It would have been hard to ask for a much nicer day for a last farmers' market.
The sun was shining, it was a comfortable 72 degrees and—unlike last week’s market—the parking lot wasn’t inundated with puddles.
The Beatrice Farmers Market officially came to a close on Thursday evening, and the vendors who spent their time from May to October selling varieties of seasonal fruits, vegetables, fresh baked breads, eggs, meat, jams, jellies, crafts, soaps and more were packing up for the year.
Michael Sothan, executive director of Main Street Beatrice said that, while a full comparison hadn’t been done yet for previous years, this year’s farmers' market season was strong for both customers and vendors.
“We've got vendors from northern Kansas to southern Lancaster County,” Sothan said. “We go out to Pawnee and Johnson County. We've got vendors from Saline and Jefferson. Of course the largest concentration are from here in Beatrice and Gage County.”
This year, there were vendors from Seward and Lincoln. One vendor even came all the way from Wisconsin to sell home-raised maple syrup.
While no vendors were turned away, for a couple of weeks, the market was operating at full capacity with 28 separate vendors on site.
The market’s customer base has grown as well, Sothan said. With an age range from young families and children to seniors, there's a healthy mix of locals, out-of-towners and market regulars looking to find their favorite produce.
The ever-changing variety of the Beatrice Farmers Market is drawing a crowd and winning over people who thought only larger farmers' markets would have what they were after, he said.
“Almost anything you can get at a Lincoln farmers' market, you can now get here at the Beatrice farmers' market,” he said. “Those unique produce items are here, available locally, grown by local folks.”
Farmer Katie Jantzen is a newcomer to the Beatrice Farmers' Market this year. Jantzen’s West End Farm in Plymouth is in its first year of business and she grew a wide variety of fall vegetables that were available on Thursday.
“I have been interested in farming for technically my whole life,” she said. “I grew up on a farm, I started learning more about vegetable farming and got interested in local food when I was in college, so after that, I worked on farms in a few different states and I finally decided that now is the time to actually give it a go.”
Terri Sue Mazza has become something of an anchor at the Beatrice Farmers' Market. Turning Point Farm in Beatrice, which she runs with her husband, Ron Mazza, has made an appearance at each Beatrice market for the past four years, she said.
Each week, Mazza brings dozens of loaves of bread and farm-fresh organic chicken and duck eggs, which are big sellers. And while selling bread and eggs are important, she said, she really likes just being a part of the community.
“I love the interaction,” she said. “I don't get off the farm that much and we have so many good, regular people that just become a part of your life. You know what goes on with them, I know what they're going through, so it's good.”
A woman picked up a loaf of Mazza’s apple cinnamon bread to look at the ingredient list.
“That one won a ribbon at the Gage County Fair,” Mazza told her. “You picked a winner.”
Sothan said they’re planning on continuing the farmers' market next year, but with the recent sale of Aunt Mary’s Center—which owns the parking lot where the market is held—the location isn’t quite set in stone yet.
Even though Thursday’s was the final farmers' market of the year, Sothan said customers should still be able to find locally grown fall favorites like pumpkins, gourds and sweet potatoes.
“Some of our vendors, while it lasts, will be selling items at Heartland Foods,” he said. “I know that they've got some local products that they have been starting to carry. Chicken eggs and duck eggs, they're carrying local dog treats that were by a vendor here and some local produce as well.”
With winter on its way, Mazza has a few plans for next year, she said. They recently finished building a greenhouse at the farm and they’re hoping to offer organic produce in the spring.
“It's kind of a lab, kind of an experiment,” she said. “Lettuce and spinach, greens, and then some of the colder weather crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower. If I can be successful in any of those, I'd be happy.”
A Montana hospital administrator will be the new CEO of Beatrice Community Hospital and Health Center.
The BCH Board of Directors announced that Richard Haraldson of Sidney, Mont. will begin his new CEO duties Jan. 1.
“Rick brings a strong background in healthcare administration to our organization,” said BCHHC Board of Directors Chairman Mitch Deines in a press release. “He understands how community hospitals operate and the role they play in the communities they serve. We are excited to have him join our team.”
Haraldson has worked in healthcare for 23 years, 17 of those as a CEO. He has been CEO of Sidney Health Center in Sidney, Mont. since 2003. Sidney Health Center is a 25-bed critical access hospital with 33 providers, as well as 93 nursing home beds and 40 assisted living beds.
Haraldson has also held CEO and administrative positions with Banner Health System in Torrington, Wyo.
He has a bachelor’s degree in healthcare administration from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minn. and a master’s of business administration from the University of Wyoming. He is a Certified Public Accountant, as well as a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.
Rick’s wife, Darci, is a special education teacher and they have four sons and a daughter, with four of those children in college. Rick is active in the community, including membership in the Lions Club, serving on the Richland Youth Hockey Board and serving as a radio announcer for Richland Hockey.
The announcement ends a national search for a CEO that began in January when Thomas W. Sommers announced his resignation as CEO at Beatrice Community Hospital. During his 13 years of leadership, the organization saw extensive change and growth, including the 2012 opening of a new hospital facility on the north side of Beatrice.
Dr. John Findley, who has been serving as Interim CEO, will transition back to serving as full-time Chief Medical Officer.
“We want to thank Dr. Findley for his dedication to BCHHC as Interim CEO,” Deines said. “His passion and enthusiasm has helped us to continue the momentum on our strategic initiatives. We are excited to keep that momentum moving forward as we welcome Rick to our team and our community.”