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Large turnout for farmers’ ,market at The Kentucky Castle

Hundreds of people from here and across the state came out to the Woodford County Farmers’ Market at The Kentucky Castle June 6.

Angela Bates, of Lexington, said her brother and sister-in-law, traveled from Corbin to Versailles to shop for vegetables and other homegrown or handcrafted goods under a large tent on the grounds of the iconic Castle last Wednesday for opening day of the midweek market season.

“People love to come out to the Castle – they’re very curious about it,” said market coordinator Connie Sandrock.

Like other vendors that day, she and husband Bob stayed busy, and they were quickly selling out of her baked goods and produce.

“We’re really excited that the Castle has allowed us to be out here,” said Extension Agent Faye Kuosman. “They’re really about promoting agriculture in the community, and they actually came to us to ask us if we’d like to have a farmers’ market out here and we were absolutely thrilled.”

Hosting the Woodford County Farmers’ Market, according to one of The Kentucky Castle’s co-owners, Matt Dawson, is an opportunity “to educate people on where their food comes from. It’s from our farms, from our farmers. … And we thought this would be a great way to help out some of our local farmers, showcase what they’re doing and use the Castle as … a draw to get people out and see the amazing food that we’re producing in the area.”

Woodford County’s midweek market has struggled for years to attract large numbers of customers and vendors to its previous locations in Versailles. “This of course sparked new interest in the Wednesday’s market – especially because it’s at the Castle and everybody wants to see the Castle,” said Kuosman.

She described the vendor turnout for last Wednesday’s market (20 signed up) at The Kentucky Castle as the biggest – even larger than a Saturday – during her six years as Woodford County’s Extension agent for horticulture.

“We’re excited that this is a new opportunity for the farmers’ market to bring in more vendors and make a viable market for them that they didn’t have in the past,” said Kuosman.

She hopes having a Wednesday market at The Kentucky Castle, from 3 to 6 p.m., each week through October, will generate interest so more people will shop at the Woodford County Farmers’ Market – no matter the day or place.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for all the local vendors and farmers, and I’m very glad that the Castle opened their doors to us,” said Maggie Dungan of Salad Days Farm.

She has lived in Woodford County for 33 years and like many others in the community has never gotten to see – much less go inside – the Castle walls.

“I just love that there’s activities here now,” said Bates.

She was surprised by the line of vehicles waiting to get onto the grounds of The Kentucky Castle for a farmers’ market.

“We’re just used to seeing it (the Castle) from 60 (Lexington/Versailles Road) – driving down the road. So just to be able to come inside the walls and see it for them (her kids) has been cool,” said Rachel Stakelin.

She and her children, 3-year-old Emma and 5-year-old Davis, live in Versailles so they didn’t travel far to see the Castle.

Inviting people to come inside the walls of The Kentucky Castle for a farmers’ market allows this landmark to become more than a mystery for Woodford Countians and others.

“We think this Castle should be Kentucky’s,” said Dawson. “We look at ourselves as a steward of this Castle more than anything. We want it to be open (to others) as much as possible.”

Because The Kentucky Castle has guest rooms and hosts private parties, “it’s not always completely open. But any time we can open the doors and invite people in for a great experience like the farmers’ market, we want to be able to do that,” said Dawson.

A couple hours into Wednesday’s market, he estimated 2,000 people had already been to the Castle, which he did not anticipate.

“It’s great for the farmers,” said Dawson, “…And hopefully they’re going to sell out of everything and then they’ll restock and come back next time.”

Besides an array of vegetables, vendors were busy selling fresh cut flowers, handcrafted goods and a mix of value-added products, including jams and jellies.

Twenty-five seniors from the Woodford County Senior Citizens were among the many who got to visit the grounds of The Kentucky Castle and also shop.

They each received four $4 vouchers from the Woodford County Conservation District to make purchases from the market vendors, but Director Judy Beckley said, “They like the Castle too,” which was why so many of them wanted to come.

Farmers are always looking for a good midweek market, according to Kuosman, who continues to work with the City of Versailles on a permanent downtown location for the Woodford County Farmers’ Market.

“We’re still working on downtown,” said Sandrock, “and the Midway market’s doing pretty good…” on Mondays, from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday’s market at the Courthouse Square in downtown Versailles is from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

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