EdibWasa Summer 2012 : Page 44
edible .BSLFUQMBDF MANAGING THE MARKET by Rachael Pais P erhaps you’re lucky enough to have childhood memories of waking up on Saturday mornings to accompany your mom or grandma to the farmers market. Did you run eagerly from booth to booth with hands outstretched for a slice of apple? Or was it rasp-berries or pears that you couldn’t wait to pop into your mouth? Has this experience extended into your adult life as you continue to visit local farmers markets? Or maybe you are looking forward to one of life’s great pleasures as you plan your first trip this season to discover the colorful, diverse and delicious abundance our farmers have to offer. For those unfamiliar with the market world, it is important to understand how each farmers market is a unique and organic expres-sions of its community. Like an ecosystem, markets are controlled by internal and external factors that cause it to thrive (or fail) within the surrounding community. Without proper organization and support, the tiniest upset can have a ripple like effect, throwing the market off balance. Working behind the scenes are market managers, passionate individuals who are dedicated to maintaining the balance, success and sustainability of our farmers markets. The NY Market Manager Training manual states, “Most people think of a farmers market as a weekly gathering of farmers selling their local produce to community residents. It seems to those outside of the market structure that it is an effortless task to gather the farmers, set up a few tables, and sell farm produce to the public. But to those involved in the administration and operation of farmers markets, we know that it is a monumental task to make a market look effortless to the gen-eral public, while at the same time being profitable to the farmers, pro-viding a valuable shopping experience to the consumers, and being a worthwhile partner to the community.” Kim Angeli, market manager of the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City, can’t help but laugh as she agrees, “I guess you kind of take it for granted because it looks so smooth and organized. But if you let 300 vendors have a free-for-all, it would be utter chaos!” Angeli grew up on the East Coast. Although she did not have a lot of experience with farmers markets as a child, she fondly remembers going to farms with her grandmother in Florida. “Raspberries stick out in my head,” Angeli says, but she also recollects strawberries, tomatoes, beans and all sorts of other produce. As a city kid, she described this experience as eye opening. Her experience “to see things growing out of the earth and growing on bushes in their natural state and having that first awareness of knowing where your food comes from,” has stuck with Angeli and has carried over into her work. 44 edible W "4"5$) *TTVFa;t4VNNFS
Managing The Market
By Rachael Pais
Perhaps you're lucky enough to have childhood memories of waking up on Saturday mornings to accompany your mom or grandma to the farmers market. Did you run eagerly from booth to booth with hands outstretched for a slice of apple? Or was it raspberries or pears that you couldn't wait to pop into your mouth? Has this experience extended into your adult life as you continue to visit local farmers markets? Or maybe you are looking forward to one of life's great pleasures as you plan your first trip this season to discover the colorful, diverse and delicious abundance our farmers have to offer.<br /> <br /> For those unfamiliar with the market world, it is important to understand how each farmers market is a unique and organic expressions of its community. Like an ecosystem, markets are controlled by internal and external factors that cause it to thrive (or fail) within the surrounding community. Without proper organization and support, the tiniest upset can have a ripple like effect, throwing the market off balance. Working behind the scenes are market managers, passionate individuals who are dedicated to maintaining the balance, success and sustainability of our farmers markets.<br /> <br /> The NY Market Manager Training manual states, "Most people think of a farmers market as a weekly gathering of farmers selling their local produce to community residents. It seems to those outside of the market structure that it is an effortless task to gather the farmers, set up a few tables, and sell farm produce to the public. But to those involved in the administration and operation of farmers markets, we know that it is a monumental task to make a market look effortless to the general public, while at the same time being profitable to the farmers, providing a valuable shopping experience to the consumers, and being a worthwhile partner to the community."<br /> <br /> Kim Angeli, market manager of the Downtown Farmers Market in Salt Lake City, can't help but laugh as she agrees, "I guess you kind of take it for granted because it looks so smooth and organized. But if you let 300 vendors have a free-for-all, it would be utter chaos!"