Farmers Markets Sprout In Arkansas' Urban Areas

by Jan Cottingham  on Monday, Mar. 24, 2014 12:00 am  

Farmers markets have mushroomed in central Arkansas in the last couple of decades, growing from just a couple in the Little Rock area 20 years ago to a half dozen.

As their numbers have grown so has their focus. The Argenta Farmers Market in North Little Rock certifies that the products sold there are grown in Arkansas. The Arkansas Local Food Network is an online farmers market that among other services provides a directory of community gardens in the area.

In northwest Arkansas, the story is much the same. The Bentonville Farmers Market had sales of $348,000 in 2011, rising to more than $600,000 in 2013, said Nicki Dallison, the market’s manager.

“When I came on board in 2010, we probably had about 40 markets at that time, and that’s just grown unbelievably,” said Zachary Taylor, director of marketing with the Arkansas Agriculture Department. The tally compiled by Arkansas Business using information from the state Agriculture Department lists 70 markets throughout the state.

“The whole buying local concept was just starting to take off,” he said. “Now, it’s really grown by leaps and bounds.”

And farmers markets have continued to expand their offerings, featuring not only produce and fruit but selling meat, eggs, dairy products and prepared foods, along with crafts.

Barbara Armstrong, the manager and co-founder of the Argenta Farmers Market, said the market, which opens March 29, will feature eight new vendors, among them three new meat purveyors, bringing its vendor total to 32.

She also is excited about the addition of a “culinary team” to the market that will offer cooking demonstrations, an effort to involve the community more in the market and to educate customers about how to cook what they buy at the market.

Get the List: Buy the list of the state's farmers markets here.

Armstrong interviews the farmers to confirm that they grow what they sell. “It’s the integrity of the market that I’m really trying to continue,” she said.

The market was founded in 2008 as the Certified Arkansas Farmers Market, but was reorganized in 2012 as the Argenta Farmers Market.

Armstrong is looking ahead to plans to develop the Argenta Plaza near the market, currently in the vicinity of 600 Main St. in North Little Rock. She’s hopeful that construction will start in the fall, and once it’s complete the farmers market will move to the plaza.



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