Brian Robbins has one job during the week and another on Friday afternoons. But he believes they're both part of the same mission- bolstering commerce in Greensburg and Decatur County. A part of the Main Street group in this south-central Indiana town, he's Market-Master on Friday afternoons form mid-May through at least mid-October.
"This is certainly economic development," he says. "We started this four years ago because we thought it would be a great way to help bring people downtown. It's certainly worked out that way."
Because it's an effort to boost the local community, there is no charge for vendors to come on Friday afternoons and display and sell their wares, Robbins says. A couple of vendors selling meat even use electricity to power freezers, still at not cost.
"The only rule is that it is supposed to be produce or products grown in southeast Indiana," Robbins says. "Most are from Decatur County and that's what we encourage, but we also let vendors set up from other nearby counties. What we don't want and don't allow is someone coming in with a truckload of vegetables that they simply bought that were raised somewhere else."
What the Farmer's Market has done is increased both awareness and the number of acquaintances between farmers and even part-timers who produce the crop or process the product and the people in the community, Robbins says. In better times, many people in factory uniform ms would show up after work to buy. This year, those have been few and far between. At least one vendor believes it's because many have lost their job. Others simply don't have the money to spend on things outside of necessities.
Even though business may be down for some vendors somewhat so far this year, it's still doing well, vendors note. One of the people you'll find there almost every week is Merrill Smith, Greensburg. He brings one product to sell- meat. He has his own freezer inside a livestock trailer. And it's only one type of meat he's selling- Berkshire port. Smith offers either pork chops or pork patties."
"I'm not making that much more than if I just sold the pigs, because the person who slaughters for me and the place where they process it must also make money. But I'm trying to promote Berkshire port. There really is a difference in the product, he says.
According to Smith, Berkshire pork retains water better during cooking. So an inch-thick pork chop stays about as tall after it's cooked as before. "The butcher tells me that he can tell the difference, when he cuts it," Smith says. "The loins form Berkshire pigs tend to cut easier. He describes it as being like cutting feathers.
So far, the Berkshire breed has been slow to take advantage of this possible advantage. They have not yet mounted the advertising effort that the Angus Breed has with Certified Angus meat. Smith hoped that will soon change.