SILVER CITY - More vendors, more variety, more events and more shoppers all added up to a successful year for the Silver City Farmers Market, which held its last market of the season Saturday at Big Ditch Park.

Market Manager Linda Bartlett said the market had an average of 20 different vendors each week - several more than last year - and added a new event, a harvest pie contest that was very well received.

Other events throughout the year - a salsa contest, a squash derby for the kids, and the Farm-to-Chef Challenge - were also popular.

"We had nine chefs in the Farm-to-Chef Challenge this year," she said. "That was more than last year, when I think we only had five."

Foot traffic in the market also appeared to be up, she said.

"We take a couple of counts a year, and last week I think we counted close to 500," she said.

A Dot Survey, new this year, allowed customers to put a dot sticker on a table full of posterboards asking for feedback on the market. It was a way for organizers to see what people liked about the market, and what they would like to see change.

"What we learned is that our customers who come through are very loyal," Bartlett said. "They appreciate the market and they shop here - and most of the people who come to the market also spend money downtown at other businesses when they come down here."

They go out to restaurants, coffee shops and thrift stores, providing a nice flow of traffic to downtown businesses on Saturday mornings and

afternoons.

Vendors also did well at the market this year, and several new vendors said they plan to be back next year, some with even more items to sell.

JJ and Teleah Dabbs, who live in Gila, sold their chicken for the first time this year at the Silver City Market.

"We did well here this year," JJ said. "We'll be back next year with our pastured eggs."

Fresh eggs are something that has been in demand at the market. When there are some available, they often sell out quickly.

"There was a woman here this morning with some," Bartlett said. "But I think she sold out in 30 minutes."

The Dabbs, who started the Gila Farmers Market four years ago, said that, too, has grown.

"This year was the busiest year for it," Taleah said. "It took a few years to get going."

"We have a great community out there," JJ said.

Nevadith Casillas, who owns EZ Does It! Farm in Gila with her husband, Horacio, said she also did well for a first-year vendor at the Silver City Farmers Market. She had sold produce at the market in the past, but this was the couple's first year selling their grass-fed beef, pork, goat and lamb.

"It was better than I thought it would be for our first year," she said. "People here are very supportive and they really appreciate the good-quality meat."

She said she would definitely be back next year.

"I really enjoy this, not just for selling but how fun it is to see everybody," she said.

Mary Buonocore, another first time seller at the market, did well with her handmade lavender products.

Despite a freeze that killed 50 to 70 of her 750 lavender plants at her Gila farm, she said she still had enough to make essential oils, hydrosols (basically sprays), sachets and organic liquid and bar soap using her lavender and other herbs like rosemary and lemon balm from friends' gardens and wild spearmint harvested from the banks of the Gila River.

"I did very well here," she said. "People were very supportive. I have repeat customers."

Next year she said she will be making lotion, and possibly shampoo. And even though the farmers market is done for the season, you can still find her lavender items at craft fairs through Christmas, like the one next weekend at the Grant County Business and Conference Center.

"The diversity here is just wonderful," said Mary Giardina who sold gourds, flowers, vegetables and homemade pesto with her partner Mark Kycia. "You can get anything you want at the farmers market."

Nancy Hamlett who owns Nancy Jean's Farm in the Mimbres with her husband, Ray, has been selling at the Silver City Farmers Market for the past five years. The couple also sell at the Mimbres and Bayard farmers markets, and Nancy is the market manager for the Bayard Market.

This was the first year for their community supported agriculture, in which customers buy shares at the beginning of a season and get a certain amount of produce through the end of the harvest.

"The market was good for us this year, but our farm didn't do well," Nancy said. "We supplied our CSA customers with what we could, and since life gave us lemons, we made burritos and bread," she said.

The couple sold burritos and baked goods at the Silver City Farmers Market and Nancy said they plan to be back next year.

Nancy said the Bayard Market is in need of more customer support.

"There are lots of people in Bayard who eat vegetables. They need to come to the market (next year) and buy some," she said.

Overall, this year's season at Silver City Farmers Market appears to have been a great success - providing locally grown fresh produce, meats and other products, fun events, and a reason to get downtown on Saturday mornings and shop, have coffee and shmooze.

"The great thing about farmers markets is that people get exposed to new vegetables, new recipes, and they eat better, more healthy foods," Hamlett said. "That's what farmers markets are all about."