By Christina Calloway
PNT senior writer
Despite a favorable farm season and a more prominent location, Portales Farmers Market Director Margie Plummer said attendance was the same as last year.
From 50 to 200 customers a day shop at The Farmers Market, which is open Mondays and Thursdays from July through October, according to Plummer.
Farmers think that stagnant numbers are a shame because the large amount of rainfall this year produced larger yields of crops.
Roosevelt County farmer Urbano Ordonez has 60 rows of green chilies on his farm, but he said the difference between last year’s crop and now is that he only made three trips to the market last summer. This year, he’s been to nearly every market with chilies to sell.
“We have a lot more chile, more than 50 percent from last year,” Ordonez said.
He sells and roasts green chile peppers, from mild to extra hot.
Don and Denise Wiley of Good Shepherd Farm nearly sat out the entire season last year because their crop was accidentally sprayed with chemicals and the farmers only grow chemical-free produce.
This year has been a complete turnaround for the Wileys, who sell tomatoes, squash, carrots and greens.
“We had a lot of people say they didn’t even know Portales had a farmers market until we moved to this location,” said Denise Wiley. “I think (the new location) has easier access and more parking.”
The Wileys said there were a lack of customers and farmers from July until mid-August before things started picking up. Don Wiley added that the rainy days helped the produce, but didn’t help the sales because customers wouldn’t come out.
Don Wiley said one other improvement he’d like to see is an increase in farmers who participate in the market.
“We always need more farmers, we never had enough vendors,” he said. “More vendors will be better for everyone.”
Plummer agrees the move from the market’s previous location on U.S. 70 and Avenue B to the space across from Big Valley Autos has been beneficial. The move was forced by U.S. 70 construction.
“I love it, we have more room and more parking,” Plummer said.
Plummer said because of a late winter that trickled into springtime, produce wasn’t ready when it should have been in May, which pushed back the start time for a majority of the farmers.
She said on average there are five to eight vendors at the market, but in the first month or so, there was only two.
“This year was one of the better growing seasons we ever had,” Plummer said. “The only disappointment is that I expected more customers.”
Abby Culpepper of Portales made her annual trip to the market Monday to pick up pumpkins for carving, a tradition she shares with the family.
She said what intrigued her most at the market this year was that there were white pumpkins.
“This is the first year I’ve ever seen those white ones,” Culpepper said. “We have a pumpkin carving party. Our whole entire family comes and everyone brings pumpkins.”