USDA Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack has declared August 2-8, 2015 as National Farmers Market Week. In celebration, Springfield-area organizations and businesses have joined forces to host a variety of special events. The week’s activities kick off on Sunday, August 2nd with a Crop Mob to provide help for a local farmer and continue throughout the week with cooking classes, a farmer’s market Paint Nite, book fair, community garden work days, and a farm-to-table progressive dinner in Downtown Springfield to top off the festivities on Saturday, August 8th. The events aim to raise awareness for Springfield’s four farmers markets and the importance that they play in creating healthy, vibrant communities.
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 nearly 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 Farmers Market Coalition, a national organization dedicated to supporting farmers markets, recently released a series of fact sheet detailing the many other impacts of markets.
“Farmers markets benefit our community in so many ways,” says Lindsay Record, program director at Illinois Stewardship Alliance. “They provide access to fresh, locally grown food, provide a sense of community and are an important outlet for small family farmers to sell their produce, meat, eggs and more.“
Springfield itself is host to four farmers markets per week that boast a wide variety of fresh, locally grown produce, including many unique varieties ranging from miniature “fairy-tale” eggplants to purple carrots and yellow-striped heirloom tomatoes. In celebration of National Farmers Market Week, market-goers can also expect to enjoy cooking demonstrations, kids activities, and plenty of samplings and give-aways at each of the markets during their normal market hours.
- East Side Farmers Market at 2833 South Grand Avenue E. on Mondays, 2-6pm
- Old Capitol Farmers Market at 4th and Adams St. on Wednesdays and Saturdays, 8am-12:30pm
- Illinois Product Farmers Market at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Thursdays, 4-7pm
“Downtown Springfield, Inc., recognizes the hard work shown by the vendors in order to continually bring fresh, locally grown produce and other specialty products to consumers. The Old Capitol Farmers Market is a longstanding favorite event in the community and adds vitality and economic stability to our downtown area,” says Ann Frescura, promotion and events director of Downtown Springfield, Inc, the sponsoring organization of the Old Capitol Farmers Market.
National Farmers Market Week events in Springfield are brought to you by Illinois Stewardship Alliance, a statewide non-profit organization supporting local food and sustainable agriculture, in partnership with the Chatham Public Library, Downtown Springfield, Inc., Food Fantasies, genHkids, Grow Springfield, HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois Farmers Market Association, Robert’s Seafood, and U of I Extension