Market Master

Madison, Ind.’s Adams retires after
20 years with Farmers’ Market

He was recently honored by city council,
Main Street Program

(February 2017) – At last count, Indiana has 143 Farmers’ Markets in 121 cities, towns and villages, each offering something unique, bits of charm that draw loyal followers and perhaps the best strawberries or artisan breads or Hoosier corn. One market stands out, however, and that is the Farmers’ Market of Madison, Ind. Dating to 1809, it is the oldest continuously operating Farmers’ Market in the state.
“It is so sweet,” said Dave Adams, the recently retired Market Master, regarding the unique status of Madison’s market. “I have talked to some markets that go to 1830 or 1840. Col. John Paul sold the bricks for the first Farmers’ Market that was in a little building where the (Jefferson County) jail is now.” 
Madison’s status as the oldest Farmers’ Market will be celebrated this spring. A commemorative plaque will be erected at the Broadway Fountain Park, site of the Farmers’ Market, according to Liz Brownlee of Nightfall Farm in Paris Crossing, Ind. She is a vendor and member of the Farmers’ Market Advisory Board. “We hope to have it approved and in place this spring,” she said. “We have the funds from the (Jefferson County) tourism board.”

Photo by Alice Jane Smith

Dave Adams is a familiar face around downtown Madison.

Spring still is more than a month away, Brownlee notes, but there are major signs of growth at the market. The market will honor Adams for his 20 years of service as Market Master. Its Advisory Board is seeking a new Market Master to fill Adams’ shoes. Also, it is planning ways to use a large donation to promote the market. 
Last fall, the Madison Main Street Program held its first Farm to Table Dinner, according to Whitney Wyatt, former executive director. Smaller dinners had been done in the past, but “nothing had been done on this scale,” she said. The dinner featured a three-course meal that featured food from local farms. In support of the project, the Madison Area Arts Alliance decided to hold a food-themed art show and sell the art at the dinner. Combined, the two groups raised more than $7,100 for the Madison Farmers’ Market.
Wyatt, who recently resigned as director of the Main Street Program, said her last official day on the job was Jan. 28. She said it had been a pleasure to work on the Farm to Table Dinner. “We’ve wanted to put something together like this for years but were not able to do it until interest from the public really pushed us to make it happen.”
Wyatt said she sees the Farmers’ Market as an “economic driver” for downtown Madison. “It is important to the city and the county from a food perspective,” she said, “and it is important to help downtown revitalization.”
The market is one of the events that help bring people and business to downtown, she said. It is “an anchor for the downtown economy.”
The outdoor Farmers’ Market opens in April on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 7 a.m. until noon at the Broadway Fountain on Main Street and Broadway. There is a Winter Market on Saturday at Trinity Methodist Church on Broadway.
Adams added that people who shop at the market often go on to shop elsewhere in downtown Madison. He estimates that 300 to 500 people “from all around this area” shop at the Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. In turn, they often go on to shop in other downtown businesses, bringing an estimated total of $800,000 into the city, Adams said. They spend from $20 to $50 while shopping in the city.
The indefatigable, extroverted Adams, 68, agreed to an interview in late January only 11/2 weeks after surgery to replace one of his knees. Widely honored in the community through the years, he had received a Key to the City from Mayor Damon Welch in December 2016 for his volunteer service to the Farmers’ Market.
A few years ago, Adams offered to help former city Clerk-Treasurer Bev Armstrong one day. Back then, the Clerk-Treasurer served as Market Master. “I asked if I could help build the market and tried to build on what she had done,” he said. The market and local foods had been his passions for many years.
“My dream was to build the Farmers’ Market and a community garden,” he said. Working with Nick Ellis, he was able to get land from the state of Indiana to develop a successful community garden with solar-powered fencing.
Another dream is to develop a food cooperative, which is making process. He notes that local foods, such as vegetables and honey, are being sold at places such as Dattilo’s Fruit Market, the Pride Family Market and Dutch Discount. Getting local food into local restaurants is another dream that is coming to fruition. Finally, getting local food into the school systems is yet-another dream come true. With the help of the Future Farmers of America and the Storie Family, local food is being served in Madison schools.
Adams recalls a time in the mid-to-late 1800s when vendors for the Farmers’ Market lined the Jefferson County Courthouse. Farmers came and stayed overnight in the tall red-painted building at the southeast corner of Walnut and Main streets, he said. People dressed up and arrived in carriages on Saturdays for a big day in town. Many years later, Adams recalls talking with farmers who earned enough money to send their children through college.
The Farmers’ Market had been in the vicinity of the courthouse even before one of the county’s three courthouses had been there. But its location there began to pose problems, Adams found. Traffic interfered with expansion of the market. Major events forced the market to move elsewhere. So when the courthouse burned in 2009, the time was right for a move. A temporary location on the riverfront did not work out. Eventually, the market was moved to its current location at the Broadway Fountain.
Since the move, there has been more space for Gary and Suzan Duckworth to serve omelets to order, hot drinks and French toast for breakfast. Musical groups entertain shoppers and vendors. Wares vary with the season, but shoppers may find vegetables, meat, eggs, honey, bread and baked goods, nuts, flowers, plants, soap and more.
The Advisory Board is advertising to fill Adams’ position. There is a job description on the market’s website, and it comes with a small stipend. Anyone interested in applying can visit www.farmersmarketmadison.com. Applications are due by Feb. 20.
“We are excited to find someone with a passion for the market,” Brownlee said, adding that the Advisory Board is looking for someone who will help “grow the market.”

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