Columbia Farmer\'s Market sees significant increase in customers

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Farmer's Market may be in need of a new venue in the coming years. It recently released its 2015 annual report, which showed a 27 percent increase in customers from 2014.  The market has been in business for 35 years and had a total of 74,569 customers in 2015. 

In total, the market had 73 vendors, 12 of which were new in 2015. 

Market Manager Corrina Smith said the market is very well-established and has been active since around 1980. She said the number of vendors fluctuates year to year and is usually around five or six new ones a year. 

"Our market is something that vendors are looking for," Smith said. "We bring two to three thousand customers in on a Saturday." 

John Corn, Farmer's Market President, said Columbia already has a larger market in comparison to others.

Smith said the 27 percent increase in customers was very significant for Columbia.

"We did a huge social media push, also the economy and gas prices are low and I think more people are willing to come out and support local farmers," Smith said. 

Smith said another factor that could have contributed to the increase is the ability to use food stamps at the market. 

"We have a match program and I think we've done more of a push with advertising that so those customers have increased at the market," Smith said. 

Smith also said the market also started several new educational activities for children to participate in while their families shop at the market. The new activity called "Munch Money" began in 2015 and had 57 children participate. She said the market also launched a new education program called "The Greenhouse," where organizations come in and provide activities for children to do. Smith said these new programs along with a grant in 2014 has allowed the market to bring in more vendors and customers. 

The Winter market currently takes place on Saturday mornings at the Parkade Plaza and the outdoor market will open on March 19 at the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center (ARC). 

Smith said out of the 12 new vendors, she believes nine of them will be coming back for the 2016 year.