The Pickerington farmers market has -- in a relatively short time -- become an enduring fixture in the heart of Olde Pickerington Village.
Celebrating its fifth year of operation, the market now has almost 50 vendors selling a variety of fresh meats and poultry, local produce, crafts, baked goods, prepared foods and such specialty items as organic dog treats and artisan mustard.
The Pickerington farmers market at 89 N. Center St. is open from 4 to 7 p.m. every Thursday through Sept. 28. Free parking is available at the market's location or across the railroad tracks at the former Pickerington Creamery building, 80 W. Church St.
Farmers market Manager Janis Francis said the market continues to build on the successes of the past four years.
"We have 48 approved vendors and we're getting new getting requests all the time. There's a lot of interest in it right now," Francis said.
Three weeks into this season, the market's organizers are optimistic attendance will exceed the estimated 12,000 visitors who shopped there in 2016.
"The turnout has been really good," Francis said. "We had between 900 to 1,000 people the first week.
"The second week it was a little bit less, but it's really hard to count because we have people coming in from all directions," she said.
Francis said the addition of several new vendors this season helps make the market enticing for area foodies.
"We have Ohio Aquaponics," Francis said. "They grow their own microgreens in water. Tiger Mushroom grows its own mushrooms.
"And we have Woolf Farms, which comes up with the most gorgeous, delicious strawberries ever," she said.
Danna Casto of Woolf Farms in East Rochester said the five-hour trip to Pickerington to sell her produce is well worth the effort.
"I'm a third-generation farmer from Columbiana County," Casto said. "My children are fourth generation.
"We fresh pick everything in the morning," she said as she arranged rows of pint baskets of strawberries for sale. "There is nothing better than fresh strawberries with vanilla ice cream."
Terry Schulz, who moved to Pickerington last August, said he was impressed with the offerings in his first visit to the market.
"We love shopping local," he said. "A lot of time you have to go to Columbus to get local, but then it's not local. So supporting this market is great."
Schulz was buying dog treats from Snow Dog Pro Health, an Athens-based pet-treat vendor.
"We sell dog treats with no artificial preservatives in them. There's no junk; it's just all-natural," said owner Bryan Carlson.
Pickerington resident Mark Monroe strummed his guitar while singing rock 'n' roll favorites to the crowd.
"I try to mix it up," Monroe said. "I've been doing this for at least the last four years. This year (attendance) has been really good. It's starting to pick up."
Also new this year is Francis.
Her love of gardening and locally sourced foods helped her as market manager to hit the ground running when it came to attracting vendors.
"It's been a big learning experience for me for sure, but I'm really excited about it," she said.
"I like to eat healthy and I like to play in the dirt. I'm very optimistic about this market." She said her goal is to attract to North Center Street a younger demographic.
"We would like to see more millennials," Francis said.
"My son is 27 years old and he's into eating healthy. We're trying to get folks of that mindset.
"We tell people that instead of going through the drive-thru, stop down here and get something to eat," she said.
For more information about the farmers market including vendors, visit pickeringtonvillage.com and click the "farmers market" tab.