BENTONVILLE — Downtown Bentonville and its growing farmer's market have been a magnet for commerce since moving to the square three years ago.
Sales from vendors grew 300% from 2008 and 2011 and are on pace to top $500,000 this year - a 413% increase over a five year period.
The Bentonville square transforms itself each Saturday morning from April through October. Sidewalks are lined with local vendors selling their freshly ripened fruits, vegetables, flowers, baked goods, one-of-a-kind crafts and a variety of meat. Streets are filled with visitors looking to purchase fresh items for the dinner table.
Daniel Hintz, executive director of Downtown Bentonville Inc., can also be found on the city square most Saturday mornings, chatting up visitors and helping sell the experience of the farmer's market.
Hintz knows the power fresh, local food can bring to a region and hopes the Bentonville Farmers Market, coupled with those similar to it will help bring about a "culinary renaissance" to Northwest Arkansas.
The farmer's market, Hintz said, "is part of a culinary infrastructure. It's not a stand- alone event."
The market is just one piece of the puzzle Downtown Bentonville Inc., is helping to put together. The puzzle includes new restaurants and a healthier community. The finished product, Hintz said, should result in a unique dining experience for the area.
The success of the farmers market is in the numbers. The market went from $94,000 in sales in 2008 to $376,000 in sales during the 2011 season, Hintz said.
And this year is on track to become another record season for the farmers market. If sales continue throughout October as they have year-to-date, the market stands to make $500,000 in sales this year, Hintz said.
Each vendor of the farmers market reports all of their sales for the day to Downtown Bentonville Inc., at the end of each week, Hintz said.
The reason the market is thriving is due largely to three factors; an array of vendors, awareness, and accessibility, Hintz said.
Chef Rob Nelson, owner of Tusk and Trotter, said he is proud to sponsor and shop at the city's farmers market each week.
Nelson said he spends between $500 and $700 each Saturday and uses many of the same vendors to help supply the popular Bentonville eatery.
"The closer you can get your product, the less chemicals there are," Nelson said, adding "And, of course, it tastes better."
During the spring and summer months, 90% of the produce served at Tusk and Trotter comes from the farmers market, which is just one block away.
Other businesses also benefit from the farmers market.
Josh Milton, assistant manager of Phat Tire said the bicycle shop sees around a 20% lift in customers each Saturday the market is open for business.
"It's a pretty festive vibe on Saturday morning," Milton said."People are out and about and a lot of them are on their bikes."
One product many people are searching for at Phat Tire: baskets for their bicycles so they can pick up fresh purchases, Milton said.
The Bentonville Farmers Market is open each Saturday through Oct. 28 from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m.
The market's next big event will be the Aug. 11 Triathlon. Starting at 10 a.m., visitors will be privy to sample free Yarnell's Ice Cream and watch chef demonstrations for new ways to cook with ice cream, Hintz said.