By TIM ALEXANDER
PEORIA, Ill. — Farmers Markets across the Corn Belt are in full swing, with sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, blueberries and other homegrown Midwest delights coming into season. Farmers markets, such as the vibrant Peoria Riverfront Market, are attracting thousands of consumers each weekend (or weekday) who are eager to purchase fresh, healthy and delicious farm products.
To honor the hard working farmers, vendors and market managers, American Farmland Trust (AFT) and the Farmers Market Coalition are sponsoring a contest to determine America’s Top Farmers Market, with $10,000 in prize money going to the top five markets in America. The contest is part of AFT’s 14th annual America’s Farmers Market Celebration (AFMC), which runs through September 19. The celebration showcases the essential markets across the nation making a difference for farmers, ranchers, and communities.
“We believe that every farmers market in America is special in its own way. Big or small, in cities or rural towns, farmers markets nourish their communities while helping local farmers, food makers, and artisans thrive,” noted an AFT news release announcing the celebration and contest.
“While the AFMC does rank America’s favorite markets, our intention is to lift up the vital role farmers markets play across the country. The AFMC database and interactive map on markets.farmland.org is the largest and most comprehensive listing of farmers markets in the United States, containing more than 7,000 listings and allowing anyone in America to find local farmers markets wherever they live or visit.”
Each of the top five markets that finish in the “People’s Choice” category will receive an award. The breakdown of prize money is as follows: $5,000 for first, $2,500 for second, $1,500 for third, $750 for fourth, and $250 for fifth. The funds are intended to go towards marketing, communications and other needs that help expand the market’s reach and impact.
As of Sunday, July 17, the standings for the contest were as follows:
Overland Park Farmers Market-- Overland, Texas (1,525 votes);
Columbia Farmers Market-- Columbia, Missouri (1,479 votes);
Ligonier Country Market-- Ligonier, Pennsylvania (1,442 votes);
Lightfoot Farm Market-- Millington, Tennessee (847 votes);
Flint Farmers Market-- Flint, Michigan (692 votes).
A recent visit to one of the largest farmers markets in downstate Illinois revealed plenty of fresh produce available early in the morning, with supplies beginning to wane by around 11 a.m. The Peoria Riverfront Market is held every Saturday Morning from 8 a.m. - Noon, May 21 - September 24, 2022, along Peoria’s sprawling riverfront. The market boasts a large selection of fresh produce, local meats, eggs, berries, breads and cheeses, mostly originating from central Illinois.
The Peoria Riverfront Market also features a one-of-a-kind selection of art including pottery, blown glass, jewelry, wood turned items, candles, soaps and other items handcrafted by local artists. To locate the Peoria Riverfront Market, set your GPS device for the River Station restaurant parking lot (212 SW Water St), directly across from the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Plenty of free parking is available in surrounding lots and streets.
There are over 350 registered farmer’s markets throughout the state of Illinois. The Prairie State hosts the third largest number of farmers’ markets in the country, serving as the primary source of revenue for many beginner or small farms, according to Raghela Scavuzzo, associate director of food systems development for the Illinois Farm Bureau.
To locate an Illinois farmers market near you, visit www.ilfma.org/find-a-market/.
To cast a vote for your favorite farmers market in the nationwide AFT-Farmers Market Coalition contest, visit www.markets.farmland.org.