Business Thursday: With federal aid, Farmers Market looks to grow

Peggy Thompson (right) purchases a bag of kale from Connie Lemley at the Franklin County Farmers Market at Saturday, April 21. (Alfred Miller/alfred.miller@state-journal.com)

A recently awarded $200,000 federal grant promises to freshen up the Franklin County Farmers Market in a big way this season.

The market, which started its spring season last Saturday, will hold a grand-opening celebration this Saturday with live music, a food truck and an appearance by Franklin County Judge-Executive Huston Wells. That’s all just a piece of the events and activities to come.

Thanks to a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant that Franklin County received in October, recently hired Community Engagement Coordinator Lisa Munniksma says the market will feature a new slate of events and food trucks this year.

Through November, the first Saturday of each month will be chef demonstration day at the market, Munniksma said. The second Saturday will continue to be children’s day and the fourth Saturday will have live music. On Tuesdays in June and July, the market is also partnering with Louisville’s nonprofit Food Literacy Project to teach children about agriculture through hands-on activities. Food trucks will be present throughout.

“We’re working toward making the Farmers Market more of a community event,” Munniksma told The State Journal.

The market will still feature its lineup of more than 30 longtime vendors, with some new additions. New vendors include a winery, a certified organic produce farmer, a chicken farmer, sellers of plants and flowers and a soap maker, Munniksma said.

Over the next three years, the market is looking to increase attendance 20 percent at its physical location and sales by 50 percent overall. Currently, the market averages 800 people per week at its peak and has $217,000 in annual sales, according to Munniksma.

Some of the new sales will come from a “farm-to-workplace” delivery program the market is piloting this year as part of the USDA grant.

Employees at United Bank and Frankfort Regional Medical Center as well as a group of state employees based in the Capitol Annex will be able to order products online from 10 participating farmers market vendors this year. Every Thursday, market volunteers will then deliver orders to those three workplaces, Munniksma said. The pilot program is capped at 75 customers to start.

“We’re keeping it super small this year so that we can work out logistics and make it a good experience for everyone,” Munniksma said.

The Franklin County Farmers Market is located in the Market Pavilion at River View Park on the corner of Wilkinson Boulevard and West Broadway. From spring until fall, it is open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and 7 a.m. to noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The market doubles SNAP, WIC and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Coupons through the Kentucky Double Dollars Program.

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