The Farmer’s Market: Community & Economic Development

What follows is the statement I read about the Simpsonville Farmer’s Market at the city council meeting on April 14, 2015. It illustrates one way in which community development is economic development, which I recently wrote about.

I work an hour away. Simpsonville wasn’t exactly my first choice to live. But the Farmer’s Market and its people were the first to make me feel like Simpsonville is my home and not farmer's marketjust a place I live because I got married. The Farmer’s Market was also my introduction to Downtown Simpsonville. Without it, I don’t know if I’d have started doing so much of my shopping with the small businesses there. Now, I do–and spend my tax dollars right here in the city with brick and mortar businesses that do pay taxes and fees for business licenses. Because Simpsonville began to feel like my home, I not only started doing retail shopping and dining here, but I also started obtaining my regular services here. I switched to a local dentist, local doctors, a local hair dresser, a dog groomer (amongst other service providers). My money now stays in Simpsonville, and it all started at the Farmer’s Market. This is one small example of one of the market’s major benefits, which is borne out in national and regional research: farmer’s markets stimulate local economies. If you need another example, you need look only to Exchange Co., a brick & mortar business that got its start at the market.

Not only does the market stimulate our economy, it also provides two other major benefits to our community:

  1. Increases access to fresh, nutritious foods, and
  2. Supports healthy communities.

Research supports this, too, but it should be common sense. People are more likely to choose healthy options if those options are made readily accessible as they are at a farmer’s market. With market leadership working on being able to accept SNAP, WIC, and Seniors Nutrition Program benefits, this is ever-more important. The farmers market can make fresh fruits and vegetables the first choice for our most vulnerable and cash-strapped citizens. This is always good for our community.

Thus, Simpsonville should be doing everything in its power to encourage and support—not discourage—the Farmers’ Market’s growth.  Asking each vendor to obtain a license and charging hospitality taxes will discourage vendor participation and limit options.  It’s in your power to make an exception to a rule that shouldn’t apply equally to those vendors as to others.  And I implore you to make that exception, allowing the market to run as it always has.  It’s good for the city and it’s good for its citizens.

Eventually, the city council did make that exception, which is good because supporting community efforts like the Farmer’s Market is good for our local economy.  Again, community development is economic development.  Now, we need to do more of this: build the community, build the local economy–not just downtown but in Five Forks, Fairview, and throughout Simpsonville. One Simpsonville for economic and community development, This is, as noted before, a key component of my platform.