The Herald Bulletin

March 9, 2013

Farm fresh

Marketplaces benefit farmers, buyers and community

By Baylee Pulliam
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — Madison County’s newest market is a little against the grain.

On most Saturdays beginning in June and possibly running through September, the city will host the Anderson City Market at the Athletic Park on East 8th Street, which it hopes to fill with artists, entertainers and vendors selling crafts, produce, honey and other farm-fresh food stuffs.

According to some local growers, that could have benefits for farmers, buyers and the community.

Good for the farmer

“This is going to be a great place for local entrepreneurs to go sell their goods,” said Jody Townsend, who’s helping to manage the development of the market on the city’s end.

While the city hasn’t yet signed any vendors — who will pay $10 a week or $75 for the season — she said she expects a big draw at an info session set for March 21 at the main fire station, 5812 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

“But we’ll have plenty of room at Athletic Park,” she said. “And we’ve seen a lot of interest so far.”

For example, Melody DeLury, who raises chickens and goats on the Anderson-based Solstice Sun Farm she owns with husband Neil. She said she plans to sell goat milk products, such as lotions and soap.

“Making the soap is fun,” she said. “But selling it is a way to break even. It helps cover the costs of feeding and caring for the animals.”

A farm is a business, after all, and their owners are businesspeople.

“Local growers are always looking for outlets to sell,” said Jeremiah Priest, who coordinates the Henry County market. He’s also a member of the Hoosier Harvest Council, which works to expand the opportunities for agricultural producers in the Central Indiana area to sell what they produce locally.

For some farmers, Townsend said, “this is their main source of income. They need a place to sell.”

Good for the buyer

Because farmers have to cover their costs of production, produce likely won’t come cheap for farmers’-market buyers.

But that’s not to say prices aren’t reasonable. In fact, many studies — such as one by students at Seattle University — have found farmers’ market produce often costs less than at supermarkets.

Another cost advantage for buyers, according to the Farmers’ Market Coalition, is that farmers’ market food can often be bought in bulk at peak harvest season, to either “preserve or freeze for later use when the product would otherwise be more expensive, hard to find, or of lower quality.”

For the most part, cash is the preferred method of payment, however many now accept credit cards and federal money such as that from Women, Infant and Children (WIC), the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Almost 2,500 farmers’ markets were authorized to accept SNAP as of late 2011, according to the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Benefits Redemption Division. And the number of SNAP recipients taking advantage is on the rise, increasing by 55 percent between 2010 and 2011.

That’s good, Priest said, because it increases access to fresh produce and gives buyers an opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from.

“You actually get to meet the person growing your food,” he said. “You can ask them about their growing practices and whether or not they use pesticides. That’s something you don’t get at the supermarket.”

Good for the community

Farmers are often willing to travel to find a good market to sell their goods. For example, Priest says, he sold his honey products in four different area markets last year.

But they don’t go too far.

According to a 2006 USDA survey, more than half of farmers traveled less than 10 miles to their market, and 85 percent of farmers market vendors traveled fewer than 50 miles to sell at a farmers market in 2008.

That means “what’s being sold there is local,” Townsend said. “It’s mostly (Central Indiana) farmers, a lot from Madison County, who’ll see the benefits.”

As a result, farmers’ markets often draw lots of people — growers and buyers, alike — from surrounding counties. That’s a little boost for the local economy, Townsend said.

“This is a good thing for the city,” Townsend said, adding the market will be more than just a place for commerce.

The city will let artists and craftspeople show their goods alongside the produce, and is considering opening the space to food trucks. Musicians can come and play free of charge.

“We want this to be an experience, where people can come and walk around, talk, hear some music, get food, and all kinds of things,” she said. “We want it to be fun.”

Find Baylee Pulliam on Facebook, @BayleeNPulliam on Twitter or call 648-4250.