The Museum and Cultural Affairs Department recently released results of an economic impact study conducted by La Semilla Food Center. The results of the study reveal that the Artist and Farmers Market generates a 2.4 million dollar economic impact annually. Local businesses have even adjusted business hours to optimize the foot traffic in the Union Plaza District. These businesses are reportedly seeing their strongest sales during market hours.
What started in 2011 as just an Artist Market has grown into a full-fledged Artist and Farmers Market with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) received about a year ago. The market lives on, at 117 Anthony Street in the Union Plaza District, Saturday mornings from 9 am to 1 pm.
The Artist and Farmers Market is run by The City of El Paso’s Museums and Cultural Affairs Department (MCAD) with a mission to enhance the city’s cultural activity. Rebecca Munoz, Artist and Farmers Market Coordinator, said, “The purpose of the market is to provide an affordable platform for artists to showcase their work,” adding, “The produce is the same line of logic and we want to promote local reinvestment in our community.”
The market began as a modest gathering of local artists but has become a center for weekend recreation and community interaction. “Before we launched the famers market on June 8th of last year, attendance was admittedly low, with just the art. As we grew leading up to the launch of the farmers market attendance has grown exponentially,” said Rebecca.
People in El Paso are starting to demand local produce, something that is not always easy to provide given our region’s climate. Rebecca reminds us, “We are located in a food desert where we have a scarcity of fresh food and water that limits the variety and range of farmed foods.”
The Artist and Farmers Market has partnered with La Semilla Food Center, an organization with a mission to help grow an equitable food system in the Paso Del Norte Region. “La Semilla has helped us in the recruitment of local farmers,” said Rebecca.
Without a large number of local farms in the region, the market relies on backyard growers to fill in the gaps in produce. With assistance from La Semilla, the market does site visits of the local growers to ensure it is locally sourced and a surplus of their crop.
“One of the struggles of the farmers market had been strict laws that only allowed home bakers to sell products, like jams and baked goods,” said Rebecca.
The Artist and Farmers Market has not only overcome such obstacles but continues to offer more than just art and produce. The emphasis on “local” has brought a variety of food trucks, musicians and community organizations together on Saturday mornings.
Rebecca expresses her gratitude, “The food trucks have also been a saving grace with loyal ‘foodies’ following them from other parts of town.”
Let us not forget the reason all of this started – Art. The market is home to a diverse crowd of local artists that share a variety of media, like woodwork, hand-crafted jewelry, photography, artisan hand bags and of course painters.
Emmy award-winning journalist and news anchor Ricardo Vela proudly displays his work at the market, with other talented artists like, Christine Doran and Candy Mayer.
The market also serves as a small business incubator for entrepreneurs seeking a testing ground for expansion like Savage Baked Goods, a baked foods business owned by a trio of downtown residents with ideas as fresh as their food.
“[A] goal [of the Market] was to create a daytime presence for the Union Plaza Entertainment District that could match the amount of night-time activity,” said Ben Fyffe Interim Director of MCAD, adding, “The Market has stimulated that, with our artists, growers and performers stimulating lots of foot traffic and creating a unique sense of place on Saturday mornings. This economic impact report shows we are working towards our goals and shows that arts and culture are powerful economic drivers in our community.”
The Artist and Farmers Market is continuing to evolve, grow and educate the public with free gardening workshops starting on March 24th but the workshop on March 29th will be hosted by La Semilla Food Center and will be given at the market itself that Saturday.
For more information: (915) 541-4942