KISSIMMEE – Sometimes what’s important is being as accommodating as possible, particularly when it comes to meeting people’s schedules.
And sometimes it’s all about trying to offer people something they might otherwise have a harder time finding.
The non-profit agency Kissimmee Main Street had both goals in mind when they decided to retool the city’s outdoor Farmers Market, said Kelly Trace.
“We were noticing there wasn’t that big of a crowd for the morning market on Thursdays,” said Trace, the director of Kissimmee Main Street. “Typically when we do events, we expect a big crowd. So we decided to do a lot of research and we asked people, ‘Why don’t you come to the market,’ and people said they are working in the mornings.”
That’s a major reason why Kissimmee Main Street will be moving its Farmers Market to Tuesdays from 4-8 p.m., in front of the Kissimmee Civic Center. The grand opening will be on Oct. 9.
“We’re up to about 15 vendors right now, and that number is growing every day,” she said. “We have room for 38.”
Trace did her research in part by visiting Orlando to see what the successful Farmers Markets in areas like College Park were doing to attract crowds.
“We went to three different evening markets in Orlando,” she said. “Just sitting there and looking at the amount of people who came through, if I had half of that, I would be thrilled.”
But the change in day and hours was only one part of the equation. Trace said her research gave her two options: provide booth space to those who resell produce grown elsewhere, or open it up to the local growers themselves. Doing both, she said, would have been unfair.
“You can’t have a reseller and a grower together,” she said. “They won’t be able to compare pricing, so you have to go either way. If you’re a reseller, most of them go to Plant City every morning and buy their produce. Because they do it in mass quantity, the price is so cheap.”
On the other hand, she said, that produce may not be grown locally, or even in the United States. So instead Kissimmee Main Street decided to open this Farmers Market up to local growers. What the new market will be offering is locally grown and prepared items, including produce, meats, dairy products, plants, herbs and crafts.
It’s a reminder, Trace said, that while Osceola County may be known in some people’s minds for close proximity to the theme parks, the tourist spots the county hosts along U.S. 192, and the crowds drawn to areas like downtown Celebration, the county still has a considerable agricultural presence as well.
With this locally grown Farmers Market, “You know the grower and you establish that relationship with them, and you know what they bring is fresh and grown in Florida,” she said. “Do people want a tomato from anywhere in the world — or do they want one grown locally?”
With individual growers, she said, the pricing may be a bit higher than buying from resellers who stock up in bulk. But the quality and freshness of those local products, she added, make it worth the difference.
“Everybody is really excited,” she said. “They’ll actually know where their food comes from. That’s one of the big reasons we did this.”
In the meantime, Kissimmee Main Street is working hard to get the word out about the Oct. 9 grand opening.
“Those 15 vendors are what we have right now, and we need to get more,” she said. “But we know it will take time to get the word out there about this.”
To learn more about the Downtown Kissimmee Farmers Market, call Trace at 407-846-4643.
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