<br /> <br /> Angeli grew up on the East Coast. Although she did not have a lot of experience with farmers markets as a child, she fondly remembers going to farms with her grandmother in Florida. "Raspberries stick out in my head," Angeli says, but she also recollects strawberries, tomatoes, beans and all sorts of other produce. As a city kid, she described this experience as eye opening. Her experience "to see things growing out of the earth and growing on bushes in their natural state and having that first awareness of knowing where your food comes from," has stuck with Angeli and has carried over into her work.<br /> <br /> To understand how and why the Downtown Farmers Market has become a community hub, Angeli says we must first understand its unique history. "The Downtown Farmers Market is a non-profit farmers market run by the Downtown Alliance," she says. "Our mission is building a dynamic and diverse community in Salt Lake City, a center for culture, commerce and entertainment. We got into the market business 20 years ago to create a community event that people would visit downtown for- to revitalize a very special area of our city and to bring some energy and foot traffic into that area to solve problems."<br /> <br /> When the market launched in the early 90's, its home in Pioneer Park was infamous for criminal activity. The mayor and city council were looking for ways to clean it up. Bob Farrington, executive director of Downtown Alliance at the time, thought a farmers market would be a nice fit. But as Angeli explains, this was pre-internet and the task wasn't as simple as it sounds. These motivated leaders were unsure of how to begin their search for farmers. They traveled to places like the fruit highway (Highway 89) to find farmers and hoped to hear about others through word of mouth. She says, "They did everything they could to find growers that were the right scale to do a farmers market and convince them to come and [sell] in Pioneer Park." Expressing gratitude for her predecessor's efforts and vision, she concludes saying, "I think that still stands as one of our main missions today- building connectivity between the urban and rural communities here in Utah." One of the turning points for the market, says Angeli, was when they started allowing vendors to sell items besides or in addition to produce- like prepared foods and value added products, meats and crafts. The variety offered by the market today makes for a more well balanced and dynamic shopping experience and fosters a more diverse consumer base, which has helped the surrounding neighborhood grow too. "Since the market's been there, not just the market, but also what Caputos has done. . . it's a food destination." says Angeli. "We've had new restaurants pop up all around the neighborhood. Tin Angel has a very farm to table kind of message with their menu. Bruges waffles started as a vendor at our market and moved into brick and mortar right adjacent to the park. Bingham Cyclery moved into the neighborhood. Two hotels have moved in there. I mean that's not all the direct effect having a farmers market there, but it's all connected."<br /> <br /> This summer the Downtown Farmers Market will be celebrating its twenty-year anniversary and boasts an average of 8,000 to 10,000 weekly visitors. Even as a self dubbed community gatherer, Angeli can vouch it is no easy job getting people to come. Long hours are spent during pre-season and market season on planning, advertising, organizing events, doing farm checks and grant writing. But, because her job is a full-time salaried position and Angeli has other staff to assist with market operations, she is also able to dedicate her time to larger projects that further vitalize the community. She considers herself "a crazy person when it comes to starting new programs.' She chuckles, "I cannot satisfy myself with just doing the same thing I did last year." Last year it was canning classes and farm tours. This year it's vendor education and the launch of a winter market starting this November. And for the long term she's writing a grant that would fund the creation of an indoor, year-round market!<br /> <br /> According to Angeli, seeing the diversity of people that come together makes it all worth it. It's the interaction between farmer and consumer. It's the learning process as farmers improve business models in order to meet market needs. It's the resurgence of traditional skills as more young people become involved in farming, land conservation, bee keeping and canning as they honor Utah's agricultural heritage. It's seeing increased public support for family farmers. She can't help but get caught up in it. "I tend to feel invested in people's success," she says. And she isn't the only one.<br /> <br /> Maryann Alston who grew up as a kid running around the markets eating all the free samples is now running two markets of her own. Unlike the long-established Downtown Farmers Market, the Wasatch Front Farmers Markets at Wheeler Farm and Gardner Village are new L3C low-profit businesses. The markets were born from an idea Alston had while visiting Wheeler Farm with her young son. The thought struck her that there was a need for farmers markets in Salt Lake County and a market at Wheeler Farm in Murray would be ideal. The next day she was one the phone setting up meetings and writing proposals. After a successful first season, she and her husband thought, why not add another location at Gardner Village that would serve the community in West Jordan?