Local farmers markets to be assessed by Market Ventures

By Shannon Allen, @ShannonAllen_DE

Carbondale was awarded $34,500 through four grant programs to analyze local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, according to Interim City Manager Gary Williams.

The grants were awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Nutrition Service Agency in an effort to expand farmers markets both locally and nationally.

Kathy Ward, a local organic farmer and vegan caterer, said the grants will help farmers expand their markets.

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“We really needed this grant,” said Ward, a retired SIUC professor. “We all need to work, grow and sell together.”

The grants go toward completing an economic feasibility study and market assessment of the Carbondale farmers’ markets, according to the USDA. The purpose of these grants is to analyze farmers’ product distribution and decide if they need to distribute more supplies for their demands.

Food Works, the Neighborhood Co-Op and Carbondale Farmer’s Market created the grant application, according to Williams.

“One of the goals is to encourage greater consumption of healthy foods,” Williams said. “Our main focus is to see how much business local farmers are doing and see if there is an opportunity for them to grow.”

Williams said farmers profit mostly from direct-to-consumer versus selling their products to wholesale or retail.

“We are excited that local farmers markets have been around here for 39 years,” Williams said. “We want to help farmers manage day-to-day business.”

Angie Kuehl, a member of the board of directors for the Illinois Farmers Markets Association, said there is an increased demand for local, organically-raised food versus conventional food.

“Part of this study is to collect data to prove that there is a need for farmers markets,” Kuehl said. “Us folks who actually dig into the ground know these things.”

Kuehl, former market manager of Carbondale Community Farmers Market, is currently a beekeeper and farmer in Carbondale. She said there is a need to get the community to eat healthy and know where food is from.    

“This grant is a huge step in that direction because more resources will be brought to Carbondale to analyze the need to expand local food exports,” she said. 

The assessment will be completed by February and will be conducted by consultants who specialize in working with farmers markets from Market Ventures in Portland, Maine, according to Williams.

Shannon Allen can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ShannonAllen_DE

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