Farmer’s Market encourages exercise while showcasing downtown community

In addition to showcasing various local businesses to people who might not have taken the time to see otherwise, the downtown farmer’s market has also promoted its local businesses in other ways: by paying people to exercise in the name of food.

Donica Krebs with the Farmer’s Market said the Downtown Fit Walking Program came about thanks to a $1,000 grant from Ballad Health through United Way.

“We wanted to pour it back into the community,” Krebs said.

One a month since May, participants walk half a mile in total: a quarter-mile up Elk Avenue and another quarter back down on the other side of the street. Once they finish, each participant receives two tokens, each worth one dollar, to spend at the various vendors at the market.

Krebs said the prospect of a couple being able to spend four dollars on local produce just for walking half a mile encourages a healthier lifestyle.

“It has been really good,” she said. “I had a man come up to me, he had lived here for 27 years. He said he had never walked up and down the street before.”

Participants can use the tokens on more than just produce, however. Tokens are also eligible for meat and egg purchases as well.

During August’s run, participants received double the tokens, meaning couples could receive eight tokens if they walked together.

She said the grant allows the market to reimburse the vendors for tokens participants use in their purchases.

“We average about 80 to 100 people each time,” Krebs said.

She said the participation in the running program, in addition to the Evenings on Elk, has given the community a greater appreciation for its downtown area.

“[Shopping locally] is not just a trendy hashtag,” she said. “We have about three dozen families in downtown.”

Pointing to the man who lived in Elizabethton for more than 25 years, she said people often have little idea what their own town has to offer, and such programs help reintroduce people to their downtown.

The next and final iteration of the walking program will be at the end of September, and Krebs said they are working on something to make this last one of the year memorable, but said they did not have details.

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