The Community Farmers Market weathered some big changes during the summer season this year. We moved the market to a new location on 200 N. Washington Street in Downtown Carbondale at new time, Wednesdays 3-6 pm. We decided that it was time to put all of our effort into building a complementary weekday market and did not operate an outdoor Saturday market at the Carbondale Community High School. This move allowed us to increase our vendor diversity - we had 19 vendors at our largest market of the season! - and to offer a wider array of products including pasture raised pork and eggs, grass-fed beef, prepared foods, baked goods, and even locally made soda from Scratch. The new location was close to supportive downtown businesses like Town Square Market and Longbranch who both buy and sell at the market. A vibrant community garden adjacent to the market gave customers and vendors a welcoming place to walk and see food growing .
We are grateful to our sponsor and neighbor WDBX Community Radio for helping us coordinate live music every week at the market, and for helping to promote the market on their station. The City of Carbondale has been very accommodating in our use of the space. They even made us a new sign board to display our market hours!
All were taken by Katherine Accettura at the April 27th and May 4th markets.
Despite the positive factors it’s been a challenging inaugural season in the new location. We battled rain and excessive heat all summer. Three violent thunderstorms forced us to closed market early and destroyed several vendors’ tents. When it wasn’t raining, it was very hot and steamy with heat indexes often reading over 100 degrees with 80% humidity. Very sticky! The weather challenged both customers, who struggle to make it to the market, and produce vendors who encountered standing water, pests, and weeds in the fields. Fingers crossed for cooler weather for our fall markets!
Despite a challenging season, our Double Up Food Bucks program has been an overwhelming success. We received funding through the Jackson County Plan4Health Initiative to offer Double Up Food Bucks at the Downtown Community Farmers Market for the 28-week market season. We have thus far served 61 new customers, and have doubled over $1,300 in SNAP benefits at the market. Customers are happy to stretch their limited food budget and to get healthy local produce using their SNAP benefits. We also had three groups of employees from Southern Illinois Healthcare tour the market with their wellness coaches to learn about shopping for healthy foods at farmers’ markets. There’s nothing more satisfying than introducing new customers to the market!
We are currently working with both local and state organizations to expand Double Up Food Bucks to more markets in southern Illinois in 2017. We plan to help get 4-6 new markets accepting SNAP by 2017, and Double Up Food Bucks at 1-2 new markets before the end of 2016.
by Reanna Putnam
Farmers Market Program Manager