Springfield– The Old Capitol Farmers Market wrapped up it’s 18th season this year under new management– a partnership between Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Downtown Springfield Inc., and the Springfield Area Arts Council. The Market is sponsored by HSHS St. John’s Hospital. According to data collection that was completed for the first time ever this year, the Old Capitol Farmers Market in downtown Springfield contributes economic, environmental, and social capital to the Springfield community.
The Old Capitol Farmers Market on the corner of 4th and Adams street in Downtown Springfield is held every Wednesday and Saturday from mid-May through October for a total of 25 weeks. The Market boasts a total of 82 different vendors throughout the season, selling a wide variety of locally-grown and hand-crafted products that showcase the beauty, diversity, and talent of the Springfield area and its residents.
“The Market is a celebration of everything that is Springfield, and we’re really proud of that,” says market manager Lindsay Keeney.” Shoppers can find everything from purple heirloom carrots specially bred to grow in this region to local yoga instructors teaching unique classes and making our community healthier. But the market is so much more than a great place to shop, it’s also a great investment in the community.”
In terms of economic capital, the farmers market serves as an incubator, providing the opportunity for new farmers to enter into the agricultural marketplace, and a space for small businesses to grow. This year, two regular vendors at the Market opened new brick-and-mortar locations in Springfield, including Cooper’s Streatside Bistro and SMART natured smoothies, with Buzz Bomb Brewing slated to open this winter.
While total sales counts are not available, credit and debit transactions at the Market Booth resulted in $10,467 worth of sales and a weekly survey of participating shoppers in September found that shoppers spent an average of $41 with local farms at the market each week. According to the National Farmers Market Coalition, sales at locally owned businesses infuse three times more back into the local economy than chain retailers, making the Old Capitol Farmers Market a vital part of of strengthening the Springfield community.
The Market also generated $8,739 in SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, or food stamps) sales, and matched $8,000 of those sales, for a total of $16,739 dollars that was invested directly back into the pockets of local farms and businesses. Acquiring the technology and staffing to accept SNAP dollars, and providing the Double Value Match, insures that families of all income levels across Springfield have access to fresh, wholesome food and that those dollars stay local.
In terms of environmental capital, the farmers at the Old Capitol Farmers Market cultivate a total of 6199.5 acres, the majority of which is used for diverse fruit, vegetable, and livestock operations. All of the livestock vendors have a commitment to raising their animals humanely through practices like rotational grazing, pasture-raising, and grass-fed diets. Many of the produce vendors also have a commitment to sustainability and choose to raise their products with little or no use of chemicals. These farmers add diversity to the landscape and help protect waterways and wildlife surrounding the Springfield area.
Market staff inspect vendor practices on the farm to verify that all products are grown by the farmers and not purchased from wholesale auctions or out-of-state, insuring that all dollars stay locally and truly support local family farms.
Lastly, with regards to social capital, the Market remains one of the main attractions to the downtown area. According to visitor counts recorded for the first time ever this year, 2858 people visit the market on an average Saturday, with a record of 4,305 patrons on July 1st. Statistics from the National Farmers Market Coalition note that farmers market patrons benefit from 2.5 times more social interaction than they would at a supermarket, bringing the community closer together.
More than just a place to shop though, the Market is also an educational center where visitors learn about agriculture, try new fruits and vegetables, take home seasonal recipes, and incorporate healthy habits into their lifestyle. For 25 weeks the Market coordinated weekly musicians, chef demonstrations featuring chefs from locally-owned restaurants, and family fitness activities featuring local gyms and yoga studios.
Finally, the Old Capitol Farmers Market was supported by 1000+ staff hours and 500 volunteer hours. The Springfield community values the market and community members contributed time every week to insure that it ran smoothly.
The Old Capitol Farmers Market is closed for the season, but the Springfield Holiday Farmers Markets and Winter Markets will provide shoppers with an opportunity to continue shopping locally throughout the winter months.
For more information about the Old Capitol Farmers Market visit www.facebook.com/oldcapitolfarmersmarket.
For more information at about the upcoming Springfield Holiday Farmers Markets visit the Illinois Stewardship Alliance Facebook Event Page.