The Old Capitol Farmers Market on 4th and Adams in Springfield lies just a block away from our office, conveniently close for our newest endeavor: managing the market! I’ve been going to the Wednesday Market regularly since I moved to Springfield almost 3 years ago and it is always the highlight of my day. I never fail to come back with armfuls of goodness: bouquets of locally grown flowers to brighten up my desk, berries and radishes to snack on, Custom Cup Coffee, homemade croissants, and fresh lettuce for dinner in the evening. I LOVE farmers markets, and I love OUR market.
So when our Executive Director, Lindsay Record, told me that we had the opportunity to manage the market this year, I almost couldn’t contain my excitement. Promoting and supporting farmers markets has been our jam ever since the beginning years of the Alliance in 1974. Back then, when our offices were located in southern Illinois, we played a leading role in starting up the Carbondale Farmers Market. Fast forward to 2010, we moved locations to be closer to the Capitol and we started working to champion legislation that would further help build local markets and support local farmers, including the Cottage Food Act in 2012 and the Smarter Rules for Farmers Markets Bill in 2015. In 2014, we updated our Guide to Illinois Laws Governing Direct Farm Marketing to make it easier for farmers to understand how to comply with laws regulating farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer sales. On top of that, we’ve partnered with the Illinois Farmers Market Association on various initiatives and have helped give farmers a voice in the Illinois Farmers Market Task Force (which is a Governor-appointed task force updating farmers market regulations). Finally, the Alliance has been organizing the very successful Holiday Farmers Markets in Springfield for the past 8 seasons to help farmers earn extra income in the winter months by filling a niche that wasn’t being met in our area.
So yeah, farmers markets are kind of our thing. And now, we have the opportunity to really have our feet on the ground, so to speak, and we couldn’t be happier. This winter we updated the market policies to focus on making the market a truly local affair so that Old Capitol Farmers Market shoppers can feel confident knowing that the items they buy at the market honestly support local farmers. We’ve also been working on grants for extra funding and setting up a new online registration system to make it easier for our farmers to apply to our market, but to also make it easier for shoppers to look up information about the vendors, what they will have available, and where they are located each week. And if there are any questions, shoppers can always come find us at the Information Tent where we will be posted up every Wednesday and Saturday to provide EBT services as well as track important data that will help with market planning in future years.
Plans are underway to make the 2016 season one of the best seasons yet, but that couldn’t be done without Downtown Springfield Incorporated and GenHKids who have both been amazing partners and are dedicated to growing a bustling, vibrant, community-centered market as much as we are. With brilliant marketing and city planning from Downtown Springfield Incorporated and awesome kids activities and entertainment from GenHkids, plus amazingly fresh local food from local farmers that you can feel good about buying from, you’re not going to want to miss a single market. We hope you’ll join us every Saturday from 8:00am – 12:30pm and every Wednesday at our NEW TIME from 3:00pm – 6:30pm. The Market kicks off on Wednesday, May 11th and runs through the end of October.
We’ll see you there!