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The start of the Springfield farmers market season is just around the corner, but one key feature is lacking just two weeks shy of opening weekend: the vendors.
The market will be open for business on Saturday, June 7, but Sr. Claire McGowan, founder of the New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, said the search is still on to find vendors to fill what is remaining of the 14 total spaces downtown.
In order to do so, some changes in restrictions have been made to accommodate a wider range of vendors. Among those changes, those selling items will not be required to pay the $15 per day or $50 per season fee that has been mandatory in years past.
“The point is to develop more vendors who will be successful and realize they like doing it and will be confident to come back next year,” McGowan said.
She also said there is a bit of a “chicken and egg” game when it comes to the farmers market, which may have made some potential vendors wary of getting involved.
“Growers don’t want to grow it unless they’re sure the customers want to buy it. Customers don’t want to come unless they’re sure they can get what they want,” she said.
“I always say the grower should go first and put the product out there. You have to convince the customer you’re a reliable source.”
For those who decide to turn a profit on the items they’ve raised, McGowan said it can be a very worthwhile business venture.
“You can make reasonably good money down there,” she said. “Somebody who puts out the effort and makes their product look good can probably bring in an extra $3,000 to $5,000 in a season.”
On the flip side, the changes may lead to less predictability within the market, but they open the door to small-time growers who may just want to part with excess products.
“If somebody has 100 extra pounds of potatoes from their home garden and they want to go down there one week and sell them, they’ll be able to do that,” McGowan said.
With other restrictions being lessened, the market will now become a 100 percent homegrown industry. While 70 percent of vendors’ items were required to be raised by the seller themselves in the past, all items must now be grown at home.
As far as the consumer side of the market, McGowan said there’s plenty of evidence that they want more readily available organic items, including the success of last month’s inaugural Green Festival.
“People loved that Green Festival and they particularly talked about the Blue Bird Cafe’s food and how fresh and wonderful that was,” she said. “I think we’ve kind of turned a corner and people are realizing that taking care of our land and taking care of our bodies is worth a whole lot, economically and otherwise.”
She also pointed out that the farmers market offers a more personal touch than the typical grocery store experience.
“For those who come down, it’s like a community event,” McGowan said. “You come down and chat with your friends, mosey around and see what’s there and go home with a couple of bags of meat and produce. It’s a different kind of experience than going to a store.”
Guidelines for 2014 Springfield farmers market
• The pavilion will be available for use on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon and on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. between June 7 and Sept. 27.
• Vendors must reside in Washington County.
• Vendors must grow or craft themselves the products that they sell. Flea market products are strictly prohibited.
• Vendors must provide their own tables and chairs and fit within one designated space (spaces are 10 ft. by 10 ft.).
• Booth spaces will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
• Booth spaces must be left cleaner than when the vendor arrived.
• Vendors are encouraged to market their products online in order to attract customers to the market.