The River Valley Farmer’s Market has brought locally grown fruits and vegetables to downtown Hardin for the past two summers. The weekly evening Market also features other local food items, craftspeople, musical talent, health resources, community services/organizations, and fun activities for children.
The Healthy Hardin Community Development Coalition sponsored the first River Valley Farmers Market during the summer of 2015. The Market ran for four weeks and was received with so much enthusiasm by the community that they decided to expand to six weeks in 2016. They recruited over 24 vendors and had at least three local fruit/vegetable vendors each week. They also added the SNAP Benefits program and secured grant funds to double fruit/vegetable benefits for SNAP participants.
The 2016 market focused on family health and wellness. Most of the local health care facilities participated through information booths, health-related activities for children, and free screenings. The Best Beginnings Community Coalition passed out oral care supplies and information about the importance of preventative dental care in the early years. The state immunization van and seat belt simulator both participated. The Extension Office and SNAP-Ed also had a booth each week, where they passed out information about healthy eating. The local school district Food Corp volunteer organized fruit/vegetable tastings weekly, along with fun nutrition education activities for children. Other vendors included fundraising organizations (local food bank, 4-H), local craftspeople, and local entrepreneurs/small business owners.
The 2016 market had well over 200 participants each evening. All food vendors agreed to accept SNAP tokens. They plan to continue advertising the value of the double benefit tokens, particularly for the community’s most vulnerable populations (families with young children and seniors). They hope to see utilization increase significantly during the 2017 market. Other initiatives for 2017 include expanding healthy prepared food options, adding more diverse local foods, recruiting additional student musicians, attracting tourists/out of town visitors, and expanding the available pool of volunteers to help with market management.
The River Valley Market has been popular with the community because of the evening hours and downtown location. The market provides not only healthy foods, but also educational activities and opportunities for children to engage in physical activity throughout the evening. Most families can walk to the event from their homes or worksites. It has also stimulated business for local restaurants.
Market customers report that they appreciate having the chance to purchase local foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Some comment on the convenience of being able to shop right after work and pick up fresh produce for dinner. They also describe the importance of having wholesome family activities to look forward to at least once a week. The River Valley Market is a welcome alternative to driving to Billings for food or entertainment.
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