Springfield Community Rallies Behind Local Farmers at Holiday Markets

The 2017 Holiday Farmers Markets wrapped up with a bang this past Saturday, December 16th. The markets, now finishing their 11th season, have become a staple for Springfield farmers and shoppers. First-time data collection efforts this year revealed heartening statistics on the impact of the markets on the local community as well as the motivation behind shoppers.

The Springfield Holiday Farmers Markets, organized by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, are held the Saturday before Thanksgiving and the Saturday before Christmas each year. More than 40 area family farmers and artisans participated in each event selling a wide range of locally-grown, home-made, and hand-crafted products.

Many farmers and other vendors reported record sales for the December market, with several vendors selling out of product completely.  Rick Speer of Incredibly Delicious Cakes said, “I heard great comments from customers and vendors. For our part, it was our best holiday market ever.”

Chad Wallace of Oak Tree Farms says, “It was the perfect example of holiday cheer– happy vendors and smiling patrons with bags full of holiday goods.”

The first ever attendance counts taken at the December Holiday Market this year revealed a total of 1190 shoppers– 1065 adults and 125 children.

More than 150 of those shoppers also participated in surveys to gauge spending and collect additional data. The majority of shoppers reported spending between $30 – $40 at the Market, and using this data, the Alliance estimates that somewhere between $16,000 – $21,000 total was re-invested directly with area farm families and artisans during the December Holiday Farmers Market alone! This is money that will not go to CEOs, companies, or corporations outside of the state or even the country, but will go directly to families in the Springfield and central Illinois community. 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 Springfield Holiday Farmers Markets a vital part of of strengthening the Springfield community during the holiday season.

Interestingly, shoppers reported that their number one reason for attending the market was not for fresh ingredients or unique gifts (although these were close seconds), but “to support local farmers and businesses”

“Seeing that so many people came out to the market because they know that it makes a difference to farmers and businesses right here in Springfield— that just warmed our hearts,” says Molly Gleason, communications director for Illinois Stewardship Alliance and market organizer. “These markets have grown every year for the last eleven years and we’re really seeing that people understand and value what local farms and businesses can bring to a community.”

Shoppers were delighted to find a wide array of produce including sweet potatoes, carrots, cabbages, parsnips, turnips, radishes beets, cabbages, winter squashes, kale, swiss chard, herbs, and more. Local meats included pastured lamb, turkey, and pork, grass-fed beef, and holiday hams from farmers with a commitment to sustainability and humane practices.

 

Unique offerings, including watermelon radishes, fresh turmeric, and purple sweet potatoes opened up new ideas and possibilities for holiday meals.

Locally-grown and milled grains were available as well baked goods, honey, jams, relishes, hot sauces, bbq sauces, jerky, cheese, and other artisan food products.

Local spirits were also not to be outdone. Five Illinois wineries from Central Illinois showcased an impressive selection of grape and fruit wines, and Engrained Restaurant & Brewery rolled out their new line of bottled beers, many of which feature Illinois-grown hops.

Artisan vendors displayed everything from goats milk soap and leather jewelry to hand-knit caps and locally-spun alpaca wool knitting yarn.

Copper Pot Cooking Studio dished out hot ramen soup made with homemade rye noodles and seasonal veggies and protein sourced from farmer vendors at the market. Smoothies featuring local ingredients were also available from Smart-Natured, and coffee and hot chocolate from Custom Cup kept shoppers perky while they perused.

Kids activities featuring local llama wool beads were provided by Springfield Art Association.

For the second year in a row, the LINK Double Value Coupon Program was available at the Holiday Farmers Market and $381 was matched this season through a generous sponsorship by Central Baptist Church.  The Double Value Coupon Program makes fresh fruits and vegetables available to families of all income levels by matching every dollar that LINK recipients spend, up to $25, to use on fresh fruits and vegetables. This means LINK recipients could swipe their card for $25 and receive and additional $25 to use on produce, doubling their purchasing power and making wholesome holiday meals a real possibility.

The Springfield Holiday Farmers Markets are organized by Illinois Stewardship Alliance and were sponsored this year by 9 community-based businesses and organizations, including the Illinois Department of AgricultureSlow Food SpringfieldLRS (Levi, Ray, and Shoup)Illinois National BankIllinois Wine, the Bank of SpringfieldTroxell FinancialNew York Life, Central Baptist Church, and the Springfield Art Association. Additionally, without the help of 12 volunteers, market set up and data collection would not have been possible.

“We are immensely grateful for the support of Springfield businesses, volunteers, and shoppers and their commitment to making our community a vibrant, thriving place to live and work,” says Lindsay Keeney, market manager for Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “We’re looking forward to continuing to provide shoppers and farmers with chances to meet up over the winter through the Springfield Winter Farmers Markets.”

The Springfield Winter Farmers Markets, now entering their second season, will be held the 4th Saturday of each month January – April. The Winter Farmers Markets will take place from 9am – 12pm at the Third Presbyterian Church in Enos Park Neighborhood.