From Our Beet Reporters – Market Profile, Sugar Grove
A Focus on Community at the Sugar Grove Farmer’s Market
When: Every Saturday, 8 a.m. – 12 noon
Where: 10 Municipal Drive in the Sugar Grove Village Parking Lot
Walk past the greeter’s booth, talk to the vendors or read the midweek newsletter online and it becomes clear that the Sugar Grove Farmer’s Market is building a solid foundation for the local food community in this far west suburb. Faced with the challenge of attracting growers to a market whose weekly attendance peaks at three hundred, the Sugar Grove staff has by building a market community, both in person and online. I checked in with Pat Graceffa, the market’s director, for a little perspective on what it takes to operate an up and coming farmer’s market:
Have you seen attendance in increase or decline over the last couple of years?
Our attendance has increased every year. When we were starting out, we were happy to see 125 people a week. Our attendance now for a regular week is between 225-250. When we have events, we can be anywhere from 300 up.
What are some of the popular features/items week to week?
Fruits, veggies, fresh eggs and meats are always our number one item. Sweet Sensations is making fresh pie and wonderful cookies and has been received well this year. Tupperware is always a hit and what better place to have Tupperware to keep all the fruits and veggies fresh.
Do you expect more produce growers as the season progresses?
Our market is a Saturday market and we are a small market compared to large towns like Wheaton and Naperville so it is hard for us to find growers because they can make more money at the large markets than they can here in Sugar Grove. But Milt from Norway Farms is very popular with residents who have grown to know him over the last five years and this year we have our new farm, Twin Gardens Farm, and they found us so that is a good sign for our market because we are growing.
You seem to have a great social media and e-newsletter strategy. How hard is it to implement and keep current? Are you seeing positive results from your efforts?
Social media is definitely a plus! It is free and what a way to reach a huge number of people. We are currently working on an app too for the market. We are also using Posterous so we can post videos and photos. People love to tag themselves on Facebook too. We also use every agriculture website that will allow us to post our market on its site. Again, we find those sites by doing a search on Google so it is not hard at all. Our e-newsletter has been wonderful for our vendors and our customers. People look for it and we get people who have received it from their friends and who come to us at the information tent and ask us if they can sign up. We of course ask people every week if they would like to sign up. We have over 400 people signed up now.
Is there anything else you want the readers to know about the market?
I think the most important thing people need to understand today is where their food is grown and how their food is grown. By talking to our farmers, and I include our meat and egg folks as farmers, people learn new things all the time about their food. It is critical to understand the connection between health and the food you eat.
Community is important too and that is what I would tell other town officials. They need to support their local market the way the Sugar Grove Chamber of Commerce and the Village of Sugar Grove have supported the Sugar Grove Farmers Market. We get help from our library, public works department, police and fire department and our park district.
I love the market and I love the friends I have made at the market. Winter is always a hard time for all of us volunteers because we don’t have the opportunity to buy our fresh food and meet with friends we don’t always have a chance to meet with during the colder months.