Friday, July 22, 2011

Permanent Local Farmer's Market? I hope so!

Along with my weekly CSA bundles, which I look forward to every Thursday, I have started checking out Fort Wayne's various farmer's markets. Just a few years ago, we only had one of them, and I never went--I simply was not interested. Things have changed A LOT in a few years, for the city and for me. The city has gained at least 10 markets (click here)., and I have gained a new found interest in local food and farmers! I love that the city is growing in this area just as I'm becoming passionate about it.

It's been so fun to meet local growers and crafters, and to fill my bags with fresh produce each time I visit a market. I've found that the prices are comparable to the produce at the grocery store (actually, sometimes cheaper). The more locations Fort Wayne has, the more accessible the food is to everyone--and once people realize how affordable it is, the potential for our local food movement to grow is huge. I have thought about how nice it would be to have a year-round market, like those in the cities of warmer states, but I realize that our local climate has a limited growing season. It seemed like just a wistful daydream.

Well, apparently I'm not the only dreamer. I am beyond thrilled to know that a permanent farmer's market is definitely being talked about by the city. Here is the article, fresh from this morning's paper. I have to say, I was discouraged to read that our city consumes 1.78 times the national average of fast food, and even more discouraged to admit to my readers that I still occasionally contribute to that statistic. Yes, we still eat fast food. And plenty of processed junk still lines our shelves. However, we have seriously cut back on fast food, and we've felt our desire for it lessen even more. We have worked hard to find ways to avoid the processed junk, as well. It's happened in increments as we've learned more about what we eat. I fully believe that many other people are starting to feel the same way. I believe a permanent market will draw in a lot of business, and start generating interest in more people who are not yet aware how affordable and delicious it is to support local growers. I see the potential for a lot of other changes in our city's eating habits once we establish such a market.

The Salomon Farm farmers market on Wednesdays during the summer is a draw for residents looking for locally grown produce.

Published: July 22, 2011 3:00 a.m.
Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
Worthwhile study
Investigating the economic potential and the appeal of a permanent farmers market downtown is a shrewd move by city leaders, given the overwhelming popularity and increasing number of seasonal markets in Fort Wayne.
Interest in eating locally grown fresh produce is only part of the obvious lure of the markets, which can be found on every day of the week at various locations throughout the city.
Just a few years ago, the only farmers market in town was the South Side Farmers Market, open Saturdays on Warsaw Street. Merely strolling through the markets, viewing the local wares, is a pleasant activity, even if you don't buy anything.
The $30,000 feasibility study from Market Ventures Inc. suggested a year-round farmers market would likely become a downtown attraction.
City development experts deserve credit for taking an analytical and reasoned approach to researching the possibility of such an endeavor.
The Public Market Working Group, led by local residents interested in downtown development, helped ensure the study asked the right questions.
Would having a permanent market downtown detract from the many seasonal markets around the city?
Market Ventures' research confirms that downtown can't support two markets and suggests rolling the Barr Street Market, open only 12 days each year, into the permanent market.
The study recommends a permanent structure that provides vendors with utilities, but suggests starting modestly with potential for growth with market demand.
It also suggested Lawton Park as a promising location. The city park houses several important park department functions, including greenhouses and equipment maintenance and storage. Parks leaders will need to play a significant role in assessing the suitability of using Lawton Park for a permanent farmers market.
The venture would not be without risk. Residents' dietary habits remain appallingly slanted toward cheap and not ideally healthy food.
(A recent survey found that Fort Wayne residents spend 1.78 times the national average on fast food.)
And Indiana has a limited growing season. Would a farmers market be able to offer enough variety of offerings to attract customers throughout the winter?
City leaders also need to determine how the market proposal fits with existing downtown plans and take a closer look at details such as who will own and run the market and, most important, how to pay for it.
Proponents of the farmers market think it could be a good use for a portion of the I&M settlement money and submitted a proposal to the Legacy Fort Wayne task force.
A permanent farmers market is an idea with merit and the feasibility study was an important first. Next comes working out the trickier details.

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