photo by Shelley Pauls via Unsplash
Local Farmers' Market Harvest
article & photo by renata haidle
You may never have thought of Billings’ South Side as a food desert. After all, we live in a vibrant city surrounded by vast areas of fertile land, not to mention all the inner city gardens lovingly cared for by so many of us. Nevertheless, according to USDA guidelines such as income level, proximity to the nearest grocery store, and transportation cost, the south side of Billings is considered a food desert. Living in such an area is not an issue of availability, but of access. Compelled by the urgent need to provide this part of town with fresh, affordable food, Riverstone Health, Billings Clinic, and St. Vincent Healthcare created Healthy By Design, an initiative that aims to promote healthy choices throughout Yellowstone County.
One of the solutions Healthy By Design offered was a South Side Gardeners’ Market, which started in 2011. Now in its 11th season, the market occurs at South Park (South Broadway and 6th Avenue South) every Thursday from 4:30-6:30pm, between June 10th- October 7th.
“We’ve been at beautiful South Park for the last 9 seasons to create a more family-friendly atmosphere, where families can shop and bring their kids to enjoy the fun that South Park offers. It’s also been a way for us to offer fresh and affordable produce to the South Side community. The Gardeners’ Market does not charge a vendor fee to sell, so vendors can reduce the price of their products to make it more affordable for customers,“ says Eden Sowards, market manager. “Everyone is welcome to shop at the Gardeners’ Market and we continue to take new vendors throughout the season. We have vendors who sell produce, meat, eggs, and limit baked goods and crafts vendors to make healthy food access the priority. Many of our produce vendors are not even farmers, they may just have a garden with an abundance of produce that they don’t need, so they like to sell to bring fresh produce to the community, engage with customers, enjoy South Park, and make a little profit in the process.”
To make it easy on customers, the Gardeners’ Market offers more payment opportunities than any other market in the county. “We accept cash, debit/credit, SNAP, WIC Farm Direct Checks, and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers,” says Sowards. This benefits both the customer and vendor. Despite the pandemic last season, customers spent over $24,000, which went right back into the local economy supporting these vendors.”
In addition to live music twice per month, there is one special event scheduled each month during the season.
- June 17th- Outdoor Photo Booth
- July 15th- Senior Day
- August 19th- Active Transportation Day
- September 9th- Youth Day
For more information about the Gardeners’ Market or to sign up for their weekly newsletter, go to www.hbdyc.org/market, and stay up to date by following @HBDYellowstone on Facebook. Vendors looking to sell at the market can reach out to email@example.com or call 406.651.6444.
More local markets to check out:
Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market
- Most Billings residents are familiar with the Yellowstone Valley Farmers Market, located downtown. This year, the market will be held each Saturday from July 17 until October 2 at the intersection of 2nd Ave N. and N. Broadway. Besides fruit and vegetables, you can expect to find freshly baked goods, local meats, flowers, food and beverages, as well as the ever-popular food trucks. Live entertainment contributes to the festive and fun atmosphere. Check out the market’s website, www.yvfm.org, for up-to-date information and last-minute news, or call 406.855.1299 with any questions.
Farmers Market at The Produce Market*
- Amazing local vendors, LIVE music, and nothing but good vibes every Thursday from 5-7pm at 1812 Grand Avenue.
Laurel Downtown Farmers Market
- Laurel Residents can get in on the fresh Farmers Market fun too, Saturdays from July 10-September 11th from 8am-12pm. Located at 115 West 1st Street. For more information call 406.628.8105.
Red Lodge Farmers Market
- Red Lodge residents and visitors can partake in the 2021 market season “where farmers and shoppers can come together” running Fridays from June 18th to September 10th in Lyons Park 3:30-6pm. For questions or more information, call Sammy Wicks at 541.683.0896.