Economic Gardening

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Thomas

Farmers Markets

Professional Driver

Farmer's Markets have taken off in a big way in the Northeast. What have been your growing pains to accommodate the need?
Tom Rowen
Renaissance Capital Development
thomasr192@aol.com
978-531-4446

  • Comment (17)
  • June 26, 2012
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Comments

  • Al J.

    Al

    Al J.

    Business Growth Veteran

    USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service has some amazing publications compiling their research on best practices and the stunning growth of farmer's markets that's quite illuminating.

    A third include locally produced craft items and locally processed foods (baked, canned, cooked, smoked, packed, jellied, sauced, etc.) that opens up considerable more opportunity for testing and growing local manufacturing rather than just farm to table economic activity.

    Increasing restaurants' chefs shop at farmer's markets which makes them more competitive and often turns them into regional draws which has surprising ripple effects for tourism and home sales I've been noticing. Our best ones operate in the downtown center on Saturdays which allows downtown businesses to participate for their own benefit and drastically expanding the appeal of the event (as well as the availability of air-conditioned shelter, lavatories, sit down refreshments, and shelter from rain).

    Big empty parking lots, usually banks, have far less appeal and draw far fewer customers despite generally being much closer to the target markets' homes so it's surprising that the most inconvenient solution wins (but there's far more parking downtown on a Saturday when most downtown offices are closed.)

    I haven't seen a downside to them but who runs them, "the Marketmaster" is a common title for what's a part-time job, makes a huge difference given it's similarities to a non-profit event marketing/logistics role vs. running a grocery store.

  • David A.

    David

    David A.

    Executive Director at Barron County Economic Development Corporation (BCEDC)

    Great comments Al. I am just beginning to look into ways to retool the anemic farmers market we have in our small city. Your comments are very helpful.

  • Al J.

    Al

    Al J.

    Business Growth Veteran

    I worked on these a bit and that always forces paying more attention than just shopping at ones which we do a lot too.

    Adding musical performance in among the booths has been weirdly helpful as it makes it more of a street festival. A mix of student musicians and skilled amateurs all playing for tips means on a typical Saturday morning there will be a 16 person Celtic string band of mostly teens, trumpet players, banjo and guitarists, drummers, etc. scattered by earshot distances from the other performers.

    Food trucks with ethnic specialties serving hot complete meals do well.

    Espresso stands and storefront coffeehouses do a landoffice business.

    Selling artisan baked goods from both home and bakeries adds a lot...stroll and eat/drink coffee with music playing and many friends changes the atmosphere from outside grocery produce department or farmstand to more of a weekly festival/social event drawing 3-5,000 people reliably now while big parking lots with farm trucks drew a few hundred shoppers even in prime locations for traffic flow/visibility.

    Retailers do weekly sidewalk sales to blow out old merchandise and entice internal shopping with considerable success and tap a new audience that otherwise rarely comes downtown. The merchants have become quite enthused supporters, particularly the ones where several blocks around them are closed to traffic that morning as the vendors are using the street as their mall.

    County Ag Extension Agents have run a gardener's information booth with staff and master gardeners to answer questions and that generally draws quite well.

    Some of the greenhouses come and sell fresh cut flower bouquets, tomato plants, spice plants, ornamental plants, and produce from their greenhouse and do quite well.

    Honey, candymakers, jarred sauces and pickled vegetables, small meat packers/butcher shops, tortilla makers, almond roasters, kettle popcorn makers, etc. do quite well and add both variety and samples to the mix. Ethnic foods range from Laotian, Russian, German, Irish, Norwegian, Cantonese, Thai, Greek, Mexican etc. and that adds a lot of aromas, interest, easy breakfast/lunch, and activity.

  • John W.

    John

    John W.

    Revitalizing Neighborhoods and Commercial Districts through Community Involvement and Design

    Involving musical performance is a great idea. Our Junior Main Streeters were a great source to tap into the local music talent. The high school aged group was involved with band at school and were able to tap into that talent to organize regular open mic events and summer concerts in the park. Why not bring the two together?

