Statewide survey reveals farmers markets are on the rise

CHIPPEWA FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- Farmers market vendors and consumers are on the rise according to a new survey released by the University of Wisconsin- Extension Office.

Things like vendor fees, marketing budgets and other rules vary at the estimated 300 farmers markets that take place across the state of Wisconsin. But no matter the size or location, local farmers markets are on the rise.

Wisconsinites are excited about getting their local produce and fresh flowers. "It's going to be very good for the community, it's growing and very good for the community,” said Lou Moua, the Chippewa Falls Market Manager.

It's no exception for community members in the Chippewa Valley. "We've seen it grow, we've seen it change, we've had several different locations,” said Teri Ouimette, Chippewa Falls Main Street Director.

But for 20 years the Chippewa Falls farmers market has been running strong. "The community sort of calls for it, it's amazing the people that come in and say have you ever thought of doing this or that and so we take that seriously and we look into it,” Ouimette said.

The Chippewa Falls market is now looking into is adding SNAP (Supplimental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. It’s a service only 42 percent of markets in Wisconsin currently provide, according to the survey. "It's not actually in our budget; we're working with other entities on this to try to make it happen,” Ouimette said.

With several small and large markets across the state, the average size is about 40 vendors. The Chippewa Falls market is completely full on vendors with all 25 spaces being filled and even several names on a wait list.

Even though markets are currently increasing in size, the survey says the future is unknown with high turnover for market managers statewide, although that's not an area of concern for Chippewa Falls. "I'm pretty sure if I changed my mind, somebody would run the market,” said Moua.

Only 6 percent of farmer’s markets have no rules for vendor practices and although Chippewa Falls does, all they ask is that produce be grown locally and they enforce a strict sell time starting at noon to keep the playing field even for all vendors, as the community continues to feed their own community.

"I think people are becoming educated and they're more aware,” Ouimette said.

Although Chippewa Falls is right in line with the state average, managers say their future is exceptionally bright. "We can always expand it, we can grow it, there really is I guess no limit,” Ouimette said.

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