Like most urban areas, Lincoln, Nebraska, contains many farmers’ markets throughout the growing season. The biggest of these markets is open on Saturday mornings in the downtown Lincoln area. The market itself has become something of an event, attracting thousands of people each week, during its peak.
Just last month, a new farmers’ market opened on Wednesday afternoons in the University Place neighborhood of the city. Over the years, I have seen small, neighborhood-based markets open and close with little success. News about this market over the past few weeks seemed to carry some excitement, so I decided to stop by to find out what makes it different from the other smaller markets I’ve seen.
I spoke with Malinda Burk and Trisha Spanbauer of the University Place Community Organization, the entity that organized the University Place Community Market. They related that the organization recently sent neighborhood members to attend a NeighborWorks America leadership building workshop to get ideas for creating a stronger community. From that workshop, the idea for the community market materialized.
Set in the local neighborhood, yet along a major arterial, the University Place Community Market serves a different demographic than those of the bigger weekend markets. Many people from the neighborhood, as well as people using the arterial street to drive home from work, get the chance to purchase goods in an environment perhaps not previously accessible to them. Providing low-income, elderly people with fresh produce via vouchers from the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is another way that this community market is fulfilling a local need.
While huge, event-like farmers’ markets help to build cultural aspects of urban areas, small, neighborhood-based markets can help to strengthen a community and provide needed resources. As urban planners, architects, and landscape architects, how can we help provide support for these community markets?
Some things that come to mind are providing resources for community improvement, supportive zoning, implementing social marketing, and creative mixed-use design for public space to function as open-air markets.
What are your thoughts? How can environmental designers provide support to community markets?