After years of being at the mercy of inclement weather, an area farmers market will change to an indoor venue when it opens in June.
The Archbold Area Farmers Market will arguably be the first indoor market of its kind in Fulton County.
At a February steering committee meeting, market member Valerie Kinsman suggested the vendors rent space in a vacant building owned by her and her husband, Doug. The building at 208 N. Defiance St. was formerly the site of Kinsman’s Bridal, which closed in May of 2015.
“Everybody seemed to light up. They were excited about the idea,” she said. “Most of the people make part of their living operating the market.”
As full-time farmers, the Kinsmans have sold organic fruits and vegetables at the seasonal, once-a-week outdoor market since it was established about six years ago. They believe an indoor climate-controlled atmosphere, which can accommodate more vendors, fresher produce, and some welcomed refrigeration, may attract more visitors.
“It opens up opportunities for additional craftsmen…who would maybe like some representation in the community,” Valerie Kinsman said.
She said the approximately 3,000 square feet of the building’s first floor could easily fit a dozen full-time vendors. She said they could set up displays that, unlike outdoor displays, don’t have to be assembled, then disassembled, every week.
The only condition set forth is that craftsmen must be located within a 50-mile area. “We want to preserve our heritage in this region,” Kinsman said.
Space at the Archbold Area Farmers Market can be rented for $10 per week or for $140 for the season. Vendors provide their own table and signage, and per state requirement must display information about their farm or business. Interested craftsmen can visit www.blackswamplocalfood.org for information and forms or call Kinsman at 419-202-6400.
The indoor farmer’s market, which will maintain operating hours on Thursdays from 3-6 p.m., is in test mode this season, she said.
“It’s sort of an experiment this year to see how people respond. We just want to find out from the community how much they want to support local foods. We are waiting for the community to tell us what they’re looking for.”
If it proves successful the market could open more than once a week, and possibly extend into the fall months instead of closing in September, Kinsman said. To that end, the vendors will provide a comfortable space for sitting and socializing that will encourage visitors to hang out.
Formerly located on Holland and Depot streets in Archbold, the non-profit market functions under the Black Swamp Local Food and Farm Co-op. It plans to open June 3 with a honey vendor and two produce vendors. One, Kahrs Farms in Wauseon, offers hydroponic tomatoes and strawberries and specializes in produce and herb plants. Kinsman said the market is also interested in bakers.
“This is an important aspect of supporting local families,” she said. According to Kinsman, a survey conducted by Amercian Farmland Trust showed that farmers who sell their food at market earn half their income there.
Jeff Smucker of Elmira, a community north of Archbold, is a beekeeper with four area apiaries. For the past several years he has sold honey and yeast bread at the farmers market, and became a member of the steering committee.
“I think it’s going to be very nice, and for me, the weather controlled (atmosphere) is going to be very significant,” he said of the indoor venue. “For me, it’s wonderful.”
He said the increased space will allow him to sell beeswax candles and bird suet cakes that were too impractical to sell outdoors.
“It’s going to be great because I can put up a lot more items. I think we can set up some really interesting stalls, versus having to set them up and take them down each week,” Smucker said.
He described the Archbold Area Farmers Market as an excellent atmosphere for sales, saying, “We have some very loyal customers who come back each week.” He’s hopeful the inside location will encourage people to linger, not just buy items and leave immediately, as they often did when the market was outside.
Wade and Ann Kahrs of Kahrs Farms also sell cucumbers, lettuce, squash, and other vegetables. Ann Kahrs said she’s excited about the indoor venue, at which vendors also will offer recipes and helpful tips.
“We hope to use it as a good teaching experience, for people to talk to us about how we grow things, and why we do,” she said. “We hope it encourages people to stick around.”
Kinsman said interested vendors will not be disappointed by joining the Archbold farmers market.
“The people are amazing. They’re like a family when they all come together,” she said.
David J. Coehrs can be reached at 419-335-2010.