<br /> <br /> Alston clearly has a passion for local entrepreneurship and agriculture. She says, "I love being so involved in Utah's agriculture and providing people a place to sell it. To go and talk to people from all over Utah about farming is amazing. I love to see the parking lot full and people buying from each of these vendors. I don't want it any other way." Alston's own small-business background has shaped her view of farmers markets as incubators for small businesses. "I have the utmost respect for anyone in small business," she says. "You work the longest hours, pay everybody else first, and in the end, you are still fighting really hard to be part of the rat race." Farmers markets are great testruns for small business entrepreneurs who have little or no other way of starting. The inherent nature of traditional markets provides start ups with lower over-head locations for selling, direct product and business model testing and immediate results. With this understanding, Alston strives to create markets that are low-cost for vendors, fun for the community and a showcase for local agriculture.<br /> <br /> Putting in 60 plus hours a week, Alston dedicates much of her time getting people there, or as she says, "marketing like crazy." A self-proclaimed grass roots marketer, Alston has done it all, even going door-to- door to generate neighborhood support and to pass out politicallike yard signs for her farmers markets instead of candidates. Like any new business, the Wasatch Front Farmers Markets have not yet generated a significant profit. However, Maryann and her husband feel it is more than worth the effort. She remembers the excitement and anxiety she felt the first day of market last year as she wondered, "Oh my gosh, will anyone show up?" A full parking lot later proved the market would work. In the meantime, Alston and her husband are still trying to figure out how to get more than a few hours of sleep during the season.<br /> <br /> Being new to the market-managing world has proved to be quite the learning experience. "We had no idea what running a farmers market organization required," she says. Crisis management was one hard-learned lesson. Although not funny at the time, Alston laughs as she relates "the sprinkler incident." "A lot of people think I work for Wheeler Farm. But I don't. [One morning] at 8:45, these big, huge irrigation sprinklers, where one could spray the whole lawn, turned on. Everyone is yelling. 'Maryann! Turn off the sprinklers.' But I had no idea where you turn the sprinklers off. And it was actually funny because our little market family, and I don't even know how we got the idea, we started running toward the sprinklers with little plastic garbage cans so no one's stuff got ruined." Eventually, someone from the farm turned them off.<br /> <br /> As the season approaches, Alston receives hundreds of phone calls and a slew of emails from people inquiring about how to become a vendor or people seeking explanations why certain paperwork, permits and fees are required. Thus, the grass roots marketer turns business advisor and event coordinator. Alston spends a significant amount of time planning cook offs, Bluegrass day, kids programs, Oktoberfest and many other fun-filled activities to draw people to the markets. And she helps organize the farm school at Wheeler Farm that offers weekly classes spanning form cheese making to chicken raising. The school not only teaches participants new skills but encourages them to put the newly acquired skills to use. Alston is always on the lookout for the next jam artist or pickle company. She hints, "There's always room for new, local handmade goods." As long as it's handmade, homemade or homegrown, then it's welcome in her market.<br /> <br /> Maryann says the only word to describe the feelings associated with going to the market is happiness. And for her, that's what it all boils down to- creating an environment and experience that people will remember for a lifetime.<br /> <br /> Jen Colby, Sustainability Coordinator at the University of Utah, also spends a lot of time focusing on creating a memorable market experience. Colby serves as manager of the U's farmers market. For her, becoming a market manager was "serendipity and circumstance rather than a clear life goal." Although Colby spent time on her grandparents' farm in Iowa as a child, she doesn't have early memories of a market experience. "I guess there wasn't that much exposure in my community," she reflects. "It wasn't well recognized or supported." It wasn't until she traveled to France where the market is an established part of the culture that her appreciation for farmers markets began to grow. "The summer after my junior year of college, I spent a month in France on a cultural exchange program. My host family lived in Nice, a world away from my hometown in the Midwest. That was my first experience with daily shopping trips to the local outdoor market which overflowed with gorgeous Mediterranean produce, flowers, olives and more."