Farmer’s Markets (behind the scenes)

Farmer’s markets have increasingly grown in popularity over the past several years.  It is hip to go to the farmer’s market and to support local farms.  But most folks have no idea what goes on behind the scenes.

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Here’s a look at the problems with markets but also why it is even more important for you to support them!

Problem #1- Overall, the success of the farmer is not the first goal of the market.  Farmer’s markets are set up to make money for the person organizing it.  Oftentimes, this is not a farm.  It is expensive to get into farmer’s markets.  Application fees, daily fees, plus taxes take a large chunk from a farmer’s income.  One can only sell so many carrots!  Farm run markets are often less expensive for the vendors and some markets really do care about the vendors.  Customers are often surprised that we pay so much to be involved in farmer’s markets.

Problem #2- Folks think the products should be cheaper.  I respond when people ask if I will cut a deal, “What?  I am already working for 50 cents an hour.  You think I should make less?”  They laugh and hand over the full amount.  The whole $4.25, people.  I stood out there tilling, amending, I spend money on seeds, I planted, I tended, I prayed, I weeded, I watered, I harvested, I made pretty, I am selling it for $2 a pound.  I have six pounds.  Now, next time y’all go to the farmer’s market, kindly refrain from trying to give the farmer any less than what they ask.  Believe me, no one is trying to get rich.  It is hard enough to keep afloat as a farmer.

Problem #3- Because folks want cheap, quick, and lots of vegetables at all times of the year, almost all farms around, from Pueblo to Boulder, ship in produce.  This turns a lot of people off.  But, if a farmer were to bring only what was growing, customers would be turned off by the sight of only greens and radishes until the end of June!  They want corn, dang it!  Red peppers and glowing aisles of richly colored vegetables like in Europe.  The prairie gives us bountiful vegetables, but not until late June.  Be patient, eat seasonally, and if you really want corn and tomatoes, don’t scoff at the farmer’s selection of shipped in vegetables, support them.  It seems silly to turn around and head to the grocery store to buy the same thing.  Get a farmer through until the goods start rolling in!

I do not intend to bring in any produce.  What I have is what I got.  The first market opens on Mother’s day and I am really hoping to bring lots of radishes, kale, spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard.  I have some early onions and spring garlic to add in and a few herbs.  I have eggs and milk shares.  That alone certainly could not support me but I have my herbal medicines, yarn, and other farm items to sell that we made.  Diversity can help keep a farm in business.

Problem #4- In my opinion, there are way too many multi-marketing items at the farmer’s market.  There are people there that sell something new every year and even pass it off as their own.  Ask questions.  Just because it is at the farmer’s market doesn’t mean that it is fresh, from a farm, or even made in this country!  We hand make everything we bring to the market.  We are truly a local company.  If we go into a store we lose the integrity of our products because we have to make more for cheap and work twice as hard for less.  The farmer’s market provides us a place to sell our items.

Which brings me to why, despite the problems, everyone should still support their local market.

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Reason #1- The farmer’s market provides a place to sell produce and other handmade goods without having to go into or own a store.  It provides a community of like-minded people that can get together, enjoy a beautiful day, and support each other.  We keep the money in the community, making all of our lives and livelihoods stronger.

Reason #2- You can get really fresh, really nutritious food for less than the grocery store.  Straight out of the dirt, a few bugs still on it fresh.  It hasn’t been trucked from Chile.  It is environmentally smarter.  And the rows are just brimming with culinary inspiration!

Reason #3- Meet your farmer.  Food has become so faceless these days.  Where did that strawberry come from?  That chicken?  The lettuce?  We have no idea where anything is grown.  This way, you can see the person that was up at dawn harvesting it so that you can feed the kids great food.  The smile behind the table cares about what you eat.  I wonder if the reason the farming profession is way down is because people my generation and younger have no clue where their food comes from.  If children saw the farmer, saw the results, and was inspired to become a farmer themselves, that would be fantastic!

Reason #4- Get out of the cold, fluorescent lighted grocery store and get out into the great outdoors!  Enjoy the sounds of summer and the feel of the warm sun on your skin.  Choose from brightly colored radishes and early fruits and talk to the people around you.  Go home with bags of delicious new items.

One of our first markets in 2009.

One of our first markets in 2009.

Remember that we farmer’s market vendors have been there since before dawn setting up, even earlier harvesting and packing our cars.  We will be there into the heat of the day, long after you have left.  We are there in the pouring rain, the first frost, and are there so that you have sustenance and in return we have homes to go to.  Bring your bags and cash and we’ll see you at the first market!  And thank you for supporting your local farm.

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