The United States Department of Agriculture has declared August 7-13, 2016 as National Farmers Market Week. In celebration, Illinois Stewardship Alliance and community partners are hosting farmers market related events throughout Springfield during the week. These events include everything from cooking classes and farm-to-table meals to special activities at the Old Capitol Farmers Market.

Farmers markets are more than just an outlet for fresh produce and friendly farmers. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics, these grassroots venues have increased in number by over 60% since 2009 to more than 8,500 today. These markets preserve farmland, stimulate local economies, increase access to fresh nutritious food, improve community health, and promote sustainability. For example, growers selling locally create thirteen full time farm operator jobs per $1 million in revenue earned while those that do not sell locally only create three.

The full schedule of events follows:

Monday, August 8

Farmers Market Cooking Class
Sangamon County Department of Public Health
2833 South Grand Avenue East.
5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Presented by HSHS St. John’s Hospital
Free—registration required
Limit of 20 people per class & you must call 217-814-4308 to register. Chefs from HSHS St. John’s Hospital will show people how to prepare the produce they are buying from the markets.

Tuesday, August 9

Robert’s Seafood Celebrates National Farmers Market Week
1615 W. Jefferson
7 – 9 a.m.
Come see what local foods you can find at Robert’s seafood and enjoy fresh cooked breakfast samples featuring locally raised eggs and bacon.

Wednesday, August 10

Old Capitol Farmers Market
4th and Adams Street
3 – 6:30 p.m.

    • Sangamo Club Chef Demo and Seasonal Cocktail available for purchase
    • Illinois Stewardship Alliance Market Information Booth: Food and Farm Jenga and Heirloom Tomato Tasting
    • Live Music: Dandelion Pickers
    • Grow Springfield Bicycle Smoothies

Local Flavors: National Farmers Market Week Edition  
Cooper’s StrEATside Bistro and Rolling Meadows Brewery
Parked at the Old Capitol Farmers Market
3 – 6:30 p.m.
Cooper’s StrEATside Bistro is cooking up farm-fresh fare featuring locally-grown ingredients, many from vendors at the market. Optional beer pairings with Rolling Meadows Brewery will also be available. For the full menu visit www.buyfreshbuylocalcentralillinois.org. Come enjoy a taste of central Illinois!

Buy Fresh Buy Local Day at Food Fantasies
1512 Wabash Ave
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Presented by Illinois Stewardship Alliance and Food Fantasies
Meet local farmer Gus Jones of Small Axe Market Gardens, sample seasonal produce, pick up recipe cards and ideas, and enjoy 10% off of all local products throughout the store.

Slow Food Springfield Meet-up at Driftwood Cocktails and Eatery
11 W Old State Capitol Plaza
6-8 p.m.
Learn more about Slow Food Springfield and mix and mingle with other members while enjoying a seasonal cocktail to benefit Slow Food Springfield.

Saturday, August 13

Old Capitol Farmers Market
4th and Adams Street
8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

    • Illinois Stewardship Alliance Market Information Booth: Food and Farm Jenga, Farmers Market Scavenger Hunt for Kids, and Farm Fresh Samples: Peaches and Granola with Yogurt
    • Bicycle Smoothies with Grow Springfield and YMCA
    • Bike Valet by Girl Scout Troops 6318 and 6824
    • Slow Food Springfield Farmers Market Photo Contest
    • Hula Hoops

Farmers Market Fresh Cooking Classes
Copper Pot Cooking Studio
916 W Laurel Street

  • Campfire Classic
    2-3 p.m.
    Enjoy a campfire class of “hobo meal” with local, seasonal veggies wrapped in tin foil.
    Kids age 3-5
  • Market Tacos
    3:30 – 5 p.m.
    Who doesn’t love tacos!? Tacos using fresh, seasonal veggies are even better!
    Kids age 6-12

“Farmers markets are often the only place for small and beginning farmers to sell their products and start to grow. When people come out to the farmers market, they are insuring that fresh fruits and vegetables and humanely raised meats and eggs continue to be a part of the landscape in Illinois” says Lindsay Miller, Old Capitol Farmers Market manager.

The Old Capitol Farmers Market was created in 1998 by Downtown Springfield Incorporated (DSI). This year, DSI entered into a new partnership with two additional local non-profit organizations, Illinois Stewardship Alliance and GenHkids, to jointly operate the Market, expand offerings, and create stronger collaborations throughout the community. The market currently features a total of 95 vendors throughout the season selling a wide variety of products, including heirloom tomatoes, kale, squash, peppers, peaches, berries, herbs, flower bouquets, pastured pork and poultry, free-range eggs, grass-fed beef, seasonal crepes, local melon shake-ups, jams, honey, and artisan handicrafts. Customers can expect to see about 50 vendors each Saturday morning between 8 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. and 30 vendors each Wednesday afternoon between 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

In addition, the Old Capitol Farmers Market accepts SNAP/EBT cards and offers a match of up to $25 for SNAP recipients to use on produce through the Double Value Coupon program. This means SNAP recipients who purchase $10 worth of tokens to use at the Market will receive an additional $10 to purchase fruits and vegetables, for a total of $20. The Double Value Coupon program makes fresh produce more affordable for limited income households, while also putting more dollars back into the hands of local farmers and the local economy. SNAP recipients have generated more than $3,600 dollars in sales this year.

“Farmers markets play a vital role in forming healthy, local food systems,” says Jen Cheek, Executive Director of the Farmers Market Coalition. “By providing the opportunity for farmers to connect directly with consumers, markets serve as education centers. Vendors are teaching customers about agriculture, sharing recipes, and exposing them to new foods. Markets are making people and communities stronger and healthier.”