Farmers markets are a tradition with hundreds of years of history, but the organizers of the Worthington Farmers Market believe they can keep evolving the concept.
The Worthington market has been held since 1987 and has gone through several iterations over the years. For its 31st year, the market is expanding, extending its hours and welcoming new types of vendors.
Market manager Jaime Moore said she is "super excited" to debut the changes at the first outdoor market of the season Saturday, May 5. The market had been indoors at the Shops at Worthington Place for the winter.
"This feels like a year where we have a lot of change going on and a lot of growth," she said.
The market is set up along High Street in Old Worthington, and this year it will expand to the east side of High Street in front of the Worthington United Methodist Church, 600 High St.
Moore said the expansion on the south end of the market should help reduce "pinch points" of heavy foot traffic.
"For a long time we had talked about this lawn space in front of the church, and now to actually have it come through ... it creates sort of a full circle around the district," she said.
Visitors also will have an extra hour to browse the market in June, July and August.
The market will run from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays during those months as a "pilot program." Markets in May, September and October will operate during the usual times of 8 a.m. to noon.
Moore said adding the extra hour after noon was a sensible decision.
"Most markets of our size are anywhere from five to seven hours, if not longer," she said. "We're just such a large market that you just need more time to enjoy the whole thing."
In addition to parents who are "very busy early Saturday mornings" with children's activities, Moore said, she hopes to attract more marketgoers of younger generations with the extra hour.
"We've started to see a big change in some of the demographics (at the market)," she said. "At 11:30, we start seeing some younger people walking around the market, so we're hoping to give them a better opportunity to shop."
Moore also said she hopes the hour will provide "just enough time" to alleviate some of the parking issues as waves of cars go in and out of the area.
The expanded space and extended hours for June, July and August bring an opportunity to add what Moore called "a bunch of really new and creative products" to the market.
New vendor options will include homemade mustard, pasta sauce, paleolithic-diet foods and protein bars, boutique soaps and a vegan bakery.
Moore said the addition of "a lot of really cool, new people" is always a plus, though even she is surprised by the variety at the farmers market these days.
"It's constantly changing," she said. "I can't say exactly what I thought the market would be and exactly what it would look like, but I think we respond to our competition – what are younger people looking for and what appeals to them.
"You read articles all across the country and studies that are being done on the changing customers of the farmers market and what people are looking for versus what the farmers market used to be 10 years ago. Food is changing rapidly right now; it's unbelievable."
Another part of that evolution will be an increased focus on nonfood health.
The market recently introduced monthly yoga on the Village Green. This year, the market will partner with the Worthington Community Center to offer a variety of fitness classes on the first and third Saturdays of each month for a "market fit" program.
An instructor from the community center will teach a free class, ranging from Zumba to tai chi, from 8 to 9 a.m. A schedule of classes will be available online each month.
Moore said the combination of fitness and healthful food makes sense.
"A healthy lifestyle seems like an appropriate fit for the farmers market," she said. "We're excited to be able to say, 'You're buying good food and being healthy and eating local, but here's a next step.' "
Annina Parini, the executive director of the Old Worthington Partnership, which runs the farmers market, said Moore's "very professional" guidance of the market has helped it flourish and she is proud organizers are "constantly looking to innovate and make the market better."
But she knows that in a community where the market is "integral" to the city, maintaining a high-quality market is "a lot of responsibility," she said.
"The Worthington Farmers Market is the first thing people think of when they think of Worthington because we're the longest-standing market in the area," Parini said. "It's almost synonymous with the city.
"I think that's probably what most residents would say they're most proud of. Say you have guests in from out of town. What do you do? You take them to the farmers market."
Moore said she is aware of those high expectations and is looking forward to showing off the new features of the market, even to those who have known it for decades.
"I hope people come out and really enjoy what we're trying to offer," she said. "I hope they see some of the changes and they appreciate that next level of the farmers market."
For more information about the farmers market, go to worthingtonfarmersmarket.com.