Growth and impact of YLNI Barr Street Farmers Market is positively Fort Wayne

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The YLNI Famers Market on Barr Street in downtown Fort Wayne has become a Saturday morning tradition for thousands of people. The market has grown tremendously over the past 18 seasons, growing from an average of 30 vendors and 200 attendees each week in its early seasons, to an average of 150 vendors and 10,000 attendees today.

Marketplace manager Ashley Wagner says credit goes to vendors who play a huge role in the market’s success.

“It’s the vendors who bring people here,” she says. “They each have their own unique and distinct personality, an amazing smile that brings people back, and we wouldn’t have this market without each of our vendors.”

Wendy Flotow has been on the market since her first season. She and her husband own Country Garden Farm & Market. They spend their Saturday mornings selling flowers and produce to new and returning customers.

“People are lining up to get our flowers, and it’s just fun to see those people. We have the same people who come every week. One week they will buy a bouquet and they love them so much, then they will buy another 4,” she said with a smile. “It’s bumper to bumper with people and it’s fun, it’s just a fun atmosphere.”

Farmer’s Market attendees, like Cassie Beer, say they love the market and are happy to support and buy locally.

“It’s really great to walk around and feel like you can spend your money locally and buy local coffee, local produce, local art, it feels good to support FW in a really tangible way,” said Beer. “It brings all kinds of people together, downtown, and we support our community economically, artistically, family-wise, there are so many good things about it.”

“It brings a beautiful, vibrant atmosphere to downtown Fort Wayne that you couldn’t tell years ago. Events like this are really positive for everyone,” said buyer Kurt Thieman, who noted market growth. “It’s so much bigger than a few years ago, it’s four times bigger and there are so many more people and so many more shops and stalls.”

Saturday August 13, the market welcomed its 100,000 visitors for the summer season. Market volunteer Kevin Butts surprised Perri Faison with a gift basket full of produce from some of the market vendors.

The YLNI Farmer’s Market is also currently ranked the No. 1 farmer’s market in the state of Indiana, according to Farmland Trust, which holds a competition each summer showcasing markets across the country. It is also ranked 7th in the Midwest and 28th in the nation.

Until September 19, supporters can vote for their favorite markets.