  • David A.

    David

    David A.

    Executive Director at Barron County Economic Development Corporation (BCEDC)

    I am including all the ideas posted here for a presentation to our Chamber who underwrites the Farmers Market, the music is indeed a great idea. John, I am also on the board for our Main Street Association and working hard to breathe new life and direction into this. I was intrigued by your reference to Jr Main Streeters, what are these and how do they fit into your main street. If I'm straying from this thread would you please email me with this information. The goal I am working towards is to have our Main Street and our Chamber combine their efforts on the farmers market and move it a block or so from the Chamber parking lot a 2-3 block area on Main street.

  • John W.

    John

    John W.

    Revitalizing Neighborhoods and Commercial Districts through Community Involvement and Design

    David, heaven forbid that a discussion should stray. The Farmer’s Market in our town, Hammonton, NJ, was a brand new effort when I left my position as executive director, but the Jr. Main Street group was a powerful group. I don’t know how it fared after my departure.

    Our Junior Main Street organization was set up as a club in each of the local schools in our town. It was run a little like a scouting troop. Essentially, we had four chapters, two for grade schools and two for high school aged kids. There was a youth president, vice president and secretary for the whole Jr. Main Street organization with a youth leader for each chapter. A chapter served the public elementary school and another served the local parochial elementary school with a similar arrangement for the public and parochial high schools. Each school had an adult advisor for the club. That was either a parent or an interested teacher. They held regular meetings either at school or at our office for the high school groups and at school or a parent’s home for the younger groups. The youth president and the adult advisors were invited to relevant board and committee meetings. The adult advisors should ideally be parents that are involved with their children and supportive of the community at large. Their kids will then bring their friends along. The adult advisors should not have a conflicting role on the Main Street Board or Committees. If they do, the youth group will drift.

    The high school chapters were a major resource for events and cleanup projects. We could count on having 15 to 30 youth out for well-organized service projects. Most of the kids involved were honors students. We provided “Event Staff” and “MainStreet Hammonton Volunteer” tee shirts for them to wear. They were much more willing to do hard jobs than our typical adult volunteers. Our particular group had several talented musicians, so they took on organization of two types of summer concerts. Each summer they planned three open-mic nights in the park and three band concerts at another small park adjacent to our historic train station, where we used a transportation enhancement grant to build a replica passenger shelter to use as a band shell. That was also the location of our small farmer’s market. We never thought to combine the two events.

    The elementary school chapters worked closely with parents to support several of our community events. These grade school aged kids helped by selling candy along side of their parents at a springtime event. They were a big help at our Christmas Gift Wrap Store and they helped merchants distribute candy at our Halloween trick-or-treat event, allowing merchants to pay attention to customers yet still provide treats to the little goblins. The Jr. Main Street kids also came down to help plant flowers in the planters on our Main Street with their parents. We were careful to assure that these younger children were supervised by their parents or at least two adults that both they and we knew.

    Organizing a Jr. Main Street program is a lot of work. However, the payoff to the Main Street organization is well worth the effort. In the case of Hammonton, our biggest financial supporter, board member and past president of our board got involved with Main Street while helping his mother at Main Street events when he was a young teenager. Start them young and they will stay involved.

  • Gary W.

    Gary

    Gary W.

    City of Carbondale

    Memphis does a great job incorporating a wide variety of DIY businesses and interests. I have been encouraging our Farmer's Market to implement some of their ideas. They also include an educational component by having raised beds there to educate consumers on the benefits of growing your own food. Another thing I'm trying to get implemented here is wine tastings. Local foods and wine, beer, and sprits tastings go hand in hand. We have a very successful regional wine trail and emerging craft beer as well as microdistilling market. Farmer's Markets can be a great tool to help introduce these products as well as showcase the "buy local" theme to highllight the local fruits and vegetables uesd to make them.

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