SHERIDAN — Today is the final day of National Farmers Market Week, an event locally sponsored and organized by the Downtown Sheridan Association. The event is meant to spotlight the economic importance of farmers markets to local agricultural producers and communities.
The DSA celebrated with a variety of events at the Sheridan Farmers Market Thursday, including homemade pie, watermelon eating and rooster crowing contests.
However, Bonnie Gregory, project manager for the market, said the benefits of our local events extend well beyond the week and even the season. It is a community service that allows for communication between consumers and producers and keeps local dollars in local hands.
“Our market is continually growing and we are excited to see that people are embracing and supporting fresh, local food and local artists,” Gregory said. “I think our community is becoming more invested in locally sourcing their food and wanting to know where it comes from.”
According to the Wyoming Business Council’s Agribusiness Division, Wyoming farmers markets contributed more than $2.2 million to the state’s economy in 2012, a valuable economic boost for local producers, the region and the state.
On a national level, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has 8,144 farmers markets listed in its directory, up almost 4 percent from last year. Thirty-seven of those are in Wyoming.
Because each farmers market participant is responsible for their own sales, Gregory said she did not have exact figures on how much money the market has made this year, but did note that sales have been brisk.
“The producers every market so far this year have sold out,” she said.
“We are way under what the demand is,” echoed Brad Holliday, owner of Holliday Family Farm. “We are pretty much selling out. There are more people looking to buy fresh vegetables than are available right now.”
Holliday has been participating in the market for two years and sells a variety of vegetables as well as whole, frozen chickens.
“I think it is very beneficial,” he said. “It gives us an outlet for our excess veggies and gives us advertising so people can get to know us and how the food is grown. It is also a great chance to meet with other producers, trade ideas and see how they are doing things. From our point of view it is a good deal. The community has really supported it. It has just been a good outlet for us.”
The market began in 2001 with just six vendors. This year, there are more than 50 vendors selling grass fed beef, pastured poultry and pork, honey, various produce, bakery items, crafts and more.
While the number of vendors has grown in recent years, Gregory said there is always room for more, especially for vendors selling produce, which is in high demand. She said even community or backyard gardeners are encouraged to grow a few extra plants to offer for sale. At just $10 a table per market, there is opportunity to make some extra money just by dedicating a few extra feet in your garden to growing for the market.
Of course, if there are producers, there needs to be buyers as well.
“I would like to challenge each household in Sheridan County to commit to spending at least $50 of their planned expenditures a month at the farmers market,” Gregory said in a recent press release, noting that if so, $697,450 would circulate back within the community.
“When those farmers and artisans spend those dollars again, that amount is multiplied and would generate somewhere between $3.5 and $4.9 million in sales,” she said in the release. “What a great benefit to everyone that lives here.”
Farmers markets are held each Thursday on Grinnell Street and the final farmers market of the season will be held Sept. 14 at the Sheridan County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the Powder River Basin Resource Council.