Farmers market builds community capacity

I received an email last week from a youth program sponsor who is bringing a group of young people to our community this weekend. He was looking for a speaker who could address the group about our community. In the email, he said that people he had asked about Owensboro said we were “too small to be considered a big city and too big to be considered rural.”

I replied that we are most definitely not a “big city,” but we were recently named one of the Top 100 Small Cities in the United States. And we are surrounded by some of the richest farm land in the world.

We have the best of both worlds.

A tangible example of where the best of those worlds thrives together is the Regional Farmers Market on the corner of Parrish Avenue and Triplett Street.

As soon as you enter the pavilion, there is a sense that you are in a community that is moving and vibrant. There is a multi-generational presence among the shoppers and the vendors. There is a bustle and a sense of energy. Even after you finish shopping, you would rather stay. It creates the “third space” that results in talent retention and development. People want to live in communities that have spaces like the Farmers Market — places where they can enjoy others.

The market is a reminder of the connection we have to one another … to the people who raise the food that nourishes our bodies. The person selling most likely nurtured the produce or raised the beef, pork or poultry we take home to grill. We drive past their land. And if we are lucky enough, we have set foot on the soil.

The producers there are innovators and trailblazers in their professions. The younger generations are adapting to new business models and making our economy stronger in the process.

The very presence of the pavilion has been another Owensboro success story. It is a public-private partnership that has taken hundreds of people to grow it to where it is today. Donors, volunteers, producers and the people who purchase the goods are all part of its success. And at the core is a board of committed people who knew they could make it happen.

So no, we are not a big city. We are a small city with big thinkers from inside and outside the city limits. And we make big things happen when we set our minds to it.

By Candance Brake President and CEO, Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce