Let's Get Fresh: The Bridgeport Farmers Market Builds our Community

By Connect-Bridgeport Staff on March 08, 2015 from Let’s Get Fresh via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Note: Today's guest blogger is Kent Spellman, a board member of the BFM and the Executive Director of the WV Community Development Hub. Click here to see a WV Public Broadcasting story about Kent’s group and the great things they are doing for small WV communities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoUk_gadZbw
 
It’s the dead of winter but the Bridgeport Farmers Market lives on throughout the winter with the monthly Winter Market on the second Sunday of each month. Don’t miss today’s market from 11 AM to 2 PM at the Bridgeport Conference Center.
 
A big part of all the Winter Markets is the Sunday brunch served by the Conference Center using many of the products sold by market vendors.  The popularity of the brunch is not based just on the great quality of the food served.  It is also based on the sense of community that has developed around the Bridgeport Farmers Market, and the lively social interactions that the market and the brunch bring to all of us.
 
I’m a professional community developer, and understanding what makes communities succeed is my job.  One of the interesting dynamics in recent years has been the resurgence of farmers markets across the state, region and nation, and the impact these markets are having on their communities.
 
A farmers market is a community development tool.  It builds civic engagement, improves health and wellbeing, develops the local economy, and builds local ownership and wealth.
 
How it builds civic engagement:Remember the social interaction aspect of the farmers market I mentioned above?  Well, a study by Blue Bottle Coffee found that there are approximately 40 times more social interactions at a farmers market than at a franchise grocery store. Another study by the Project for Public Spaces found that there are at least 15 to 20 times as many social interactions.  Either way, it’s clear that a community farmers market is a remarkable way to increase civic engagement and strengthen the community’s social fabric. And the conversations that take place at a farmers market can lead to a wide variety of other community improvement projects.
 
How it improves health and wellbeing:  Healthy, natural, locally-grown produce, meats and value-added products from our farmers market are usually healthier than grocery store produce, but more important is the role farmers markets play in educating consumers on improving their eating habits and motivating them to try new produce. Farmers markets are changing the culture of food and health in our communities.
 
How it develops the local economy:Farmers markets are a great way for those in the agriculture, value-added processing and the arts and crafts sectors to dip their toes into entrepreneurship on a small scale that they can control and that requires minimum investment.  We’ve already seen a handful of Bridgeport Farmers Market vendors make the move toward year-round sales locations as a result of their success at the market. Others use farmers markets as a way to develop additional direct sales venues for their products. Think of farmers markets as business incubators.
 
It has been estimated that if West Virginians increased the amount of locally produced food they consume by just 10%, it would have an annual economic impact in our state
of $70 million.
 
How it builds local ownership and wealth: Building a sustainable economy in West Virginia will be based on diversification and local ownership. The local food economy and the arts & crafts economy are, by definition, locally owned.  This is important because locally owned businesses help keep wealth in the community. Some examples:
 
  • Local retailers return a total of 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy, compared to just 14 percent for the national chain retailers. 
  • Local restaurants recirculate an average of 79 percent of their revenue locally, compared to 30 percent for the chain eateries.
  • Spending $100 with locally owned businesses creates $45 worth of local economic activity, while spending $100 at chain businesses generates just $13 in local economic activity.
  • Charitable donations per $1 million in sales from big box stores: approximately $1,000.  Charitable donations per $1 million in sales from locally owned businesses: $4,000+.
 
So here is the take away on buying from your local farmers market and other locally owned businesses: Do you have children in our local schools?  Do you have children on local sports teams? Do you care about the non-profits that serve your community? Do you want your community to be healthier and wealthier?
 
If so, think about these questions when you shop.  If you spend a penny or two per dollar more to buy from the farmers market or another local vendor, but they return three or four times more to our community than the franchise retailer, buying locally provides a great return on investment!
 
Buy local! Think local! Support the Bridgeport Farmers Market! Build our communities!
 
See you at the Winter Market from 11 AM to 2 PM on the second Sunday of each month at the Bridgeport Conference Center, and at the Bridgeport Farmers Market every Sunday from 10 AM to 2 PM at Charles Pointe from mid-May through mid-October.
 
Until next month, Stay Fresh!
 
The Bridgeport Farmers Market Association is the seven member all volunteer board of directors that governs the Bridgeport Farmers Market. It is supported by a wonderful group of community volunteers who help in the setup and maintenance of the market. For more information on the Farmers Market or to see how you can help please e-mail us at bridgeportfarmersmarket@yahoo.comor, better yet, LIKE us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. You can also check out the Market’s own YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/BridgeportFarmersMktor for more BFM video content you can now go to http://vimeo.com/bridgeportfarmersmarket/videos
 
 
 



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