Opinion: 14th farmers market season for Main Street Steamboat is in the books | SteamboatToday.com

Opinion: 14th farmers market season for Main Street Steamboat is in the books

Libby Christensen
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Saturdays this summer drew a confluence of local farmers, craftsmen and aspiring business owners who connected with a broad audience and found tremendous success at the weekly Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market. In all, 160 vendors participated in at least one market. 

Libby Christensen

Tent after tent offered residents and visitors alike fresh produce, crafts and packaged foods, but our farmers market also served an important community function. More than 15 nonprofit and government groups used the market as a platform to share educational materials and spread the word about their activities in the community.

This year, we were thrilled to qualify for the Colorado Double Up Food Bucks program, which doubles the value of federal nutrition — SNAP — benefits spent at farmers markets. When SNAP-qualified customers spend $1 on any eligible item (meat, bread, eggs, milk, etc.), they receive $1 for Colorado-grown, fresh fruits and vegetables. It is a one-to-one match so if you spend $5, you get $5.

The Double Up program is a win-win-win — more families have access to affordable fruits and vegetables, local farmers get new customers and more food dollars stay in the local economy. The program is paid for by a federal grant. 

Twenty-one individuals used the program this year at the market with participants redeeming nearly $1,200 in SNAP benefits and $500 in Double Up benefits. Next year, Main Street Steamboat hopes to see those numbers double.

Main Street Steamboat and Colorado State University Routt County Extension, together, collected some very informative data at this year’s market, and we’d like to share some numbers with you. Every week, between 4,400 and 10,000 people attended the market, hailing from all over the world: 40% from Routt County, 36% from elsewhere in the U.S., 18% from the Front Range, 5% from other parts of Colorado and 1% from other countries.

As for shopping at the market, 25% of attendees spent between $10 to $20; 22% spent more than $40; 21% spent between $21 and $30; 16% spent between $31 and $40; and 16% spent less than $10. And with 81% of market attendees telling us they also frequent other downtown businesses, the Farmers Market helps the overall downtown economy.

Farmers markets are important spaces. They connect residents and visitors to our community. They allow customers to connect their purchases to experiences. And they help people connect with one another in a more meaningful way.

It’s vital to our community that we continue to foster this sense of belonging, and we look forward to seeing you for our 15th season.

Libby Christensen is the family and consumer science and 4-H Extension agent for Colorado State University in Routt County.

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