Carbondale Community Farmers Market has new hours. Here’s what that means for students

By Anna Spoerre, @ASpoerre_DE

Students no longer have to wake up at dawn on Saturday to buy ripe tomatoes and crisp apples.

In June, the Carbondale Community Farmers Market expanded its business hours and location to include Wednesdays from 4-7 p.m. on Washington Street, in addition to Saturdays from 8 a.m.-noon at Carbondale Community High School.

Reanna Putnam, director of the Carbondale Community Farmers Market, moved to Carbondale last December from Colorado, where she spent five years researching and working with small farmers. Now she focuses on making farmers markets more accessible in southern Illinois. Putnam said a trip to the market to buy fresh, local produce is beneficial to the area.

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“Farmers markets serve a big function in a community,” Putnam said. “It’s a source of livelihood for small farmers.”

Giving farmers an additional sales opportunity was also done in the interest of restaurant owners, students and busy parents who are often not able to go to the market on Saturday mornings. The new night market is located downtown across from Newell House. 

“The Wednesday night market could be really great for students to learn more about food,” Putnam said. “The face-to-face interactions between the farmer and the customer cannot be replicated in a grocery store.”

Zach Constable, a senior from Chatham studying forestry, helps at the market as a member of the SIU Student Sustainable Farm, a program that teaches students how to run a small farm. He said he encourages students to buy fresh produce.

”You’re giving money to these small businesses and you’re growing food the right way, the healthy way,” Constable said. “And it’s good for your body.”

April Vigardt, manager of the SIU Student Sustainable Farm, said the community market provides a unique and important learning experience for her students.

“We’re trying to teach them not just the production side, but also the marketing and selling side [of farming], because that’s the harder part—to get people to buy.”

The success of the local market system has become a community-wide effort in many ways. The SIU Sustainable Farm not only sells fresh produce at the market but also to SIU’s dining halls and Cristaudos Café, Bakery and Catering, located downtown on Illinois Avenue.

Leah Macielle and Nicholas Stewart, two of the four owners of Cristaudos, say the additional Wednesday market has been helpful for the restaurant.

“It’s so hard for restaurant owners to get out on a Saturday morning,” Macielle said.

Since the additional market opened, Cristaudos now buys and uses even more local produce in the store.

“I shy away from big producers because without individual care, the quality goes down,” Stewart said.

Vigardt said this shift in focus to local food is partially because of a strong local food economy being important to the stability of an area. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets in the United States has quadrupled in the past 20 years.

However, the market success in Carbondale has not been as strong compared to areas with larger customer bases. Expansion depends on people’s willingness to show up regularly.

“It’s a different scale. It’s not like these big cities where you have foodies who are willing to spend $5 on a big bunch of kale,” Putnam said. “But it’s a good entry market and I think our farmers really like the connections.”

Homer Jenkins of Murphysboro is one such farmer.

Jenkins retired from hog farming and started his business, “Homer Grown” three years ago. He said it is an honor to be able to produce quality, healthy, fresh vegetables for the residents of Carbondale.

“It’s my goal to be their farmer.”

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ASpoerre_DE.

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