In the years since I joined the farmers market community, many things have changed about my life because of that connection. One of those changes is how I get my news and what kind of news that I now find interesting. An example of this is RFD-TV, which I often catch on a sleepy Sunday morning as I cook up items from my Saturday market. RFD-TV is full of state agricultural updates, national farm reports and even some old-timey music shows like the Porter Wagoner Show. Exciting right?
This week the California Bountiful show featured a farmers market grower from the Santa Barbara area, Jay Ruskey of Good Land Organics and the locally grown coffee beans he is selling at farmers markets. Yes, that’s right – coffee beans. This farmer has also experimented with other unusual crops like the caviar lime and the cherimoya; his never-ending enthusiasm for new trials and offering those products to his shoppers is a great example of how innovation and farmers markets are intrinsically connected.
If your market has a vendor who regularly offers new varieties or talks about his or her dreams of adding crops currently unavailable in your region, it may be worthwhile for the market organization to seek funding in partnership with that farmer and local Extension in order to get that item in full production and to promote it once available. It’s important that Extension or an agricultural advocate is involved to ensure that the production snafus that are inevitable to this type of project can be addressed. One of my favorite examples of this work was done in Toronto for their World Crops Project which I wrote about a few years back for Growing For Markets. What was so impressive were the depth of the partnerships assisting in every step of the process and that they focused on involving new citizens who had some experience as farmers in other world regions to introduce culturally appropriate products to Ontario.
Also, I always recommend that markets keep an ongoing list of crops that they’d like to see added to their market and to circulate that list every once in a while to the vendors. Who knows…you might just spark an idea…