My post is after the italicized market announcement.
- A combined wholesale (7AM to 9AM) and retail (9AM – 1PM) market in one.
- Currently, there is no other farmers’ market opportunity for vendors selling directly to both retail and wholesale buyers on the same day and in the same location.
- A mission and focus on the transfer of local produce and local food products for purposes of sales, with virtually no arts, crafts and musical diversions throughout the day.
- Fair pricing for farmers and food producers. There is no requirement to commit to an entire season. Rent a stall for a day, meet a few chefs and our neighbors and diversify your customer base — simple as that.
- Help us get the word out. Refer this post to folks you think might be interested.
- Vend with us, for a day, a month or for the entire season.
- Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter and follow our progress!
- Come as a visitor, come as a buyer — or both.
How wonderful to see an idea that I have been advocating for come to life. As regular readers of this blog know, as well as those who have sat through my presentations, I do believe that we can do a great deal more with the types of open air farmers markets than we have accomplished so far. Markets for chefs and other intermediate buyers could be one of the next iterations for some market organizations, using the same transparent values and strong criteria to serve the public good, just as this group is clearly doing.
Here is what I advocated for a few years ago: a market on a Tuesday morning, selling to family table shoppers first, then closing and reopening an hour later to intermediate buyers. (I do not believe the former will be thrilled to be left with the leftovers after procurers leave or to look at food for their table that has already been out for a few hours.) The later chef market would be by case/box only and only for those farmers that wanted to stay and sell that way..I might also allow one or two distributors of regional foods to set up (clearly defined and not allowed to sell some premium goods that are offered by the local growers) to ensure a true more complete procurement experience. Direct sales between buyers and sellers would still be the purpose. I might also set up a a centralized billing system to help small growers and charge a percentage if they wanted to utilize that service for a short time. (The market organizer didn’t seem to like this idea and viewed this as micro-management, which I had not meant it to be. I saw it as a chance for smaller growers that have not built their interior invoicing systems to benefit from assistance where needed. I have worked with a great many small family farms at farmers markets that have not yet begun to look at back office systems yet, but clearly this organizer has had a different experience-acknowledged.)
I will say that their dismissal of “entertainment” at markets seems a little off, as at times the social bonding at markets is as important as economic transactions. In some types of markets, collecting the largest number of economic transactions is key for the majority of members, and for others it is not the chief reason for attendance.* I might believe the issue of entertainment as a contributing factor of less produce sales if I saw examples of surveys of current markets lower sales corresponding with entertainment activity levels, with variables accounted for. I wonder if what this group has actually noticed is that the percentage of goods that are brought by growers is lower at these markets and suspect that means less sales of healthy food; it might, or it might not!
If that is the case, a correction could be made by creating a new market with less frenetic social activity and restricting non-food or festival goods, yet serving the same community. After all, some of their targeted shoppers no doubt enjoy some level of conviviality in markets. In other words, I might not throw the baby out with the bath water. ( The market organizer sent comments of their intention on doing well-defined events that drive interest and awareness of food, which is absolutely right. Glad to get more information!)
I am also a little surprised at this: “Rent a stall for a day, meet a few chefs and our neighbors and diversify your customer base — simple as that.” I do think regular activity is key to an open air market; regular buyers will spend more money once relationships are established, and I suspect that they will have a hard time keeping out resellers if they allow the coming and going of vendors without any restrictions. (The market organizer seemed to feel strongly that I have this wrong, and I may; My experience tells me it will be tricky but I am all for seeing a pilot that can prove me wrong!)
In any case, the idea of understanding and expanding market types is a good one. I certainly wish this group good luck.
*Economic activity IS a chief reason for all markets-don’t get me wrong- but there are examples of market vendors choosing less busy markets where the total is still below what they might make in a larger market; some small businesses do not thrive under copious amounts of competition. Or, of people who walk to their neighborhood market to see their friends and to buy lunch or garden plants, but not to shop every time for the week’s produce- you might see this in a market that operates 3-4 times a week especially. In all cases, behavior change is the common goal.