Farmers Market asking Vision Fund for room to grow

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Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday throughout the summer, the Black Hills Farmer’s Market is a staple in Rapid City.

The market has increased in size over the last several years, and that's why it's vying for some of the $6.5 million in Vision Funds from the Rapid City Common Council. The Vision Fund Citizen Committee selects projects to fund for the betterment of the community.

"Basically, what we're looking for is just to find our permanent home. Founders Park, we've kind of outgrown it,” said Jessica Stori, manager of the market. “It does have some restrictions as far as our setup, and as well as parking, we've had some kind of close calls with traffic. And we don't want to be a safety hazard for the community."

The Black Hills Farmer's Market Vision Fund proposal is asking for a different, much larger space to account for its own growth. Stori estimated next year's market days will draw 70 separate vendors. She said that's too many for Founders Park.

"On the busiest day, I think I counted about 50 cars actually circling through the parking lot and couldn't find a parking spot."

The market wants a space with at least 150 parking spots, as well as ample room for each of the vendors. Currently, the vendors line the sidewalk at Founders Park with their tents, trucks and fresh food.

When there’s an influx of vendors though, some are then pushed onto the grass. Vendors and organizers have noticed that those pushed onto the grass just don’t see the same amount of business as those on the sidewalk.

Still, this is the largest farmer’s market around. While the customers keep filing in, so do the profits for the farming families making the commute to Rapid City each week.

"From our very first year that we started here, into this year, we are seeing about a 25-30 percent growth these last four years," said Gwendolyn Kitzan, owner of Kitzan Family Farms.

Kitzan Family Farms has been a regular at the market over the last four years, offering South Dakota lamb. Gwendolyn and her family said they cherish market days for the chance to build relationships with community members and share their mission, because without the Black Hills Farmer's Market, the Kitzans and other vendors aren't sure they could support growth on their own farms.

"It's critical that, if it expands, we're going to bring in more customers, which makes it able that I can keep coming back and providing this type of product," Kitzan said.

The market is interested in Campbell Field No. 7 off Campbell Street as a potential new home, as the contract for Founders Park ends in 2017.

The Vision Fund Committee is currently deciding on which proposal or proposals to fund.

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