By Pauline Benetti
Southwest Organization for Sustainability
The Pagosa Farmers Market closed early last Saturday. Our customers have gotten the message — arrive early for the best selection. By noon, our vendors were sold out and the crowd had disappeared, so we closed up shop and went home an hour early. Apologies to anyone who might have arrived after noon.
This year as part of our COVID-19 precautions, we have an entrance to the market, allowing us to offer hand sanitizer and masks to those who wish to take advantage of either or both. At the opening market on June 27, we gave away 50 masks, but since then we have seen a dramatic decrease and an increase in the use of hand sanitizer. For that, our vendors are grateful since they wear face coverings for the entire four hours as they greet a hundred or so customers each market.
Clearly, the population we see is increasingly more conscious of the responsibility we all share in the pandemic and thanks to the Pagosa Springs Town Council for highlighting that responsibility with increased signage and a commanding full-page ad in The Pagosa Springs SUN last week.
The market entrance also allows us to accurately count attendance with an additional breakdown — locals, part-timers and visitors including home state. We hope that the brief moment it takes to answer the question does not inconvenience folks since it is extremely valuable information for market management.
The town council and the Pagosa Springs Area Tourism Board (PSATB) are major supporters of the Pagosa Farmers Market and both are interested in a return on investment which we can now provide in very specific terms for the first time.
Just in these first four markets, an amazing 950 attendees have passed through the entrance with just over half being tourists, a figure of special interest to the PSATB. Of course, locals and part-timers account for the vast majority of sales, increasing local economic activity to the general benefit and sales tax collection ultimately benefiting the town.
The numbers also give market management an idea of how desirable is our product — locally grown and produced. Finally, these large numbers might possibly convince someone who is on the fence about whether to invest in growing local produce for sale or creating a local product such as jams and jellies or offering USDA-approved meat for sale, to go forward with their projects, increasing economic activity and the local food supply — both to the general benefit. The market is there waiting to be tapped. We ask for your patience then for the brief interruption as we ask “Are you local?”
We continue to accept SNAP cards and continue to hand out a $20 value of Double up Bucks for the first $20 SNAP purchase, essentially doubling purchasing power. In addition, we will be redeeming coupons from the San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging which have been distributed to local seniors to encourage shopping at the Pagosa Farmers Market and buying nutritious, local food. These coupons are supported by funding from the CARES COVID-19 Stimulus Act. For more information, call 403-2164.
The market runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the east end of town at the East Side Market.
Hope to see you at the market Saturday — but early.