By MELISSA CROCKETT MESKE
According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture, Illinois is third in the nation for the number of farmers’ markets. That’s an impressive statistic, given IDOA’s further noting that there are more than 8,000 farmers’ markets across the country offering farm-fresh, affordable, convenient, and healthy products such as fruits, vegetables, cheeses, herbs, fish, flowers, baked goods, meat, and much more to market goers.
Farmers’ markets serve as integral links between urban, suburban, and rural communities, affording farmers and their consumers the opportunity to interact. The popularity of farmers’ markets continues to rise, and more community-based and roadside markets pop up each season.
One of the oldest forms of direct marketing, from the traditional “mercados” in the Peruvian Andes to the unique street markets in Asia, growers all over the world gather weekly to sell their produce directly to the public.
Niki Davis, Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management Program manager and professor of practice, further noted that the farmers markets offer an abundance of opportunity for residents, visitors, and vendors alike, as well as to the regional economy.
“Our farmers markets showcase regional food and culture, and visitors often shop at them just like residents do,” Davis said. “Vibrant agricultural regions boost tourism by attracting visitors to the area. When visiting, people often seek out local flavors and traditions. Travelers will visit local farms for tours and purchase premade local items to take home and share. All of this means money going back into communities through hotel and sales tax, further boosting the local economy.”
Market growth and penetration continue to grow as more consumers seek out the fresh harvests sold directly from the farm by growers in what has become a seasonal ritual for many. With the added ability now at many of the markets for consumers to utilize SNAP benefits for their purchases on-site, the customer base has seen further positive movement.
Often the farmers’ markets also welcome artisans and their handcrafted wares as well – this is widely evident at nearly all the markets throughout the southwestern Illinois region. Here’s an updated list of this region’s published market details:
Alton Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market: In session, rain or shine, through Oct. 21, the Alton Market takes place from 8 a.m. to 12 Noon Saturdays at the corner of Landmarks Blvd. and Henry Street near Argosy Casino and the Alton Riverfront. A Night Market is also hosted every Thursday evening from 7 to 10 p.m. inside Jacoby Arts Center (627 E. Broadway) as well as in Jacoby’s neighboring pocket park through July 27. Visit Alton Main Street online (https://downtownalton.com) or follow them on Facebook for the latest details. (Madison County)
Bethalto Farmers Market: Bethalto’s market is held at the city’s Central Park (213 N. Prairie St.) every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Oct. 15, 2023. Follow the market’s Facebook page for complete information, @Bethalto Farmers Market. (Madison County)
East Alton Farmers Market: Held at Eastgate Plaza, East Alton’s market takes place every Tuesday from 3 to 7 p.m. from April to October. For more details, call (618) 530-1880. (Madison County)
Wood River Farmers Market: Starting July 6, this market is held on Thursday evenings from 4 p.m. to dusk through September. It is located on the parking lot at Madison Avenue/143 and 1st Street. Vendors can visit online at https://wrparks.org/events/farmers-market/ for information/sign-up. Call Wood River Parks & Recreation at (618) 251-3130 or follow their Facebook page for updates. (Madison County)
The Land of Goshen Community Market, Edwardsville: Located in downtown Edwardsville at North Second Street, this market is held on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 Noon through Oct. 14, 2023. Visit the website at https://www.goshenmarket.org/ for more information. (Madison County)
Maryville Farmers Market: Maryville’s market is held at Fireman’s Park, 300 N. Donk St., on Thursdays from 5 to 7 p.m. through Sept. 7, 2023. For more information, visit their Facebook page, @MaryvilleILFarmersMarket or call (618) 304-8335. (Madison County)
Melting Pot Farmers and Artisans Market, Granite City: Taking place on the first Saturday of each month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June through November (no market in July), Granite City’s market is held at Civic Park in The District, 1301 Niedringhaus Ave. Keep up with their season on Facebook, @MeltingPotMarket. (Madison County)
Highland Farmers Market: Held in the community’s Downtown Square (914 Main St.) from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sept. 26 (except for July 4 and 25), visit online at https://www.highlandil.gov/departments/parks_and_recreation/programs_for_all_ages/all_ages/farmer_s_market.php for more information. (Madison County)
Herald Square Farmers Market, Collinsville: A collaborative effort by the Maryville Farmers Market, this location is in the park beside Old Herald Brewery and Distillery restaurant, 115 E. Clay St. Its hours are from 6 to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays through July 25. For more information, call (618) 304-8335 or visit their Facebook page, @HeraldSquareMarket. (Madison/St. Clair counties)
The Vine Street Market at O’Fallon Station: Downtown O’Fallon’s market is open weekly every Saturday from 8 a.m. to 12 Noon through Oct. 21 (212 E. 1st St.). For more information, visit online at https://ofallonparksandrec.com/vine-street-market/, follow them on Facebook and Instagram, @vinestreetmarketofallon, or call (618) 624-0139. (St. Clair County)
Belleville Old Town Farmers Market: Downtown Belleville’s market is held from 7:30 a.m. to 12 Noon Saturdays through Nov. 4 at South Charles and East Washington Streets. For more information, visit www.belleville.net or contact the City of Belleville at (618) 233-6810. (St. Clair County)
Millstadt Township Community Farmers Market: Held from 3 to 6 p.m. on Fridays through October at the Millstadt VFW, 200 Veterans Drive, contact Randy Eckert (618) 476-3037 for more information or visit their Facebook page, @MillstadtFarmersMarket. (St. Clair County)
Swansea Farmers Market: Swansea hosts its farmers market on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October, rain or shine, at the Rural King parking lot (2801 N. Illinois St.). Call (618) 520-5107 for more information or follow their Facebook page, @SwanseaFarmersMarketInc. (St. Clair County)
Monroe County Farmers Market in Columbia and Waterloo: In Columbia every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. through October at Turner Hall, 211 E. Cherry St., and in Waterloo every Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 12 Noon at the Monroe County Annex parking lot, 901 Illinois Ave, readers can find the latest information on their Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/monroecountyfarmersmarket. (Monroe County)
New Baden Farmers Market: This market runs through Sept. 30, 2023, and is held on the last Saturday of each month from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is located at Veterans Memorial Park in New Baden. More information can be found on their website at https://www.newbadenfm.com/home or through Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/newbadenfarmersmarket. (Clinton County)
This story also appears in the July 2023 print edition of the Illinois Business Journal.
Other “seens” from a recent Alton Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market. (Photos by Melissa Crockett Meske/Illinois Business Journal)