Market Feature: Vermillion Area Farmer’s Market

Fruits, vegetables, honey, meat, cheese, eggs, bread, cupcakes, baked goods, soaps and detergents, jewelry, canned goods, knife sharpening, hand-dyed yarn, sewing, knitting and crochet, woodwork, iron works, other crafts can all be found at the VAFM. Photo provided by Cathy Jo Louge.

The Vermillion Area Farmer’s Market, located in a town of 10,000 residents along the Missouri River in Vermillion, South Dakota, has seen significant growth and change since its humble beginnings.

Vermillion had a truck market for years, located behind a hotel on the east edge of Business Highway 50. In 1999 a few vendors began selling produce and handmade items in downtown Vermillion. As a sense of community began developing, the market tried out several locations to attract foot traffic and achieve a community atmosphere; however, parking limitations and competition with weekend garage sales posed consistent challenges. 

VAFM vendor Grace Freeman of Prairie Moon Herbs. Photo provided by Cathy Jo Louge.

Without a budget for marketing and advertising and with the market management falling on the vendors’ workloads, the Vermillion Area Farmer’s Market needed to find a way to grow their customer base. Around that time, Rebecca Terk helped the market write a grant to allow EBT/Debit at the market. Then in 2010, Amy Schweinle, Ph.D., and Grace Freeman applied for and received a USDA Farmers Market Promotional Program (FMPP) grant. The funds helped with advertising and moved the market to its current locations: the Clay County Fairgrounds, downtown on the Platz and the 4H building in the winter. For several years the market grew. Grants from the SD Department of Agriculture and the Specialty Crop Block assisted in establishing a thriving market throughout the years.

The VAFM hosts a year-round market consisting of two summer markets each week and one winter market each month. Photo provided by Cathy Jo Louge.

The Vermillion Area Farmer’s Market currently has a solid foundation but lacks financial stability. Recently, a generous donor invested $10,000 into the market for the development of a strategic plan. The market now has a goal of creating a permanent structure to provide protection from weather. The South Dakota Community Foundation has been supporting this effort with the Community Innovation Bush grant program.

Market President, Dr. Amy Schweinle, took the lead researching strategies to enable the market to continue serving the community amid challenges with COVID-19. Since implementing these protocols on April 18, the market has experienced the camaraderie of community and a heightened sense of appreciation for local vendors.

The VAFM wrote a grant which helped them add debit and EBT (SNAP benefit) payment options for their market. Photo provided by Cathy Jo Louge.

While the Vermillion Area Farmer’s Market has faced challenges and uncertainties, a strong sense of community keeps the market alive. The 10,000 residents of Vermillion, South Dakota can always count on their local artists, non-profit organizations, entrepreneurs, and producers to show up and provide for their community.

Market Details: Vermillion Area Farmers Market