According to ThinkShopBuy Local.com, 45 percent of every dollar spent in local businesses is reinvested in the community, while only 15 percent of non-local purchases benefit the local area.
During the summer, area farmers markets sell locally grown fruits, vegetables, meats and cheeses and a plethora of handmade items. In an effort to extend the market “season,” Leigh Rowan and a cadre of volunteers and area entrepreneurs established the indoor Fort Wayne Farmers Market in October.
To celebrate a successful season, the FWFM presents Spring Fling Saturday on the concourse around home plate at Parkview Field.
“We'll have a large variety of over 60 vendors,” Rowan says. “Kid Zone will be open, (TinCaps mascot) Johnny will be making a visit and Francine's Friends Mobile Mammography unit will be on-site. Our friends and colleagues from the Food Truck Association will be in attendance, (with) entertainment by the Jug Huffers.”
The dream becomes reality
Rowan, owner of Big Brick House Bakery, had participated in area farmers markets selling her artisan breads.
“As the markets started coming to a close last summer, I heard from my customers and other vendors that they wished the market would last longer,” she says.
Rowan investigated winter markets in other areas but realized she would risk losing her local customer base by traveling.
“It made no good business sense,” she says , “since I had spent all summer trying to build a customer base in Fort Wayne only to lose it over the winter and have to work rebuilding it again the following summer.”
Further research revealed community and vendor interest in an indoor winter market, and in October, the inaugural event opened with 25 vendors and about 500 customers.
Rowan admits there have been challenges accompanying the rapid growth of and enthusiastic community response to the FWFM.
“As the market coordinator and developer ... I have been very fortunate to surround myself with a market committee made up of three vendors and three non-vendors,” she says. “Each have special talents ... (and) this balance helps to bring to the table great perspective that benefits the consumers.” She's quick to praise “a great base of volunteers.”
Vendors must make, bake or grow the items they sell, says Rowan, who maintains an 80/20 split — 80 percent farm, food and natural and 20 percent arts and crafts. In addition to traditional farmers market fare, Saturday's event will feature honey, lotions and soaps, a variety of sweets, doggie treats, caramels and fudge, and handcrafted items ranging from crochet to cloth to ceramics.
Hagan Amburgey and Gary Birch, partners in Old Fort Soap Co., will offer more than 70 varieties of soaps, including their newest scents — gardenia, midnight jasmine, Pinot Grigio and raspberry lemonade.
“We are very excited to offer some really cool new bath bombs for Spring Fling,” says Amburgey, who promises a future bath bomb made for children with a “surprise in the middle.”
The soap company grew out of a purchase made at a Palm Springs, Calif., farmers market eight years ago.
“We came upon a booth that had glycerin soaps in lots of scents and styles,” Birch says. “We purchased 10.”
Research revealed the benefits of natural soaps, and the two began making soap for family and friends. Six years ago, they became vendors at the historic Barr Street Market.
“About a year before the FWFM was announced, we approached Parkview Field asking if they were interested in hosting an evening market ... or any market at all,” Birch says. “They (were) very receptive and inviting.”
Circumstances prevented them from following through with their idea, but when FWFM started the winter market, Amburgey and Birch responded enthusiastically.
“You don't often find farmers markets in northern Indiana in the winter,” Birch says. “Most families don't get enough fresh local food and vegetables in the winter. This market now fills the need.”
In April, Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana announced a collaboration between Barr Street Market and FWFM.
“Both organizations will be running summer markets in the footprint of the historic City Market that ran along Barr Street from Berry Street to Washington (Boulevard),” according to a news release, “and are committed to coordinating efforts in order to offer a premium market experience for Fort Wayne and the surrounding region.”
Satellite markets at Parkview Hospital, Jefferson Pointe and other locations are scheduled for the summer, along with monthly arts and crafts markets.
Winter 2013 and 2014 promises an expanded indoor winter market with twice-monthly markets and longer hours, Rowan says.
“Our message is always the same,” Rowan says. “Buy local-grown and -produced items whenever you can. More often than not you get a better product, you know where it is from and you support local business and our community when you do.”