RIO GRANDE — Locally grown produce and handcrafted items line the street offering shoppers quality products and food every Wednesday afternoon in downtown Rio Grande, Ohio.
Raised Around Rio Farmer’s and Artisan Market started in 2016 when a local resident asked Matt Easter, mayor, when he was starting the farmer’s market he had talked about.
“I said, ‘oh, by the way, what happened to that farmer’s market you were supposed to start?’ and he said, ‘um. Too many irons in the fire, do you want to start it?’ and I said yes, I do,” said Jennifer Littlejohn, organizer and vendor.
It took no time for the event to grow.
“Within four weeks, I had 11 vendors. That’s when we started August 16th,” Littlejohn said. “We set up for six weeks and it went very well and the next year I had 18 and then 20 and it keeps building every year.”
Easter has no regrets passing the event on.
“It has been so fun watching that market evolve and the crowds catching on to what a great thing it is,” Easter said. “Those are committed vendors that work as a single unit to promote and help each other. I also think when I look at the market and its location, that I’ve never seen a prettier setup for a farmer’s market.”
Littlejohn said the importance of local farmers and artisan markets is not only supporting small businesses but giving people the homegrown taste, they want.
“A lot of people don’t like to go to your big-name places and buy produce. They want that local homegrown taste, not just the looks but they want that taste as well,” Littlejohn said.
One of the unique things Littlejohn said has worked for them is the timing of the market.
“Your normal farmer’s markets are on Saturdays. When do you normally run out of produce, baked goods? Tuesday, Wednesdays,” Littlejohn said. “They [shoppers] also come home from work or right before church even, we’re right here.”
Littlejohn said once they were cleared to open back up in June 2020, the market saw a boom. She said she believes it is due to the open area, ability to social distance and mask up if preferred.
The market has been a helpful resource for local small businesses.
“I think it’s very important, especially for artisans because that’s how you get out and meet your people. You’re supporting local first of all, but you’re out meeting your customers, clients,” said Seraphia Snodgrass, vendor and owner Second Wave Creations. “As an artist, because I do a lot of art kinda things and different creations- hand crafted stuff. I like to meet people and see my work go with other people.”
Snodgrass uses social media, Etsy and other popups for her small business but has enjoyed the consistency and family-feel of Raised Around Rio.
“We all get along; we all support each other’s booths… We know each other. There’s a lot of family stuff that goes on too,” Snodgrass said. “That’s why I like the farmer’s market. I do like my Etsy shop…but I like the more homey feel.”
Littlejohn said there are about 30 vendors registered, many come all month, but some vary. She does a weekly lineup on Facebook each Sunday to share who will be in attendance.
Vendors from all around are welcome to contact Littlejohn to register as a vendor. Littlejohn said that while she makes sure the market has a variety of products offered, she does make sure there are not several duplicates of booths, especially on the artisan side,
“We do your traditional farmer’s market. Your produce, your baked goods, things of that sort. We have a few people that just do like cookies. We have a couple of people that do breads, but I am also an artisan market,” Littlejohn said. “So, we’ve got your jewelry, your sewing. I actually fall underneath the farmer’s market because it’s my goat’s milk that I use to put in it.”
Along with vendors, Littlejohn said they have had special food trucks and visitors.
“We’ve had Wicked Lobstah come. We had Mr. Softee from the fair. Greenlee’s Farm, they will come and setup. Loco Taco, he’ll come and setup. We have vendors like that as well. Not all the time but at least once a month,” Littlejohn said.
Vendors from the market also gather one Saturday in November to host at Christmas Bizarre at the local fire department. They offer food, shopping and a raffle during the event. Proceeds from the raffle have been going to the local food bank.
The market runs from the first Wednesday in May through the first Wednesday in October. Vendors come rain or shine but do close for severe storms – something that is always noted on the market’s Facebook page, Littlejohn said.
“Shop small and shop local,” Littlejohn said.
Raised Around Rio is located on North College Ave. in Rio Grande and is open from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Wednesday.
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Brittany Hively is a freelance writer and graduate of Marshall University, with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and journalism.