<br /> <br /> Full of nostalgia, Colby refers to her experience as beautiful and delicious, but most importantly, transformative. She says, "It set a whole different sort of vision for day to day life and gave me a much better appreciation for everything-from gardening to my farm heritage which I didn't really appreciate as a kid." Today, visiting local markets has become a staple of Colby's existence. Friends now joke that she can't spend less than three hours at the market because she stops to interact with everyone there. So when the opportunity of starting a market at the U presented itself, Colby was excited to be part of its creation and bring a small taste of her cultural experience to campus.<br /> <br /> Having a campus-based market covered under the umbrella of the university's non-profit tax status "provides both wonderful opportunities and challenges," Colby explains. The market receives tremendous support from the institution, various departments on campus and the student union. However, having a campus-based market presents some unique hurdles to overcome. Because summer months on campus are slow, the market only runs the first half of fall semester. Having an energetic built-in customer base is great, but trying to figure out the interests and needs of college students is complex. More focus is placed on convenient products, like a carton of cherry tomatoes that can be thrown in a backpack, carried by hand or transported by bike.<br /> <br /> Each of the previous four years has been a little different and a huge learning experience, especially for the students. Two student managers are hired each year to help with market operations. Coordinating with WellU, University Union, Recycling, Edible Campus Gardens and other university programs is part of the job. Each organization is committed to the university's goal of healthy food, healthy people, healthy community and healthy environment. Student managers quickly learn that jumping through bureaucratic hoops is a big part of the job. Colby explains, "Not only do we have the city and state health departments, USDA, and the [state] department of Ag to be concerned about, but then there is a whole set of institutional requirements at the university." It can be mind-boggling for students and staff "to try and navigate who needs to give permission for what, and Oh, really? We have to ask them too?" she explains. Other hurdles include applying for special sidewalk permits for vendors; working with the parking department to set aside parking; and realizing, "Oh, there is a Coca-Cola contract on campus" and making sure there are no non Coca-Cola products present. The list goes on.<br /> <br /> The market is also a reality check for student gardeners who want to sell their produce. After biking their produce to market, they change from grower to seller. Interaction with their peers teaches them that just because you grow something does not mean people will buy it. Students learn that growing can be financially risky. Bad weather affects crops as well as market day turnout. And when student customers buy from their peers, they learn about value versus price. They begin to understand that the sometimes less expensive commercially produced food found at supermarkets has been chemically treated, picked under-ripe and imported hundreds of miles. Instead, students learn to value the freshness, quality, and flavor of market produce.<br /> <br /> The U's market has become a recognized event on campus that students and staff look forward to. "When market season comes, there is an energy and it builds on itself," Colby said. "More people [are] out and it feels more lively." It provides a relief to the stress of student life. It's a chance to get out of the classroom, to get away from the computer screen and to catch up over a ripe peach.<br /> <br /> Whether they are gathering the community together, incubating small businesses or cultivating culture, it's evident farmers market managers are passionate individuals who love what they do. They welcome community input and ideas. Helping small businesses and stimulating local economy are high priorities. They worry about the environment - decreasing carbon footprints, increasing consumption of healthy foods and preserving open space. They walk, talk and breathe community involvement, togetherness and education. It's their hope that people will become personal advocates of market causes and ask elected officials to do the same. They strive to offer win-win situations for all involved in farmers markets, spend countless hours ensuring that the magical pop-up worlds they foster continue to flourish and create lasting memories for generations to come.<br /> <br /> "It is a monumental task to make a market look effortless."
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