More About America’s Favorite Farmers Market

What do a radial tire and a radish have in common?

In Urbana you can find them both in the first block of East Market Street. That is, when radishes are in season.

Lonny LeFever, president of the Champaign County Farmers’ Market, told me recently that the folks at Clayton Tire have told him how grateful they are the market sets up across Market Street from their shop. Some people drawn by the market have discovered or become better acquainted with their business.

Lonny LeFever with Urbana Mayor Ruth Zerkle, a key supporter of the Farmers Market, at Saturdays celebration.

That’s the thing about new businesses: They’re not just competition for the existing ones. They create synergy, or in plain English, they attract new customers to the marketplace who end up discovering neighboring establishments that cater to their other wants and needs.

Farmers’ markets bring many other benefits to communities and the people who live in them. I covered some of these in a marketing brochure that local graphic designer Melinda Thackery of Sysbro Design and I (through Schenkel Communications) created for the Farmers’ Market—just before the market’s first season (2009) in its current downtown location. (Melinda also designed the market’s logo.)

This project was supported by an Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) program developed to fertilize the marketing efforts of  farmers’ markets. Dave Faulkner, then Champaign County economic development director, helped the markets’ board apply for the ODA funding. And other local officials and organizations saw the market’s potential benefits and supported it as well.

These include the Champaign County Community Improvement Corporation, Activate Champaign County (a coalition of the Champaign Family YMCA, local government, health organizations, education, nonprofits and businesses that advocate healthful living), the Champaign County Farm Bureau and the City of Urbana, which opened the way for the market to move from Trenor Motors on the city’s east side to its downtown venue.

Champaign County, Ohio, Farmers Market murals

The Farmers' Market enlisted art classes at Champaign County's five high schools to paint murals to cover windows of the old Urbana Creamery building, next door to the market. A few were already on display for Saturday's celebration.

With this nurturing support, which I alluded to in my previous post, the market has grown from a handful of vendors to 28 this season. That’s also due to the infectious drive of Lonny LeFever and the market board’s down-to-the-roots belief in the health and economic value of locally grown food. “It grew a lot faster than I ever thought it would,” Lonny told me. “My goal was 25 vendors in five years.”

This season the Farmers’ Market  broadened its customer base to include economically challenged families.   Participants in Job and Family Services’ food assistance program and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program can now use their benefits to purchase healthful, locally grown food at the market. “We’re very excited about that,” Lonny said. “It’s one of the reasons we located where we did, so we’d be easily accessible to people in need.”

In so many ways America’s Favorite Small Farmers Market is nourishing our community.

Many thanks to Tiffany Eckhardt for the photos in today’s post. I had to be out of town so had to miss the celebration. You can keep up with Tiffany on her blogs, Doing Life Being Tiff and Weekend ReTweat.

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