Delaware News

Farmers market more than just fruits, veggies

Social aspect of city's semiweekly event attracts growing crowds

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At Main Street Delaware's Farmers Market, the stopping and talking can be just as important as the buying and selling.

Frances Jo Hamilton, executive director of Main Street Delaware, said the semiweekly markets, which kicked off their 2014 schedule late last month, have become community gathering places. She said visitors young and old are drawn to downtown Delaware on Wednesday afternoons and, especially, Saturday mornings.

"Our Saturday markets have really become like a social activity," she said.

Hamilton said even if residents aren't buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the market's vendors, they may be stopping for dinner at a downtown restaurant or making a purchase at a downtown business after they stop at the market to chat with friends.

The markets will run from 3 to 6 p.m. every Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday through the final week of October.

Hamilton said the market, held on North Sandusky Street, can stretch from William Street to Central Avenue on busy Saturdays.

The Wednesday market tends to attract fewer vendors, and more customers looking to quickly grab items for dinner.

"The Wednesday market is a little bit of a different crowd," she said.

Hamilton said no major changes are in store for the market this season. She said she would like to hire someone to give walking tours of the market, informing visitors about some of the more obscure fruits and vegetables sold and some of their possible uses.

The proper "tour guide" for the market has not yet been found, Hamilton said.

She said one of the reasons the market has been so successful is the value it offers to its vendors.

Vendors do not need to register, only to show up at the market and pay a $10 fee that covers both markets that week. They also are allowed to set up at Main Street Delaware's downtown First Friday events at no extra charge.

Hamilton said the lack of red tape helps Main Street's market stand out from other local markets. She said food vendors often are taken aback at Main Street's laid-back approach at welcoming them.

"A lot of times it's a little confusing for them for it to be that simple," she said.

The market does have stiffer regulations for its artisan vendors. Craft items cannot make up more than 15 percent of the market and must go through a juried selection process.

Along with attracting a variety of vendors, Hamilton said, the markets attract a diverse group of customers. Attendance from one group of customers has been bolstered by a voucher program.

"We're seeing an abundance of seniors coming downtown," Hamilton said.

The Council for Older Adults of Delaware County annually provides vouchers worth up to $60 to seniors age 60 or older for use at farmers markets in Delaware, Powell and Sunbury. Hamilton said she's been informed in previous years by the council that up to two-thirds of the vouchers distributed are used at the Delaware market.

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