Annual Carbondale community winter market continues despite COVID-19 restrictions
March 16, 2021
Carbondale’s annual Winter Farmers market looks a bit different this year. A new location and fewer vendors are some of the changes made to ensure the safety for vendors and customers.
Libby Ervin, the market manager of the Winter Farmers Market, has worked with the community and vendors in trying to provide a safe and efficient winter market.
“This year we tried to abide by COVD-19 protocol to make sure we could provide the community with the produce and goods they want, but in the safest way possible,” Ervin said.
By implementing new rules and regulations, there were cuts made to the amount of vendors present, Ervin said.
“We cut back the amount of vendors that are featured every week; typically we have 24 vendors, though, as of now we have 12 each week,” Ervin said.
University Mall was open to having the market and there was enough room to host the event safely and the location for the market this year was well thought out, Ervin said.
“The market is located in the movie theater wing in University Mall, it gives customers and vendors plenty of room to browse and talk in a safe manner,” Ervin said. “Our old location was at the high school, since the school can no longer host separate events indoors or out, we set up shop at the mall. The set up coincides well with the rest of the mall, mall goers can browse at their targeted stores then make their way to the market.”
An online ordering system was also introduced last year, Ervin said.
“We now offer online purchasing of goods and curbside pick up, we have a program through our website where customers can order their products and schedule a preferred pick up time,” Ervin said. “It’s an additional safety measure that’s worked really well.”
In addition to the online ordering system SNAP benefits are now accepted by the market.
“Through the online option we now offer SNAP benefits to purchase goods, in doing this we can provide more people with fresh and local goods,” Ervin said. “Rather than paying through the website, customers using SNAP will pay in person.”
In the winter months, many people think fresh produce and quality meat aren’t available, that’s totally false, according to Ervin.
“Vendors offer everything from local produce, chicken, pork, bison, beef, and fish to hand made crafts and locally harvested honey,” Ervin said. “ Access to these types of products is still available in harsh weather conditions like we’ve had.”
Vendor Brent Glays, a poultry farmer from The Flock Farm based in Anna, has been participating in farmers markets for four years. Glays and his wife own a small family owned farm offering a wide variety of poultry.
“We provide certified animal welfare grass fed lamb and goat as well as pastured poultry, our chickens are slow growing and we use a non-GMO grain, ” Glays said. “It’s pretty fancy lamb, chicken and goat.”
Producing poultry in the right way is the most important thing to Flock Farm.
“We wanna eat meat, I didn’t want to give it up but I wanted to do it in the right way,” Glays said. “We took the time in getting the right amount of land, providing adequate shelter and making sure the animals always have access to fresh water.”
Despite changes in the past year business for The Flock farm hasn’t slowed down, said Glays.
“We’re used to having outdoor markets, it’s different, but the outcome has been great,” Glays said. “Everyone was apprehensive at first, but everyone has been respectful. We haven’t had any issues at all.”
Winter markets are generally slower compared to the spring and summer markets, according to Glays.
“It is a new location, so getting the word out is the biggest obstacle,” Glays said.
There are fruit and vegetable farmers making homemade fruit, vegetable and flower based products at the market. Derek Ervin and event coordinator Libbey Ervin got married and then inherited a farm from a family member Glaciers End farm, where they operate from.
“We have everything from pepper jellies to hot sauces to fruit syrups,” Derek Ervin said. “We grow a lot of Elderberry, since it’s local to the area, it’s one of our most popular items.”
A lot of the products made by Glaciers End are made from native plants that grow on the Glaciers End property, Derek Ervin said.
“We use a lot of honeysuckle and blackberry, a lot of the ingredients grow naturally on our property,” Derek Ervin said.
As far as the cooking and making of products, Derek Ervin does it all.
“We are what’s called cottage food, it allows farmers to create food products in their own kitchen then sell them at farmers markets only,” Derek Ervin said. “There is a bill coming to the Illinois legislature that will expand that. That would allow us to mail our products within state lines and open up more room for new customers.”
Staff reporter Sara Wangler can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @sara_Wangler. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.