Farmers Markets

~by Lee Edgren
courtesy photos

“Shopping at a farmers market is like gardening without all of the hard work,” says Brown County’s David Seastrom. “The experience reminds me of attending a music or art festival, and it’s fair to say a farmers market is a food festival.”

Brown County is blessed with two weekly markets. The Nashville Indiana Farmers Market enters its second year on Sunday, May 6 (open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays until October 28), while the Bean Blossom Farmers Market begins its sixth year Friday, May 25 (open 4 to 7 p.m., Fridays until August 31).

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The magic arises as the community comes together—shoppers, growers, artisans, and musicians. It just wouldn’t be Brown County if there weren’t live music. But just as music festivals depend on an amazing amount of varied work, so does the magic of the markets.
Both markets are entirely organized by volunteers. And both markets are seeking more volunteers. Just as growing food is labor intensive, so is conducting a market. Torrie Rae anecdotally describes the coming together of the Nashville Farmer’s Market: “Elizabeth Voland initially spearheaded the market by herself. It was a monumental task. She approached Deborah Herring, one of the owners of the Brown County Inn, who assisted with incorporation and funding and also made the inn parking lot available for a Sunday market.”

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She adds that Hilary Key, owner of The Toy Chest, is volunteering to work with children’s programming (which will start off with face painting and “huge bubbles”), Jayme Hood with music, Sara Dye with growers, Kara Hammes with handbooks and more. Torrie Rae, whose passion for seeds and growing is seemingly boundless, has taken on the position of Market Master this year. “While I volunteer an enormous number of hours, having a small stipend underscores the contribution of the markets to the local economy.”

County commissioners supported the markets by listening to market organizers who requested a reduction in the amount the county charges for a vendors’ license. They reduced it to a $25-per-season fee that even small growers can afford.

Both markets have procedures that allow SNAP purchases. Both have procedures for incorporating hand-made goods in the market, according to each market’s guidelines. And both have educational and not-for-profit opportunities for participation. Vendors can sign up for a season or by week.

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The Bean Blossom Market was initially started by St. David’s Episcopal Church’s Outreach Committee but is now a separate committee with active vendor participation on the board.

The Bean Blossom market will again feature the popular St. David’s food booth, aka St. David’s Bistro. “This year, it will be inside to make a better experience for our guests, people are also welcome to dine in the outdoor sitting area. There will be a fresh menu each week featuring foods from our vendors. And as always, we’ll have our Children’s Day with a bounce house (June 1), and the Strawberry Festival (June 8), and Rummage Sale in August.”

The inclusion of children in all phases of the market is unquestionably part of the magic. Torrie Rae notes, “Our market meetings are held at the library with our kids buzzing around. They are incorporated in our decision making. We want the markets to be a place where they can both be themselves and celebrate our community.”

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Cori notes that St. David’s has a children’s garden and a playground, with birdhouses, and planting space for fruits, vegetables, and herbs. “At the beginning of the season we plant a garden with the children. We have kids’ activities every Friday: fun, educational ways to get kids excited about growing food. We always have crafts and almost every week a special program. Harvesting is the exciting time, when they get to pick beans, strawberries, and herbs. Last year, we grew catnip, and the kids made cat toys with catnip in them.”

Jim Schultz, a “retired” business man who is involved in many aspects of community including historic preservation and local economic development, sums it up this way: A farmers’ market contributes to, “local jobs, local economy, employed citizens, a healthier population, and economic growth. If you value a person’s food cost at $10 per day, with a population of 15,000 people, your annual value to the local economy is $55 million. How much of that can we produce locally? If this was an economic play for a company to relocate here, how much would we incentivize for a revenue stream of $5 million a year? $10 million? Then add the health benefits and you have a winner.”

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Torrie Rae speaks of both markets. ”We’re both part of a larger vision of a local food initiative. And we really hope the larger community will help us create an environment that we all love—a vital place for everyone. We see the market as a place for all of us together, where we have a market that reflects our future. It’s a thread to our tapestry. The goal is to support both producers and consumers.”