Book Review

The New Farmers' Market
by Vance Courm, Marcie Rosenzweig and Eric Gbson

Cover: The New Farmers' Market

The subtitle for this book is "Farm-fresh ideas for producers, managers and communities." The book is indeed an idea book. The Land Institute of Kansas is quoted in the introduction as saying: "When people, land and community are as one, all three prosper; when they relate not as members but as competing interests, all three are exploited." That quotation can hit nowhere closer to home than here in the Klamath Basin where after 100 years of being one, the people, land and community are rapidly coming apart in the face of new "competing interests." While the ideas in this book can not be expected to restore harmony in the Klamath Basin, they do include the basis for developing and retaining the close relationship between farmers and consumers that has nearly disappeared due to the placement of the supermarket between them.

Author Vance Corum states: "Ultimately, there are two components essential to a solution. Farmers must be passionately committed to practicing their craft and consumers must be prepared to pay a higher price for their food. To remain on the farm may require a shift to higher value , highly perishable, specialty crops." As a specialty mushroom grower, you have already set yourself up for success. Now, how do you achieve that success? This book explains, in great detail and with many examples, how to do exactly that with farmers' markets. The examples are drawn from markets in Palo alto, CA; Washington, DC; Auburn, CA; Santa monica, CA; Wenatchee, WA; Madison, WI; Sacramento, CA; and many, many more cities.

The book includes three major sections. The first, "Selling at the Market" helps you assess farmers' markets relative to your marketing plan. Given a local farmers' market should you participate and how? You will have many questions like:

These and many more questions are clearly answered in Part I of the book.

Part II deals with starting, managing and promoting a farmers' market. If you don't have access to a local farmers' market, you will need to get one started. You won't be able to do it alone, so be prepared to build partnerships among producers, consumers, governments and a variety of local organizations. Part II explains how to make it all work and offers several success stories from across the country. For example, the farmers' market in Madison, Wisconsin draws 25,000 visitors each Saturday from a city of 200,000 residents. How? Read the book to find out.

In a humorous vein, the book defines marketing this way:

  1. If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying "Farmers' Market Coming to Town" that's advertising.
  2. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him into town, that's promotion.
  3. If the elephant walks through the mayor's flower garden, that's publicity.
  4. If you get the mayor to laugh about it, that's public relations.
  5. And if you planned the elephant's walk, that's marketing!

Whether you want to market a farmer's market, or just your own farm, you will find lots of ideas in Part II.

Part III is entitled "The New Farmers' Market." It discusses a variety of related programs and opportunities that are becoming more and more intertwined with farmers' markets. For example: farm education programs and tours, agricultural art, Shop with the Chef, Cooking with Kids, Meet the Producer, senior nutrition programs, farmers' market salad bar, hunger programs, homeless kid's program and more. Melding these kinds of programs with the farmers' market brings more and more of the community together in support of farmers and their sales. As these kinds of programs develop, the farmers' market becomes more and more of a community social event with benefits for everyone involved.

The book concludes with five appendices:

A bibliography and a list of resources that includes contacts for much more information are also provided.

We have suggested many times that farmers' markets can be a profitable addition to your marketing plan. Some of our subscribers report great success at farmers' markets. If you've thought about participating in a farmers' market, but haven't tried it or if you've tried it and found it unprofitable, you need this book.