Russ Parsons looks beyond the farmers market

In an adaptation of his keynote address at the Small Farms Conference, Russ Parsons praises the farmers market — an institution that has had a "revolutionary effect" — but also calls it "one of the most inefficient business plans ever devised." He notes some of the flaws: they are only open a few hours a week, are often located in out of the way places, and require farmers to spend time on the road or standing at the stand making change instead of working in the field. To make the supply of great produce from great farmers more easily available to the public, Parsons has several ideas, including building permanent structures, locating markets at transit hubs, or creating mobile markets that sell produce at many locations in an area (Ed. note: using Twitter, of course, to announce their location). He also praises the Hollywood farmers market's installation of a commercial kitchen nearby where farm-fresh produce can be cooked for sale at the market, or farmers can convert their produce to products like jams, potato chips, and so on. (Los Angeles Times)

3 Responsesto “Russ Parsons looks beyond the farmers market”

  1. Red Icculus says:

    I support my local economy, but the Minneapolis farmer's markets were bullshit with out of season produce from third-world countries.  If local farmers took a little initiative and made their goods available without farmer's markets, the free market would reward their risk in entrepreneurship.

  2. Talia says:

    I was at a lecture by Joel Salatin recently (http://innbrooklyn.wordpress.com/2010/04/07/high-priest-and-lunatic-farmer/) and was surprised to hear him say he didn't like farmer's markets - he gave many of the same reasons you note above, he likes cooperative buying schemes, like CSAs, much better.  But I have to say, I love my local market, which is right by my office and open four days a week all day, right through the year.  I guess not everyone is so lucky to be close to one of the best though!

  3. In a nearby city (to me, town to you) they have a permanent farmers market with a commercial kitchen. Great place. Wonderful people running it. But it does not seem to be an overwhelming success. It is right on main street. I do not know if it is the economic times, socioeconomic location or what that is holding it back from being a farmers market. The owner of the establishment seems to be moving it more towards being a more traditional organic food store and eatery - the portions of the place that have been more successful.

    From our point of view, farmers markets are not at all interesting. They are full of weird rules about setup, having to be there the whole day, what you can and can't sell, how you have to display stuff, etc. Working with them is horribly inefficient for us.

    We sell primarily wholesale to the stores and restaurants in about a 100 mile radius. They do the sales, man the store front, 'make the change' and all that. The store front model seems to be a better model for us, in part because our meat needs to be kept refrigerated or frozen.

    Part of the issue is we live in a very rural area. It doesn't make sense for 100 customers to drive to our remote location every week to pickup meat. There is not much population to support intense sales needed to make it worth standing there all day.

    For this same reason we don't have a farm stand - we're too out of the way for customers to be coming here to our farm to buy. In fact, when we do sell to individuals, e.g., half and whole pigs, they usually simply meet us along our route at one of highway exits or our delivery stops. See:

    http://sugarmtnfarm.com/blog/2010/04/delivery-sequencing.html

    which discusses this issue to some extent.

    Another big issue is we can't be there all the time when people want to shop even if we were located in a good place to have a farm stand. We have projects to do. For these reasons the store front model works very well in our case. Customers can go at their preferred time to their local store where there are refrigerated and freezer cases for the meat to be kept at the ideal temperatures.

    Cheers,

    Walter Jeffries
    Sugar Mountain Farm, LLC
    Orange, Vermont
    http://SugarMtnFarm.com

    Save 30% off Pastured Pork: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/csa

    Butcher shop story: http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop