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Farmers' Market to test the waters downtown

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After reviewing a proposal to move the Greater Springfield Farmers’ Market to center city from Battlefield Mall, organizers will begin a test run at Jubilee Park downtown starting May 19.

Farmers’ Market President Steve Madewell of Madewell Meats said more than 20 vendors have committed to the downtown site this week, and others are interested in testing the market on Thursday nights through September.

“This summer is to see if there is any feasibility down there,” Madewell said.

The market has been a staple in the Battlefield Mall parking lot for at least a dozen years, Madewell said. However, vendors are envious of other markets that operate under covered pavilions and with electricity and restroom facilities, he added, pointing to markets in Webb City and Fair Grove. The downtown Fair Grove market at Wommack Mill was named the 2010 Missouri Farmers Market of the Year by the state Department of Agriculture.

Moving to center city would put the Greater Springfield Farmers’ Market on par with urban sites in Kansas City, Columbia and St. Louis, a goal of the city and Urban Districts Alliance in its proposal to build a covered pavilion at Jefferson Avenue and St. Louis Street, next to the Discovery Center.

Under the proposal, the Greater Springfield Farmers’ Market would pitch in $150,000 for the $450,000 development plan that could start to take shape in 2012, Madewell said. UDA would share in the cost.

“It’s a good proposal,” Madewell said. “Before we invest that kind of money, we want to see if there is any feasibility down there. It’s not going to do any good if there’s not a good customer base. That’s what all this is about. We’re very glad that the city approached us with this opportunity to sell more of our products to customers that we don’t have access to during the week.”

Madewell said the nonprofit would run fundraisers and apply for grants to cover the cost, which is one of the group’s two biggest concerns. The other is the limited success of previous center city farmers markets, including a Friday night variety in Park Central Square.

“But they didn’t have the number of vendors that we’ve got,” he said. “Customers want choices, and they didn’t offer that many choices. We just hope people show up Thursday night.”

Just north of downtown, the C-Street Market made its return May 14 at Commercial Street’s Footbridge Plaza; it runs 8 a.m.–1 p.m. on Saturdays through October.

The Greater Springfield Farmers’ Market will set up 3:30–7:30 p.m. on Thursdays through September, according to a UDA news release.

“This will more than double the number of vendors we have had at our markets the past two years and move us closer to our vision for a permanent farmers market pavilion in downtown similar to facilities at the Soulard Market in St. Louis and the River Market in Kansas City,” UDA Executive Director Rusty Worley said in the release.[[In-content Ad]]

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