In the grand scheme of things, we're still a pretty young market here in Champaign. With the start of the new year, however, it has really struck me: this year the Champaign Farmers Market turns 5! It doesn't feel like 4 years could have possibly gone by since we opened up on that first Tuesday of May in 2015, hoping that at least some people would show up and buy from our farmers. As we all set up for the first time, I remember us all constantly reassuring each other saying "hey, this does look like a market!"
And so we grew up slowly, with plenty of growing pains, but even more joy along the way. We've learned to find a better balance between the size of our customer base and the number of vendors, so that the vendors we do have at the market are making enough money to keep them coming back (not that we aren't intent on working hard to grow that customer base!). We've developed exciting new incentive programs to help fight food insecurity in the community, and so far we've helped over 420 SNAP recipients, giving out over $35,000 in matching funds in just four short years! We've also helped forge stronger bonds between customers, local food producers, and local farmers, leading to collaborations that have resulted in some very tasty treats at the market!