The farmers bringing fresh crops to Downtown Sarasota each Saturday also attract some 10,000 visitors a week to the city core. A new study by Todd Durbin shows the Sarasota Farmers Market generates $56 million worth of economic impact for the community, boosting not only the vendors manning booths but the merchants who enjoy an influx of customers every weekend. “That’s what it was started for 38 years ago by Paul Thorpe—to bring an economic boost downtown,” says Phil Pagano, market manager. Pagano says the board for the farmers market decided this year to fund the study in order to gauge the specific impact of the event on surrounding business. The consumer data was gleaned from a survey of 883 market shoppers. “We generate a lot of business for downtown merchants,” he says. The study shows that, on average, visitors to the market contribute $37.26 in additional downtown spending, with 75 percent visiting neighboring merchants when they come to Downtown Sarasota for the market. The study figures the market draws some 520,000 visitors a year—on average, 10,000 per week. But beyond helping downtown merchants, Pagano notes that the market, the biggest in the region by far, also helps keeps agribusiness thriving in the area. In terms of support for agriculture, the study found the market supports 727 acres of local crop production, and that those farms are located on average 50 miles from the market itself. More than 15,000 pounds of produce get donated as a result of the market, the study says.

Information gathered for this economic impact study will also help in decision-making about the future of the market. Nagano notes that in July, a test was done on moving the farmers market to First Street. With development of new condos and the opening of a city garage on State Street, the market will have to explore a change in its footprint, Pagano says. But the goal remains having a positive impact on merchants in the surrounding area. And he says the businesses downtown already know the value of the market in terms of keeping registers ringing. “Some of the best days for many merchants are Saturdays,” he says. Any change in the market would also impact street closures and change what parts of downtown enjoy a rush in pedestrian traffic each weekend. The market today operates as an independent nonprofit, with vendors for the market serving on a board of directors. The Sarasota Farmers Market is open Saturdays from 7am to 1pm.