Market Feature: Capital City Farmers Market
By Lindy Geraets
Thinking back, it really is serendipitous how the Capital City Farmers’ Market came to be. In early 2009, I happened upon a local chat group of young people in Pierre. They were tossing around the question, “What business would you most like to see come to Pierre?” Many of the comments were in support of Target, Whole Foods, and other similar-sized businesses. Laughing to myself, I thought “Yep, that’s probably not going to happen here.” But, it got me thinking about what businesses or activities I would like to see in Pierre.
I moved back to South Dakota in 2004, after attending college in Indianapolis and then living in San Diego for a few years. This chat among young adults in Pierre really got me thinking about the things I missed from those large and vibrant cities. I yearned for a coffee shop that stayed open later than 4pm. I also fiercely missed my local farmers’ market in San Diego. Every Thursday night, I walked to downtown La Mesa to enjoy the local car show, grab some fresh tamales, and stock up on local basil, avocados, limes, and other lovely items.
It got me thinking that I couldn’t be the only one wishing for these things right here in Pierre. I mentioned the thought-provoking chat to my fiancé, Matt, who had recently moved back to South Dakota after graduating from culinary school in New Hampshire. He echoed my feelings and we started to discuss the possibility of helping start a local farmers’ market.
After that, things happened pretty rapidly. We attended an annual farmers’ market meeting in Brookings where we met Julie. She was from Pierre and also wanted to start a farmers’ market. Like us, she had the desire to stroll through a local farmers’ market. She committed to completing and filing the necessary paperwork, while we agreed to locate vendors. As much as I hate paperwork, it seemed like we got the better end of the deal. That was, until we started searching for vendors. There were less than a handful, and we found zero produce vendors.
Knowing vegetables were a needed commodity at a successful farmers’ market, we started brainstorming. And then it hit us. My parents lived on the farm I grew up on about 20 miles outside of town and had plenty of available land for growing vegetables. What if we were vendors for the first year, until we could entice others to join? We decided upon B&G Produce and went about growing vegetables for season one. And, as they say, the rest is history.
The Capital City Farmer’s Market is in its twelfth season this year. We’ve grown from a market of three vendors to a market of 12-15 during our peak season. Two of the three vendors from season one still participate today; B&G Produce and Bab’s Bites ‘n Bones. Our email list has over 500 addresses, we have a blog, participate heavily on our social media channels, and this year, because of COVID-19, have also started utilizing a web store.
In previous years we incorporated live music, kids’ activities, and local nonprofit groups into our weekly Saturday morning market. This year is a little different. We’ve scaled way back and implemented some social distancing parameters to be as safe as possible for our vendors and customers. We’re taking each market one step at a time and hoping to see an increase in vendor participation and customer attendance as folks start to feel more comfortable.
This year could be a long road, but we’re determined to make it down the road. We’ll turn the corner at the end and be stronger and better because of it. Our vendors and customers are committed to this market. We’ve all become family. And, isn’t that one of the highlights of a farmers’ market? The friends you make along the way.