BY JILLIAN ELLISON
PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE PETKOV AND VISIT LAFAYETTE-WEST LAFAYETTE
Few events throughout the year offer signs of better weather ahead than the first farmers markets of the season. Starting the first week of May, farmers markets hosted in downtown Lafayette, in West Lafayette’s Cumberland Park and on Purdue University’s campus will pick back up to a warm welcome.
Brittany Matthews, events director for Greater Lafayette Commerce, says regular goers shouldn’t expect many changes to the Lafayette or Purdue markets, both run by Greater Lafayette Commerce. The 2022 expansion of the historic Lafayette market’s footprint along Fifth Street, growing from the intersections of Columbia and Main streets farther north to Ferry Street, proved to be a great success, with the market nearly at its 40-vendor capacity just two months before kickoff.
“We are always open to new vendors joining the market, provided we have the space,” Matthews says. “We have had some inquiries from potential new vendors, but no specifics have been laid out just yet.”
A few vendors popular among market goers will be returning to the Purdue and downtown markets for 2023, Matthews says, including: RDM Farms, an aquaculture farm operation specializing in shrimp production; Maggie’s Kitchen, a local caterer crafting West African cuisine; and The Vegan Cheese Lady, an artisan dairy-free cheesemaker based in Lafayette.
While Lafayette’s 184-year-old market has experienced growth, the market held on Purdue’s Memorial Mall each season is limited in how much bigger it can grow.
“We would love to see the campus market continue to grow, and we are working on some ideas to make that happen,” Matthews says. “The challenge that market faces isn’t necessarily space within the mall’s footprint, but more of parking challenges and electricity options.”
All vendors who participate in the Purdue market are participants in the downtown Lafayette market, Matthews explains, but not the other way around. During the 2022 market season, a wait list was created for vendors interested in getting into the campus market, proving to the planning team the need for some creative thinking in ways to expand its layout.
The Lafayette market, whose presenting partner is Subaru of Indiana Automotive, sees participation from vendors traveling from 10 surrounding counties, making it a true Greater Lafayette event. Despite growing pains, Matthews says the feedback her teams receive from both markets is overwhelmingly positive.
“The markets are a staple to the community and serve as a place where attendees can experience culture and source locally grown and made products,” she says. “The markets are so well received that the McAllister Center in Lafayette hosted a winter market this year to allow market goers to have a winter outlet.”
Visitors can expect the same hours during this year’s season as well, with Lafayette’s market hosting Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., while Purdue hosts on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., from May to October.
For shoppers looking for a weeknight market fix, the West Lafayette market has your answer. This pet-friendly market offers 60 vendors, says market manager Shelly Foran, with an array of produce, meats, dairy, plants and flowers, along with jewelry, baked goods, crafts and wine by the glass; area restaurants and food trucks serve up take-out options. The market, located at Cumberland Park, runs 3:30-7 p.m. each Wednesday from May through October.
Matthews says no plans are in place to expand the Lafayette market’s hours further into the afternoon, as wrapping up by 12:30 p.m. ensures the city is able to host other downtown events and festivals that require Saturday setup.
“Our vendors work hard to grow and expand their offerings to keep things fresh and engaging for market attendees,” Matthews says. “We are always hoping to continue to grow the market with new vendors and new ideas, which make the experience better for both attendees as well as our regular vendors.”
After a long winter spent inside, Matthews says few things help shake off the feeling of cold weather for her than the opportunity to walk around Greater Lafayette’s busiest hubs and interact with her community face to face.
“I love the open air feel the markets offer,” she says. “It is so much fun to walk the footprint, listening to music, sourcing fresh flowers and veggies along with unique homemade items. We are really looking forward to two great market seasons.”
Foran agrees, adding the West Lafayette market has a number of new attractions this year. “We’re very excited about the coming season.” ★