LAWRENCE, Ind. - For the second summer in a row, a farmers market is taking over Civic Plaza on Thursday evenings. Last year, the city held its first ever Fort Ben Farmers Market season, which opened following the closing of two Marsh grocery stores.
Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier said last summer the farmers market had been in the works well before it was announced the two stores would close. The addition of the weekly farmers market would help residents by providing another source to buy food.
The Marsh, near the intersection of Fox and Oaklandon Roads, opened at a Needler's Fresh Market not too long after the city started the market.
The Marsh, along North Franklin Road, had been a grocery store for several decades but remains empty today.
Collier said the empty lot isn't getting much interest from the grocer industry.
“If you talk to grocery store owners right now, they’re seeing more and more deliveries as compared to actual shoppers," said Collier.
The mayor said there are a few grocery stores in the city, enough that there really isn't a food desert, but said he'd gladly welcome one more.
He added the neighborhood where the empty Marsh building sits has an older population and would like the people there to have a closer option. There is a grocery store in the area that is for a growing hispanic and latino community in that part of the city.
The market can still be a safety net, if another grocer leaves town. However, Collier wants it to become an attraction to bring people in.
“A big part of that is just to just to show off the city," he said. "Come and see what we got here. They’re literally a quarter-mile from the state park and the golf course. A lot of it is just marketing the city."
The Fort Ben Farmers Market runs each Thursday from 4-7 p.m. from June to the end of September. It takes place at Civic Plaza.
"It's not just people coming and shopping for local food, which is very important," said the market's manager, Mandy Wright-Jarrett. "It’s also going to be an experience. I think it’s important in a city like Lawrence for people to know each other and the market is a great chance for people to get to know one another."
The market opened for the season last week, bringing in an estimated 400 people. Vendors told management sales were up compared to last year.