Photographer / Robby Berry
The Fort Ben Farmers Market is back for the summer season. The market runs every first Thursday now through October at the Lawrence Civic Plaza.
“We have anywhere from 15 to 20 vendors each week,” says Mandy Wright-Jarrett, director. “Our market is a SNAP-approved market, which means we accept EBT and P-EBT. Because of that, we’re a predominately food-based market. Our location is wonderful. We’re right across from the new Hilton that is being built. Then we have the new Otis apartments. We have all these families moving in, and there is so much walkability. Next year, Civic Plaza is getting a complete overhaul and will be redone.”
The Fort Ben Farmers Market provides a matching program for the Hoosier Works card.
“People can come use their cards to purchase food at the market, and then we will match it with the Fresh Bucks program through the Marion County Health Department,” Wright-Jarrett says. “We love this program because it’s a full-circle program. It not only benefits the folks with the cards, but it also benefits our local growers and farmers. It increases their sales with the local community, and it’s increasing the buying power for the people in this community.”
Each week a different community organization is present at the market to offer information.
“We have Women, Infants and Children coming one week to hand out vouchers,” Wright-Jarrett says. “One week we will have the Lawrence Police Department on hand to do some community outreach. Maddie Smiles shows up from time to time, to set up craft stations for the kids attending the market. We always have a big area for hula hooping and drawing.”
The market is family-oriented, dog friendly, and bilingual to accommodate those who speak Spanish and English.
“We try to focus on being bilingual because of the diversity of people who live in Lawrence,” Wright-Jarrett says. “It’s a smaller market, so we can focus on bringing everyone together. We have a nice, steady flow of people each week. We would love to see other markets do the same by making their markets more accessible. Historically, markets have catered to people of privilege, and that’s not how it should be. We’re trying very hard to make the markets more accessible for everyone.”
The market sells not only fresh produce, but also hot foods.
“We have an awesome food truck that comes out,” Wright-Jarrett says. “Samano’s offers tamales and other authentic Mexican cuisines.”
During the lockdowns last year, the market was deemed essential and allowed to stay open.
“We were open but super restricted last year,” Wright-Jarrett says. “We’re so lucky our audience still came out to support us. We created access to food for those who weren’t comfortable going to an indoor grocery store. Things are getting better, and numbers are dropping, but we’re not out of the woods yet. We encourage everyone to come do some outdoor shopping at our market.”
For more information, visit facebook.com/FortBenFarmersMarket.