Wildwood Growers’ Market – Starting a Local Food System
Sumter County, Florida is home to an old agricultural community as well as a new, large development for active adults. As large farms and ranches have made way for development, there has been an increase in people interested in small or part time farming.
The Sumter County Extension office has been development a network of these new farmers, called the Square One Farm Network. Participants have attended a series of classes including vegetable production, business planning, marketing and growing for a farmers’ market. Through a comparative analysis of the Sumter county communities, Wildwood was selected as an ideal location for a weekly growers’ market.
The local food system has not been developed yet in Sumter County, beyond a few grocery stores and restaurants. There is no access to local food in the community other than one small roadside farm market. This market will not only provide economic opportunity for local farmers, it will promote a sustainable community through a reduction in environmental impact inthe food distribution and also through connecting various social groups.
The City of Wildwood and the University of Florida/IFAS Sumter County Extension have formed a partnership to produce a growers’ market in Wildwood. Officials weith the city were very interested in producing a community event that brings together the residents of Wildwood, which are comprised of two very different socioeconomic groups. A large retirement community begin built on the boundaries of Wildwood also influences this decision, as more than 90,000 new Florida residents are located within 5 miles of the market.
In Florida, most farmers’ markets do not have rules that require produce vendors to be actual farmers as this one does. Through the development of this market, beginning farmers have an outlet for their produce; local residents from the low income neighborhood to theupscale retirement community will have much needed access to local food and a new understanding of the agricultural industry. Community members will have a place to gather, to entertain and to raise money for charitable organizations.
The funds requested in this proposal will provide the mechanism to connect the local growers with the community through this weekly community event. Low income residents will have access to fresh food through a market EBT machine. Funds will also be used to promote this unique market to the surrounding community. The additional support is needed for the first two years of this developing market, which will be self-sustaining in the third year.
1) Small farmers and beginning farmers will be identified and given assistance in developing their business through the partnership of UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension in the Wildwood Growers’ Market.
2) Farmers will have an opportunity to sell produce to many customers through the marketing efforts of the Wildwood Growers’ Market, greatly enhancing their farm viability.
3) Food stamp recipients will be able to purchase fresh, locally grown produce using their government-provided SNAP cards at the Wildwood Growers’ Market.
4) Two community charitable organizations each week will be able to profit from food and drink sales at the Wildwood Growers’ Market.
5) Citizens will be able to benefit economically from selling their homemade or homegrown items, creating new small businesses.
The major accomplishment has been to establish the market so that it has become a permanent, year round Growers’ Market. The market was started in October 2009 and the officials at the City of Wildwood gave organizers a trial period of 6 months. After that time the Wildwood City Council voted to continue to support the market as a year round weekly market.
Five local growers who have attended classes through the UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension office either attended the market weekly or seasonally during 2010.
Community groups have used the market as a venue to connect with the local citizens. Churches, Little League, the Health Department are a few examples of organizations who have taken part in this weekly community event.
The market has continued even though summer and winter months are slow due to inclimate weather. The level of participation by vendors as remained steady enough to reduce the amount of financial commitment from the City to $46 per week.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
A survey was conducted of the vendors and the objective of the survey was to determine how many of the vendors started a new business as a result of the market, and how many had increased income. Educational Methods: Thirty-eight vendors were sent an online or paper survey and twenty were returned. Results: 95% (n=20) of the vendors responding were satisfied with the number and type of customers visiting their booths. 35% (n=20) indicated that their business was created as a result of this new market. In addition, 15% (n=20) had the business but didn’t have a venue for selling before this market was open. 20% (n=20) of the vendors also sell at other farmers markets or another location such as farm stands. Overall, 50% (n=20) of the vendors responding either started their business just for the market or have been able to expand. 84% of respondents indicated that they had gained financially from attending the market. In addition, other benefits were mentioned such as networking, getting the product out there better than on-farm or internet sales, and the “development of community unity”.
City of Wildwood
100 N. Main St.
Wildwood, FL 34785
Office Phone: 3523301330