Farmers Markets Sprout In Arkansas' Urban Areas

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

“It’s going to be a big, huge plaza, a European-style farmers market,” Armstrong said. “It’s going to be really awesome.”

In Bentonville, Dallison said, “It’s pretty amazing how this farmers market has grown.” The market, now in its 39th year, has increased its offerings just as others have. “We have pork, beef, chicken, lamb, turkey, and I think I have a vendor bringing in goat this year,” she said. “It’s almost like you could do all of your shopping at the market if you planned ahead.”

The market, held at the city’s downtown square, has been the beneficiary of consumers’ increased interest in where their food comes from as well as increased tourism to the region.

Greater tourism has helped in particular the market’s craft vendors. Tourists “want a little piece of Arkansas that’s handmade by someone in Arkansas,” Dallison said.

The Fayetteville Farmers Market just down the road will have more than 100 vendors this season, along with musicians, face painters and street performers, as well as a new food truck.

In Little Rock, the Hillcrest neighborhood has benefited from a farmers market that’s open year-round, the Hillcrest Farmers Market at Pulaski Heights Baptist Church. A more diverse selection of products — poultry, baked goods, other prepared foods — that can be sold throughout the year has enabled the shift.

The Rev. Carolyn Staley, who this year is leaving her role as market manager, said residents have expressed appreciation for a location that serves as a neighborhood square as much as anything.

Taylor has seen a surge in young people wanting to become “farmers market farmers” in central Arkansas and northwest Arkansas, while in other parts of the state the population of farmers is dwindling as they grow older. “There’s just no one to take their place,” he said.

Taylor said there seems to be more support in central Arkansas for growers who want to produce for farmers markets. “If someone is selling at a farmers market and they mention that they’re looking to expand or would like to farm some more ground, that word gets around, where I think in some of these other areas it doesn’t.”

Armstrong thinks there’s a healthy future for farmers markets: “People love farmers. You’ve got to eat.”



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