Growth of farmer's market bearing fruit at First Mennonite

Authored by Jim Langham on Jun 8, 2012

Jeanne Frank was sitting in a Sunday school class in the summer of 2009 when Kim Kelsey presented her vision for a farmer's market to become an outreach for the First Mennonite Church.
"I was sitting in Sunday school when she presented it," observed Frank. "She said that she would love to have a place in Berne to provide a place for gardeners, crafters and artists. She saw it as a place to serve the mind, body and spirit in the name of God."
Frank sees the market, which opens every Saturday morning in the parking lot beside U.S. 27, as a way to provide healthy eating to the local community food that has been grown locally and processed locally.
"Consumers like to know who grows their food such as lettuce and honey," commented Frank. "Many markets are placed in prime retail space in the center of town. In our case, the geography of the clock tower and the Mennonite parking lot is of real benefit to us. This draws a lot of attention to people driving through town.
According to Frank, markets will continue through mid-October on Saturdays for 8 a.m. to noon.
Last year, over 50 different vendors came to the market over a period of time. Frank noted that different people brings different products or plants on any given Saturday morning. She noted that the total figure of income for all vendors collaboratively last year was over $20,000.
"I am so excited to see that this little market in the parking lot of the Mennonite Church bring in $20,000 from the people of our community," Frank said.
"We are excited about things going on at the clock tower this summer," continued Frank. "We would like to coordinate the market as another activity close to the clock tower. Vendors can set their own prices and earn a fair dollar.
Vendors can allow customers to support organic farming for the growth of their products."
Frank said that organizers of the market are hoping that it will help keep dollars local and stimulate the local economy. She sees it as a nice place to bring the community together on Saturday morning, complete with an area to visit and enjoy coffee and cinnamon rolls.
"Spaces are free; the vendors don't have to pay anything for space. The only cost is if the sellers need canopies or tables," commented Frank.
Frank said that she is planning to attend regional seminars to take a look at new ideas and techniques for markets. She has already attended a seminar directed by Purdue University at Fort Wayne.
"Amish dealers come and find this really interesting," Frank said. "We see sales involving local growers and local groups such as church, local clubs and other surrounding groups.
"It's a real opportunity for volunteers to come and help out," added Frank.
"We have had a good relationship with the local health department," observed Frank. "Our team provides ideas and input to try to make the market a better place. We are always open to ideas; if you have a suggestion, don't hesitate to say anything to us."
Generally speaking, the market includes highlighted artists, used books, community tables, vegetables, flowers, fruits and brochures containing special information about Berne. In addition, youth groups and other organizations utilize the sale to raise money through selling waffles and other goodies.
Frank sees the market as giving area residents the opportunity to experience a market atmosphere. It is also open for those who might like to try a new item, make new friends or become re-acquainted with old friends, enjoy music on occasion and get into the sun and enjoy the fresh summer air.
"It's so cool to see local efforts thriving," Frank said. "I would like to see the arts grow in our community. It's really fun to work weekly with other volunteers. When I go home, I am so excited. I am energized and ready to have a great time."

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