The Fort Ben Cultural Campus at Post Road and Otis Avenue is abuzz every Thursday night throughout the summer. In its new location, the Fort Ben Farmers Market is seeing more traffic than ever and has added more vendors to the annual market.
The market, which was formerly conducted at Civic Plaza, features a variety of vendors and a wealth of community activities. It is open from every Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 6.
Now in its seventh year, the Fort Ben Farmers Market is operating for the first time at the Cultural Campus, which is owned by the City of Lawrence. The new location has generated more foot traffic and been popular with vendors.
Nearly 30 vendors and four food trucks are mainstays at the Fort Ben Farmers Market. One of the most popular food trucks, My Dad’s Sweet Corn, which has sold out some weeks as early as 5 p.m. Vendors sell products ranging from produce to local crafts and have attracted a wide range of customers.
Market Director Damaris Iraheta, who is also manager of communications for Latino Affairs for the City of Lawrence, has been working with Mayor Steve Collier in recent years to expand outreach with thei city’s Spanish-Speaking community.
“Mayor Collier, his goal was to make the market a bilingual market,” Iraheta said. “He wanted to have bilingual signage and he just wanted to cater more to the Latino community because it’s grown so much in the City of Lawrence.”
The market is also helping local farmers get out into communities. One new vendor, Garcia Farms, started at the market July 7. Garcia Farms founder Daniel Garcia said parts of Lawrence are “food desserts,” and that’s an issue he wants to address.
“We really just like being able to provide a local produce option to folks that might not necessarily think that, hey, you know, we actually have a lot of agriculture in Indiana,” Garcia said. “You go out to the fields outside Indianapolis and it’s a lot of corn and beans, not a whole lot of other things. You know, there’s a lot of livestock, but veggies are not easy to come by locally and especially grown organically.”
“We just want to cater to the community because we know that there aren’t a lot of clothes by grocery stores,” Iraheta said. “So, we do know that it’s important to have fresh produce at the market to cater to those who want more variety.”
Besides providing local produce, another way the farmers market is looking to help the community is offering free back-to-school vaccinations and COVID-19 vaccinations throughout the month of July.
The market has partnered with the Indiana Dept. of Health, Managed Health Services and the Shalom Center to provide the vaccinations. MHS is also providing a free backpack filled with school supplies to every student that gets vaccinated.
Iraheta said 10 students received vaccinations at the July 7 clinic, and four adults received either a vaccination or a COVID-19 booster.
The market is also hosting their (its) second blood drive Aug. 11. The last blood drive in June was fully booked and every participant received a small Bluetooth speaker.
Another popular event has been yoga at the market. The market has had yoga twice this season with another scheduled for Aug. 4. The yoga session is free, but participants are encouraged to bring their own matts.
“We want the farmers market to be a place where people don’t just come to shop, they want to come by you know shop and hang out,” Iraheta said.