Last year was a year of transformation for Columbia’s Wabash Station. For four hours every Sunday, June through October, the historic building became the North Village Arts District Farmers & Artisans Market, a small gathering of local vendors selling fresh produce, quality goods and unique crafts.
John Ott, a key developer of NVAD, was part of the group that started the market in 2011. “Most cities our size have a farmers market in their downtown area,” says Ott, noting that farmers markets have been on the rise in recent years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, growth has quadrupled since 1994; the number of operating markets increased 17 percent between 2010 and 2011.
NVAD supporters thought a farmers market seemed natural for the area — Wabash Station, at 126 N. 10th St., is within walking distance of three college campuses as well as several central-city neighborhoods. Once Ott received city approval to hold a weekly market in the station, it opened June 26, 2011; the Sunday event allows NVAD to complement — not compete with — Columbia’s other farmers markets that operate on Saturdays. “When you’ve got a population of 100,000 in your city,” Ott says, “there’s plenty of room for another market.”
The NVAD Farmers & Artisans Market opens for the 2012 season on April 29.
Arlien Uthlaut, a farmer from Glasgow, was a vendor at last year’s market, and he plans to return this year. “I liked that it was on Sundays,” Uthlaut says. “All of the other farmers markets we go to are on Saturdays. You can only be so many places at once.”
This year, the NVAD board wants to expand the market, and it selected local artist Loretta Kyle as the market manager. “I like the idea of being connected to your food, knowing where it comes from and knowing who grows it,” Kyle says. “I also like the community that farmers markets create. They connect people.”
Kyle has spent months researching the best way to operate the market. This year’s market will follow the model of The City Market in Kansas City, which divides the 20-or-so vendors into categories. The NVAD Farmers & Artisans Market will feature four categories, from “100 Percent Grown Farmer” to “Artisan,” and the labels will be visible to customers.
Kyle says she also wants to educate the community about different sustainability practices. She has planned several how-to workshops for adults, from composting to building a chicken coop, as well as workshops for children.
The NVAD board also hired Haley Schwarz, owner of Ally Social Media, as the marketing director for the market. Experienced in creating awareness for local nonprofit organizations, Schwarz says she hopes to increase awareness and attendance at the market. She took her children to the market last year, and enjoyed the family outing.