MARKET WATCH: My favorite month
I suppose I might be the only person in the world for whom March is the favorite month of the year. I just love the promise of all of spring and summer still ahead. The trees have yet to bud, the pale green shoots of late April are a full month away. And days like this—warmish and unseasonably balmy—make the promise real indeed. By the same token, by the 4th of July I used to feel like it’s all downhill. I guess I’m a “glass half empty” kind of person. But now that I live by the tempo of a farm and farmers markets, I realize that there’s still lots, in fact most, of market season ahead after July 4th. Yeah, a few markets roll out in May (oddly, most Wisconsin markets start mid-April), with more each week in June, but the season is in full swing by July with four full months ahead in most cases. And the bounty of late July/August/September is hard to beat whichever side of the table you’re on.
I’ve found another reason to love March: FamilyFarmed EXPO! What an amazing event, and a brilliant move to bring it back to March when all is ahead of us. From the outside, checking the website, trying to figure out where I would fit in—as a farm sales coordinator, as a farmers’ market junkie, as a consumer—it was hard to get my arms around the whole thing. I’m glad I chose to attend all three days. From where I sat, it seemed to come together seamlessly. Congratulations and Thank You to Holly, Lloyd, Keighty, Kim, Delia, Kathy, Jim P, and dozens of other staff and volunteers—and especially to Jim Slama whose vision drives the whole thing. Richly layered over the EXPO offerings was the Food Policy Summit; thanks, too, to Erika, Lauralyn, and all who prepared such a varied group of offerings and made that work so well.
There were two distinct farmers’ market offerings during the EXPO. Dennis Ryan created a panel for Friday’s Summit on farmers’ markets (which Karen Stark and I helped to facilitate), which was attended by at least two dozen market managers, wannabees, and other interested parties. We heard input from several experienced managers and questions from those just starting out, on issues ranging from publicity to location to days to hold markets to accepting LINK cards. I heard from several that they found the session useful. Please feel free to continue the discussion and pose questions in the Comments here.
Saturday there was a Farmers’ Market Forum more specific to the topics of GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) and EBT/LINK. Hopes of trolling for vendors there were dashed as most farmers—if at the EXPO at all—were at their booths. But there was plenty of time for making those connections outside the forum. We learned that GAP certification is not a requirement yet, but will be coming down the pike; it’s helpful for us to know what it entails for the farmer’s end of the supply chain.
Between the two events, there were representatives from several established markets (Logan Square, Independence Park, Geneva, 61st Street, Green City/City of Chicago), fledgling markets and first-timers (Buffalo Grove, Forest Park, Humboldt Park, Glenwood/Rogers Park, Northbrook, Portage Park, Palos Heights); and no doubt I’ve missed a few. In coming posts of Market Watch I’ll list the new markets I’ve become aware of with starting dates, times, locations, etc. If you’re starting a market that I may not be aware of, by all means, mention it in the Comments below.
Happy March to you! And to you market managers and wannabees, Happy Trolling!