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.


Celebrate at the Champaign County Farmers’ Market!

Like a garden nourished by good soil and the ideal balance of sunshine and rain, the Champaign County Farmers’ Market is flourishing from the support of an appreciative community.

Lonny LeFever, president of the Champaign County Farmers' Market, serves customers at his booth, Lonny's Green Acres.

In thankfulness, the market’s board and vendors are rolling out the green carpet.

Be sure to come out for this Saturday’s market day—October 9, at the corner of E. Market and Locust Streets in Urbana, Ohio—to help celebrate the market’s being voted one of America’s four favorite farmers markets in the American Farmland Trust “America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™” contest.

As it does every Saturday, May through October, the market will open at 9 a.m.  Then, at 10 a.m., the celebration officially begins. Jon Schell, president of American Farmland Trust, will present the market its award.

Our local market pulled in 3,265 online votes (only one vote allowed per IP address) making it the most popular small farmers market (16-30 vendors) in the nation. That’s pretty impressive, considering about 1,300 participating markets received a total of 60,000 votes. And the Champaign County Farmers’ Market was just 400 votes shy of the total received by the winner of the large market division – the Rochester Farmers Market! (By the way, that’s Rochester, N.Y., population 219,773* vs. Champaign County, Ohio, population 38,890*.) Just another indicator of the community spirit that helped Urbana gain Ohio Magazine’s Best Hometown designation.

The celebration also will include music, excellent food, cooking demonstrations, tours of the Market Street Community Garden and other activities–and, I’ve been assured, brief remarks from market and community leaders (who, if they go long, will have fresh, not rotten, produce to dodge).

In addition, vendors from the Mechanicsburg and St. Paris farmers markets have been invited to set up booths—so there will be even more selection than usual. Also, the market will stay open past its usual 1 p.m. closing–as long as supplies and customers last.

If you haven’t been to the market yet, come out and see what you’ve been missing.

I’ll be back with more about the market in my next post.

In the meantime, what do you like about the Champaign, Mechanicsburg or St. Paris farmers markets?

*2000 U.S. Census