Farmer's Market Finds Success with New Location and Management
Staff Report, 07-17-2019

Patrons peruse the vendor booths at the Farmers' Market in the Falls July 12th at High Bridge Glens.
Stephen Mulé
The “Farmers' Market in the Falls” has officially begun its second season at its new location in High Bridge Glens Park in Cuyahoga Falls. This season's first market was a grand success thanks in part to new manager Sarah Banzhof, who saw more than 425 customers pass through the market as live music permeated the air and vendors displayed their wares.

The city farmers' market found its administrative home with Parks & Recreation about ten years ago, and was previously held at city hall and then Quirk Cultural Center for five years. Following the opening of Front Street to vehicular traffic last year, the market was relocated to High Bridge Glens. Although business suffered somewhat from its relocation last season, this year's inaugural event seems to have demonstrated the considerable potential of its beautiful new home. With the city seeking to create an entertainment district from HiHO Brewery to the Downtown Interactive Water Fountain on the north end (and beyond), drawing customers to High Bridge Glens encourages residents and visitors to cross Broad Boulevard and explore the south end of Downtown Cuyahoga Falls.

The decision to hire Banzhof—an obvious choice given her experience as a vendor herself—to manage the market seems to have paid off for the city already. Although her role this year is to manage, she has also hired an employee to run her own booth, The Natural Body, marking her seventh year as a vendor at the Farmers' Market in the Falls. The Natural Body is a body care product company that sells all-natural body products that are free of parabens and made from raw ingredients. Currently, Banzhof offers foaming face cleanser, day face moisturizer, anti-aging salve, petroleum-free lip balm, headache and congestion salve, sugar and salt scrubs, body butter, beard oil, nursing salve, diaper cream, and lotion bars, with more products coming in the future.

Tara Bartek, Recreation Program Manager for the city's Parks & Recreation department, approached Banzhof about the creation of the position and encouraged her to apply. Banzhof said she was overjoyed that the city created the position and is “taking interest in the farmers’ market community by offering access to fresh goods and services.” As manager, Banzhof has added live music to the market, which she said provides “the customer with not just amazing products to purchase, but also an event to attend.” She also increased the number of vendors to provide a larger variety of goods available for purchase, and has added special themes and events to coincide with each market, such as a dog-centric market as well as a kids’ event that takes place at the same time as the Falls Downtown Fridays event series' Kids Fest. Other markets will also fit nicely with downtown events.

There has also been a push to ensure products are locally sourced. “We only allow farmer owned and operated farmers to attend the market,” Banzhof said. “We require each farmer to produce the seed bill (receipt) that shows they themselves have planted the plants/ veggies/ fruits and then compare that bill with what they bring to market. We have three farmers this year, and I have complete confidence that each of them have grown all of their own produce.”

To help get the word out about the market in a quasi-literal grassroots fashion, Banzhof invited residents to display signs advertising the markets in their yards. She also resurrected a previously established Instagram account besides utilizing facebook and press releases. What's more, vendors will now accept “Senior Coupons” that are distributed by Vantage Aging in June. “Each senior member of the community is eligible for $50 worth of coupons through this program that farmers can accept in exchange for fresh produce,” Banzhof said. “We love our senior customers and want them to have access to farm fresh veggies and fruits even on a fixed income!”

Then there is the reasoning behind a farmers' market—why residents should patronize such a program to begin with. According to Banzhof, “The quality/ freshness of goods is unmatched at a farmers’ market—veggies & fruits have ripened in the fields as opposed to on the truck on a long cross country journey and therefore will have a much better flavor and higher amount of nutrients.” She also says that “shopping local is a wonderful way to get to know . . . artists and support them,” as “local, handmade jewelry, body products (that are made from much healthier raw ingredients), or even a batch of cupcakes from a baker in the community all connect you to the place that you live.” She additionally stresses that “protecting the environment is another (and probably my favorite) reason to check out the market. Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to you, and all of this shipping uses a large amount of fossil fuels, contributes to pollution, and creates more trash with all of the packaging.”

Despite the decidedly serious reasons for shopping at a farmers' market, Banzhof also wants to be sure residents see how much fun it can be. “Listening to great music in the sunshine while talking with the farmer who grew your food or the artisan that made your lip balm makes shopping a pleasure rather than a chore, and provides a place to connect with your own community,” she said.

If the first market of the season is to be any indication of its future success, residents can look forward to a very special community event each week. Although local produce is not especially plentiful this early in the season, the first market featured baked goods—including some gluten-sensitive and vegan-friendly options—plus jams and jellies, homemade pickles, jewelry, art, live music, and more. High Bridge Glens provides a lovely backdrop for the market besides, making it yet another jewel in the Cuyahoga Falls crown.

The Farmers' Market in the Falls takes place Fridays, 4-7pm, at High Bridge Glens Park (1817 Front St.), July 12th-October 4th. The editors of the Falls Free Press wish to acknowledge that Banzhof is a sometimes contributor as the “Tips from the Green Girl” columnist.

© 2020   Falls Free Press