wednesday in June and will continue to run until mid- to late-October, depending on the weather. During the selling hours, they talk with the customers and one another, sharing stories and sipping on fresh coffee donated by Jackson Avenue Coffee. Ross said she’s always learning something new from the other sellers.
“I love the other farmers -- the interaction with the other farmers, the education you get from them. It’s just a great experience.”
Growing up, Ross lived on a farm and was constantly exposed to the intricate process of growing crops. She expanded on this experience when she attended and graduated from Eastern in the mid ’90s with a degree in environmental biology and botany.
Now, Ross puts her degree to use when she grows unusual plants for her farm and the Market; she loves to see what other kinds of plants she can create and to see what they produce.
Buyers, especially Eastern students, keep Ross on her toes, asking her for particular and diverse types of produce. She can usually meet their requests, but if not, she gets ideas for new plants to grow.
“EIU students are great about that because they come from all over, so they are looking for different and unusual things that maybe I have or maybe I don’t even grow yet,” she said.
She’ll even gets tips from customers on new ways to cook and eat the fruit and vegetables she sells.
That’s her favorite part of selling at the Charleston Farmer’s Market: the one-on-one time she gets with customers and other vendors.
“We just love coming up to the market,” she said. “We love to meet new people.”