Covington Farmers Market: From ‘niche experience’ to mainstream food source

Weekly feature kicks off 10th anniversary with Farm to Fork brunch 

COVINGTON, Ky. – A 10th anniversary is traditionally recognized with gifts of tin or aluminum, but to celebrate a decade of providing access to homegrown goodness, the Covington Farmers Market instead will invite folks to gather around the table(s) on Aug. 7 at a Farm to Fork fund-raising brunch.

The community aspect is intentional and appropriate: Over the last decade, the Farmers Market has grown not only in numbers – from $95,000 to $285,000 in gross collective sales in the last three years alone – but also in spirit. Over time, the weekly market has become part of the rhythm of a Saturday morning in The Cov, all the while serving as a reliable venue for locally sourced produce, meats, and goods.

Residents stroll by tables and booths in the Roebling Point business district, sip coffee, nibble on baked goods, chat with the vendors and fellow regulars, fill the bags they brought from home with the beautiful rich-hued fruits and vegetables, and plan for the week’s menu with a certain satisfaction that comes from supporting local farmers.

It’s a culture of sorts built on deep roots in Covington dating back almost two centuries.

Back in 1830, a market house was constructed on what is now Park Place to allow local producers to sell meat, produce, and other goods. By 1850, another market house was built on Seventh Street between Madison Avenue and Washington Street, between what is now Braxton Brewery and Klingenberg’s Hardware.

Fast forward to the 21st century, when the modern-day Covington Farmers Market started its operation in 2012 and consistently hosts about two dozen vendors from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Third Street near Court Street.

That milestone, organizers hope, will be the start of many.

“This year we'll be celebrating the journey and success of the market over the past 10 years and energizing our most loyal supporters to continue to grow with us,” said Alexa Abner, Covington Farmers Market manager.

From ‘niche’ to necessity

The market’s success is an impressive one, especially given the global pandemic’s impact on the number of visitors, Abner said.

While gross collective sales tripled from just over $95,000 in 2018 to more than $285,000 in 2021, the number of visitors actually declined during that period, dropping from 17,030 to 13,743. That equation, said Abner, suggests a paradigm shift in how people perceive and utilize the market.

“While we hope to return to pre-pandemic visitor counts,” she said, “we observed the shift of average dollars spent per visitor from $5 per visitor in 2018 to $21 per visitor in 2021. This leads us to believe that folks who shopped with us in 2020 to the current season have changed their perception of the Farmers Market from a ‘niche experience to buy something interesting’ to a place where they now spend more of their weekly food budget supporting farmers.”

That evolving philosophy is one development that suggests an exciting future. Others:

  • A mid-week market – which was temporarily held further south on M.L. King Jr. Boulevard on Tuesday evenings – will soon resume in a new location.
  • And the City of Covington set aside $650,000 in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds in its recently passed budget to purchase a building or site, design and build a permanent Farmers Market. That work has not started.

Still, the market hasn’t lost a critical aspect of its core mission: To help low-income families afford fresh produce, the market offers Kentucky Double Dollars for participants in the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), WIC FMNP (Women, Infants and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program) and S FMNP (Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program).

Event founded on great flavors

The Farm to Fork brunch will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7, at Covington Yard.

Culinary creations will come from the chefs at Nacho Average Taco Cart, Beards & Bellies BBQ food truck, and Talons Cincy Fried. Each of the three chefs will prepare two menu items using farm-fresh ingredients from the market’s vendors.

Menu details are a surprise, since most of the ingredients are harvested and delivered a day or two before the event and thus are prepared fresh. The menu in previous years featured items like Persian Gnocchi, Shaved Squash Salad, Goat Cheese Crostini, Fennel & Tomato Stew, and Rebolita – all containing multiple locally grown and produced food elements. (So this year, don’t be surprised to see heirloom tomatoes, sweet yellow corn, summer squash, and farm fresh eggs).

That freshness – and the local touch – is the appeal, Abner said.

“This is the most exciting and unique part about our annual Farm to Fork fundraiser,” she said. “We are truly working with the freshest in-season produce, which requires a lot of hard work from our farmers, creativity from our chefs, and cooperation from Mother Nature.”

The event will feature open seating and include a cash bar, yard games, a photobooth and music from Market Music Series regular Kryst Kruer, a singer-songwriter who has performed her signature ukulele for market-goers since its first season in Roebling Point.

Farm-to-Fork sponsors include Graydon Law, ROAD iD, the state Kentucky Proud program, and Covington Yard.

The event serves as a fund-raiser; tickets are $50. To make reservations, see FARM TO FORK.


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