CENTRALIA, Mo. — On a warm, late spring day in Audrain County, Sonny and Mary Orth were at work on their farm, getting produce ready for their next farmers market. Sonny was running a tiller in the large garden while Mary was tying tomato plants to keep them growing higher.
They sell as S&M Produce, and in addition to on-farm sales their family sells goods at nearby farmers markets in Mexico and Fulton.
“We’ve got two good markets and what we sell on the farm,” Sonny says.
He and Mary sell at the Saturday farmers market in Mexico, and he also serves as president of the market. He says they have a lot of regular customers.
“It’s hard to beat that fresh produce,” Sonny says.
He likes the opportunity to provide quality products for people.
“You meet a lot of people,” Sonny says. “What I enjoy most about farmers markets is being able to produce a product that people need. We’ve made a lot of friends.”
Mary says those people make the farmers market experience enjoyable. She also likes baking some items to sell at the market.
“It’s the people,” she says. “I’m proud of what we have. We take pride in what we do. We do it to the best of our ability.”
The Orths used to be row crop farmers, but after retiring from that they got into growing items for farmers markets, which they have been doing for about 12 years. Sonny says they focus on quality, and in addition to soil sampling they get regular tissue samples to determine what needs to be added to their plant food diets. He says his mother always had a big garden, and he and Mary say they enjoy being outdoors and working with their plants.
They grow a variety of things on their farm and are perhaps most known for their varieties of tomatoes. Sonny says the weather provided some challenges this year, setting back the tomato timetable by about two weeks due to the lack of sunshine during the spring. They also grow broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, onions, watermelons and several other Missouri garden staples.
The activity starts early in the greenhouses and continues through the warmer spring and summers months outdoors.
Sonny says customers appreciate quality, and that helps build the connections with regular customers through the years.
“We’ve got people that have been coming back to the market for years,” he says. “I like being able to provide people with an awesome product.”
He says the Mexico farmers market has a wide variety of items for sale. Mary likes the variety as well, both growing things for the market and getting to take her desserts to the market.
“Tomatoes are our favorite to grow,” she says. “I love to bake fresh baked goods.”
Sonny says beyond providing a quality product, farmers market vendors have to be willing to talk about their product and answer questions.
“You’ve got to get on the other side of the table and talk with people,” he says.