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Reclaiming Spaces; One Farmers Market at a Time
by Lindsay Buchannan
08/08/14 Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Consumer demand for local food is driving the expansion of farmers markets into places of all shapes, sizes, and locations. Ferry terminals, train depots, grain mills and shipping containers all can, and are, housing farmers markets across the country.  There are 8,268 markets listed in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, a 76 percent increase since 2008.  Managed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the directory listings reflect continued growth and demand in every region of the country. Today farmers markets are as diverse as the communities they serve and can be found in unique rural and urban spaces across the country.

Built in 1903, the Southern Railways Station in Knoxville, Tenn., was a symbol of America’s great railroad heritage. The terminal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its late 19th century architecture and its prominent role in Tennessee railroad industry.  Today, the main building has been repurposed into office spaces and a banquet hall that hosts a winter farmers market.  Last winter, the depot hosted its first market, offering 30 vendors an opportunity to extend their season and continue the tradition of celebrating Knoxville’s heritage.

From land to water, transportation hubs are a favorite way to repurpose farmers markets.  Throughout San Francisco’s history, ferries crisscrossed the Bay and connected one part of the city to another.  The Ferry Building dominated the busy port as a main boat terminus. As cars and highways became more popular, the terminal went into disrepair. Now, farmers and vendors have revived the space, making the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market one of California’s most famous farmers markets.

The water-powered mill in Chester Springs, Penn., was a symbol of the area’s manufacturing prowess throughout the 1800’s.  However, the building became obsolete as technology evolved.  In 2004, the Mill at Anselma restored the space, and the millstones once again milled flour for the first time in seven decades.  The grounds now host a weekly farmers market as well as lectures and special events. The Mill is a destination for area history buffs as well as market customers.

In addition to creatively reclaiming buildings, farmers markets are also reclaiming vacant spaces.  At the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., the farmers market is nestled among other vendors including artists, craftsmen, and chefs all housed within colorful shipping containers.  Repurposed shipping containers are housing farmers markets on undeveloped lots in, Boston and Raleigh as well.

This week, we celebrate farmers markets during National Farmers Market Week, recognizing the creative spirit these markets embody.  From changing vacant lots to vibrant spaces to renovating historic landmarks offering new opportunities for food entrepreneurs, farmers markets are connecting farmers and customers.   Use the USDA Farmers Market Directory to find a farmers market near you and enjoy the space as much as the food.

If you are a manger of a farmers market, community-supported agriculture (CSA), food hub, or on-farm establishment looking to get connected with your customers, add or update your listing in USDA’s Local Food Directories at: http://www.usdalocalfooddirectories.com.


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