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Expansion Is The Name Of The Game For Arkansas Farmers Markets

Photo Courtesy Downtown Bentonville

Farmers markets across Arkansas highlight the state’s charm, from its largest city and capital — Little Rock — to its rural small towns. No matter where they’re located, the markets are also steadily growing in size, revenue, and popularity. Here are four great spots to visit when visiting The Land of Opportunity.

Little Rock Farmers Market 

In 1974, a small group of farmers set up a farmers market in Little Rock, Arkansas. Fifty years later, the thriving market includes more than 50 weekly vendors. Since 1996, the Little Rock Farmers Market (LRFM) has been situated at two outdoor, open-air venues in the city’s River Market District (400 President Clinton Ave.), which scenically overlooks Riverfront Park and the Arkansas River.

Sponsored by the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau, the market presents fresh-from-the-farm produce harvested across the state of Arkansas. It features various local meat purveyors and makers of lovely handcrafts and delectable treats. 

Besides the interesting array of vendor booths, LRFM also hosts live entertainment and master gardeners who are available to solve your plant problems.

The weekly Synergy Saturday, meanwhile, offers free health screenings and health and wellness information, while the monthly Second Saturday program presents activities from community partners. LRFM takes place on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. from the beginning of May through August. 

Photo Courtesy Little Rock Farmers Market 

Bella Vista Farmers & Makers Market 

Community health and well-being are core values of the Bella Vista Farmers & Makers Market (BVFM). It all began in 2016 through a civic collaboration between the small northern Arkansas city and the Mercy Medical Center The Market, located in Mercy Medical’s parking lot (1 Mercy Way). 

BVFM has seen its size and popularity expand in the past couple of years, creating space for more vendors and services. The largest number of vendors in 2023 was 39, while there were 53 on the 2024 opening day

The expansion coincided with the appointment of BVFM merchant Becky Parmelee as market manager for the 2023 season.

Other changes have seen BVFM participate in the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Double Your Food Dollars program. 

Parmelee also expanded the number of special events during the 2023 season, while 2024 features the establishment of a curbside pickup project. Besides promoting local farmers and makers, the market also sets aside — for free — a space for nonprofits to do demonstrations for the public. 

Photo Courtesy Bella Vista Farmers Market 

But the most unique aspect of the Bella Vista Farmers Market just might be when it happens: Sunday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. from late April through early October. It is one of the few farmers markets in Arkansas that is held on Sundays. Parmelee told the Weekly Vista that the main advantage is that the BVFM can attract vendors (including herself) who work other markets on Saturdays, resulting in a market that can compete with more prominent cities in the region.

Benton Farmers Market

The long-running Benton Farmers Market sets up for business at a pavilion in downtown Benton (125 Ashley St.) from the first Saturday of April through the final one of October, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. This central, easily accessible location greatly assists the market in achieving its mission that intertwines two core tenets. It strives “to provide access to local, sustainable and healthy foods in order to serve the people of Central Arkansas” while “working to enhance the quality of life in the Benton area by providing a place for community activity which fosters social gathering and interaction.”

Photo Courtesy Benton: The Heart of Arkansas 

Central Arkansas farmers provide the market with a colorful selection of fruits and vegetables, from cantaloupe and okra to sweet corn and green onions.

It seems fitting, too, that the letter “B” has a particularly plentiful presence at the Benton Farmers Market, with beans, blackberries, blueberries, and beef among the items typically available at any given market. 

Also associated with the market is a rather unexpected “B” item: bricks. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department has a Benton Farmers Market Paver program, which allows community members to purchase an engraved brick to honor a loved one. 

Bentonville Farmers Market

Bentonville, Arkansas, is around 230 miles northwest of Benton, Arkansas. Like its near-namesake, Bentonville also has a Farmers Market that is done on Saturdays, starting in early April and running through October — although Bentonville’s hours are 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

However, there are some other differences. Bentonville is larger and has a bigger farmers market. Held in Downtown Bentonville Square (100 S. Main St.), the market hosts over 100 local farmers and makers while attracting around 200,000 visitors in 2023.

In fact, according to a Downtown Bentonville Inc. (DBI) news release, 2023 was a record-breaking year for the market, as it brought in excess of $2.1 million in sales. 

Photo Courtesy Downtown Bentonville 

The market frequently hosts special events, like an Ice Cream Fest, Dog Days, a Home & Garden Month, and a Kids’ Pop! The program gives youngsters “market dollars” to purchase produce. 

Bentonville has also found considerable success with its virtual market, which began as a wintertime proposition but now operates year-round because it was such a hit. People order items online on Fridays to Wednesdays and then pick them up on Thursday afternoons at DBI’s offices. As Aaron Nolan, DBI’s communications director, explained to Garden & Health, a key reason behind the market’s popularity is its vibe, which he describes as “an easy Saturday morning that is welcome to everyone.” 

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