Saturday, October 1, 2011

Emigrant People's Market

Midway between Livingston and Yellowstone National Park, along Highway 89, watch for the sign to Emigrant and then turn west at the blinking light. You'll also see signs pointing toward the People's Market and that's exactly where you want to go.

In its second year, this is a small market, with an average of about ten vendors, but you'll find a wide variety of items to look at. And because it is small, vendors are happy to describe their products and make sure you get exactly what you want and need.

I found pottery . . .

healing oils (this was the first time I saw Black Pepper oil, which is useful for many ailments, including arthritis and digestive upsets) . . .

and Bo's Blankets, which I wrote about last week.

There was even a table with lots of stuff . . . fun stuff!

Jo had quite a collection, including her own photographs. In the spirit of recycling, she cuts up photographs that don't quite print right, puts a label with her contact info on the back, and hands them out as a kind of business card -- she also has traditionally printed cards, but I will treasure my oddly shaped photo of a charming rustic porch.

I throughly enjoyed talking to Bev of Healing Earth LLC, who explained the uses of various herbal tea blends.

Bev buys many organic herbs, but said that she gathers echinacea (a prairie variety), St. John's wort, and arnica in Montana. A deeply purple mixture of elderberry and honey looked good enough to scoop out right there with a spoon, but she explained this is actually an immune booster, to be taken as you develop a cold.

Later I visited the Healing Earth store in Pine Creek -- if you're returning to Livingston, take the side Highway 540 and you'll pass right by this charming (and good smelling!) shop.

Mike Smith, the beekeeper of the business, was tending the store when I arrived. I zeroed right in on the jars filled with honeycomb and had to take one with me. Mike has been keeping bees near Livingston for three years, and he couldn't stop talking about how fascinating they are. I learned that there are 55,000 miles of bee activity in each pound and a half (approximately 1 pint) of honey. Mike pointed out that a few bees are inevitably killed when combs are removed from the hive -- after all, they are protecting their work, home, and factory -- but that is far fewer than are killed when you put pesticides on your home garden. And, he added, the bees don't really miss the honey -- they just make more. That's what they do.

But back at the market, I also chatted with Yankee Bob, who loves to bake cookies, breads, and cakes with healthy ingredients. I tasted his applesauce cake and almost swooned.

Bob sells some baked goods in a tea shop in Livingston, but he makes a steady profit at community events around Emigrant. He almost always sells out. Bob learned to cook from his mother, but it wasn't until the 1980s that he began in earnest when he was asked to donate goodies to a church bake sale. He concocted a fruit cake from a Betty Crocker date bar mix, which turned out to be so popular that he went on to perfect his recipe. When the mix was discontinued, Bob cobbled together another winner from six different recipes he saw one day in the Los Angeles Times.

Imagination took off, and he now makes a variety of oatmeal-based cookies along with his applesauce cake and banana strawberry bread, to name a few.

If you can't make it to market, Bob can supply you by mail, just send him an e-mail: rtelljohn at

Joyce Johnson is the manager of this market, which she calls an "eccentric, eclectic group. There's a little bit of everything here." During the market's first year she saw that there would not be much produce appearing and changed the name from "farmers" to "people's" market to better describe the collection of goods available.

Other community events take place on the wide lawn behind the vendors, which is adjacent to St. John's Episcopal Church, the sponsor of the market: perhaps a dog training demo (bring your own dog for some personalized tips) or fiddlers.

Emigrant is a small village, but the population is spread throughout Paradise Valley. There are several organic farmers in the area, but they prefer to sell at the bigger venues in Livingston and Bozeman. Carting fresh produce to market is a big chore, and the sooner a farmer sells out the better.

But Joyce is optimistic that with more word of mouth and direct advertising, the Emigrant market will continue to flourish. There is a huge amount of seasonal traffic to and from Yellowstone Park, and Chico Hot Springs is only 10 miles away. Local residents also add to the flow of repeat customers.

Although, of course, vendors hope to sell their products, money isn't everything, Joyce explained. "Sometimes encounters [with people] here are more fun than the money we make."

"We're a scrappy little market," Joyce said.

Emigrant People's Market
Lawn of St. John's Episcopal Church, Emigrant
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
June until the weather changes


  1. Sweet market! I'd like to visit that Healing Earth store sometime.