The number of farmers markets continues to grow. This summer, communities across the United States will host more than 8,600 farmers markets, more than quadruple the number available to producers and consumers in 1994, according to the USDA, which compiles a Farmers Market Directory.
The popularity of farmers markets is good news for consumers who want to know the people who grow their food. According to research done by the Project of Public Places, a customer has an average number of 15 to 20 social interactions at farmers markets versus one to two at grocery stores.
Producers also benefit. Since 2011, we have been involved in various ways in the Fallbrook Farmers Market, a small, family-focused market in Lincoln, Nebr. In that time, successful vendors have built their customer base, developed niche markets and introduced families to healthy, locally grown products.
New to Fallbrook for the 2018 season is a scholarship program aimed at helping young, beginning and small (YBS) producers start and grow businesses. Five vendors specializing in produce, prepared foods, flowers and more received $100 to $300 each to offset the cost of vending at a farmer’s market.
Every farmers market has its own identity, and Fallbrook strives to be particularly appealing to families and young people, including younger vendors, said Brande Payne, the market’s manager. The market plans to reach out to small producers and high school ag programs to encourage more young people to take advantage of the scholarship program.
As a smaller market, Fallbrook is an ideal learning ground for those who are new to growing and food production, Brande said. Timing your production to market days, finding the right look for your booth, developing a good marketing strategy – it all takes time. The scholarship program is meant to support YBS producers as they work through the learning curve to profitability.
The scholarships don’t cover all vending costs – liability insurance (required by many but not all markets), a table and table cloth, tent, cashbox, signage and marketing materials -- but it goes a long way to reducing upfront expenses, Brande said.
“Fallbrook is very farmer centric,” said Seth Derner, whose Kiwanis Club of Lincoln owns the neighborhood farmers market. “The scholarships are a way to merge the idea of helping both young people and the market.”
Fallbrook Farmers Market operates from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday, June 21 through August 9, at 570 Fallbrook Boulevard. It also will be open on September 13 and October 11.
Among the many vendors, are the following recipients of Fallbrook’s new scholarship aimed at supporting young, beginning and small producers:
- Cypress Farms, a vegetable operation committed to sustainable growing practices.
- Green Prairie, a vegetable operation that uses organic growing methods.
- Local Color, fresh-cut flowers.
- Mystic Rhoads Production Inc. (MRP), hot sauces, Jamaican jerk seasoning, handmade game sets.
- West Mill Flowers, farmer and crafter specializing in specialty bouquets, handmade signs and handmade flower themed cards.