The Old Capitol Farmers Market wrapped up its 19th season this year with growing numbers. The second year of Market data collection program not only revealed increased sales and attendance, but also the ways in which the Market contributes to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of the Springfield community.
- NEW record: 65,856 total adult and child visitors (10% increase!)
- NEW record: $23,377 spent by SNAP customers at OCFM (43% increase!)
- NEW record: $11,839 Credit/Debit transactions at the Market Booth (13% increase!)
- 60 Local & Family-Owned Businesses
- 38.9 miles one way for your food to get to you
- 30% Women-Owned Businesses
- 1733 lbs of fresh produce donated
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 70 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 it,” says market manager Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant. “Shoppers can find everything from green zebra-striped heirloom tomatoes specially bred to grow in this region to homemade blueberry donuts made by local bakers using blueberries grown in the Springfield area. But the market is so much more than a great place to shop, it’s also a great investment in the community.”
The Old Capitol Farmers Market serves as an economic engine for Springfield, providing a venue for new farmers and small businesses to enter into the marketplace and keeping food dollars in the Springfield community. While 95% of the food available in Illinois is imported from out of state–meaning 95% of our food dollars flowing out of the state–the Market provides a space to capture those dollars, reinvest them in the community, and grow small businesses. This year, two vendors from the 2017 season of the Market opened new brick-and-mortar locations on Adams Street, including Buzz Bomb Brewing Co. and the Itty Bitty Fashion Truck.
While total sales counts are not available, credit and debit transactions at the Market Booth resulted in $11,839 worth of sales, a 13% increase from 2017. According to the National Farmers Market Coalition, sales at locally owned businesses infuse three times more back into the local economy than chain retailers.
The Market also generated $12,445 in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) sales–a 43% increase from last year!– and matched $10,932 of those sales, for a total of $23,377 dollars that were invested directly back into the pockets of local farms and businesses. The SNAP Match program ensures that families of all income levels across Springfield have access to fresh, wholesome food and that SNAP dollars stay local. This year a new partnership with the Junior League of Springfield helped increase the capacity for staffing, program planning, and data collection for the SNAP program. Funding for the program is made possible through the Link-Up Illinois Grant offered by Experimental Station.
In terms of environmental capital, the farmers at the Old Capitol Farmers Market manage diverse fruit, vegetable, and livestock operations. On average, farmers and food vendors at the Market travel 38.9 miles one way to bring their products to market, a carbon footprint that is significantly less than that of food on grocery shelves, which travels an average of 1200 miles.
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 new farm vendors to verify that all products are grown by the farmers and not purchased from wholesale auctions or out-of-state, ensuring that all dollars stay local and truly support area family farms.
Lastly, with regards to social impact, the Market remains one of the main attractions to the downtown area. This year the Market received 3 accolades: Best Fresh Produce and Best Weekend Activity by the State Journal-Register, and Best Free Entertainment by Illinois Times. According to visitor counts recorded this year, 65,856 total adult and children visited the market this year (an average of 2634 each Saturday) with a record-shattering 7299 patrons on opening day, May 19th. 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 chef demonstrations featuring chefs demos and samples, family fitness activities featuring local gyms and yoga studios, and live music featuring local musicians. In addition, St. John’s Hospital offered free health screenings, and a number of community groups offered services such as free books from the Land of Lincoln Book Share, meditation with the Student Yoga and Mindfulness Project, and a weekly local business spotlight coordinated by Downtown Springfield Inc.
Thanks to a new gleaning program in partnership with GenHKids during 10 Market dates from July 25th – Oct. 3rd, farmers were able to provide 1733lbs of fresh produce for low-income families throughout Springfield, furthering the Market as a driver of social good.
Finally, the Old Capitol Farmers Market was supported by 1000+ staff hours and 77 unique volunteers who contributed time each week to help with attendance counts for the Market. The large number of volunteers that contributed their time and effort this year suggests that the Springfield community truly values the Market and all that it means to Springfield.
The Market is Sponsored by HSHS St. John’s Hospital and provided by Downtown Springfield Inc. in cooperation with Illinois Stewardship Alliance and the Springfield Area Arts Council. For more information about the Old Capitol Farmers Market or how to get involved, visit www.facebook.com/oldcapitolfarmersmarket.
New this year, the Market season has been extended! The indoor Holiday & Winter Farmers Markets are now taking place once a month, November – April, at the State House Inn on 101 E. Adams Street in downtown Springfield. For the full schedule and more information visit www.facebook.com/oldcapitolfarmersmarket.