With the temperatures plummeting below 0 and the winds howling from the north it’s time to get the seed catalogs out and dream of spring and a garden full of produce. Or if you don’t grow all the vegetables you want, the people of the Columbia City Farmer’s Market are also preparing for spring.
The Columbia City Farmer’s Market is held every Saturday morning, 8:00-12:30, from May 9th until October 17th around the Courthouse Square in Columbia City, and on Wednesday afternoons from 4-6 in the parking lot of Parkview Hospital at Highways 30 and 205. The market is one of the largest in northern Indiana. There are approximately 55 vendors and over 1000 shoppers on a typical Saturday.
When you visit the market on a Saturday morning it appears as if it had sprung up like mushrooms overnight. But actually the market is the result of year-around planning and work by the vendors, the board of directors, and Market Master Chris Lilly.
Behind the scenes the Market Master and the board recruit vendors and work with our state legislators. They work to create food safety rules that don’t overly burden the vendors while still insuring the food sold at the market is safe. Recently Chris Lilly has worked with state senator Jim Banks on the rules to make it possible to sell farm-processed poultry at the market, and for egg vendors to have a simplified process to get approved to sell eggs.
When you shop at the market you’ll notice the variety of goods sold. There are produce vendors, meat and poultry vendors, and people selling eggs. There is barbeque sauce, baked goods, honey, and jams and jellies. There is also a wide variety of arts and crafts offered for sale. All that variety didn’t happen by accident. Chris Lilly and the board carefully select and balance the mix of vendors and what they offer so there’s something for everyone shopping at the market.
Any vendor at the market can accept SNAP benefits (food stamps) for practically any food item except hot food. The market board is pursuing a government grant that will match SNAP benefits dollar for dollar. WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) benefits are also accepted, but that program is more restrictive on what can be purchased with those benefits. Any vendor at the market will be able to help explain how to use these benefits or to help you find the people at the market who can answer questions on these programs.
The Columbia City Farmers Market more than a place to buy lettuce. It is a community asset that connects local farmers with people who want to buy wholesome locally produced food. It’s an economic lifeline for those farmers, and the money the market earns by renting space to vendors is poured back into the community. The beautiful flower baskets that grace downtown Columbia City are paid for in part by the rental fees the vendors pay.
This cold weather won’t last forever. Spring, and vegetables, are coming.
One day’s purchases from the market in 2014, cabbage, crusty French bread, hot peppers, bell peppers, eggplant, and locally grown ginger.