Winter Farmers Markets, Values and Vendors

Pears at Pike Place Market

In Seattle we’re lucky to have quite a bit of fresh produce available at Pike Place Market, Ballard Farmer’s Market and the University District Farmer’s Market, even in winter. No matter where you are, however, there just aren’t as many crops in winter as there will be during the rest of the year. If your local Farmers Markets want to continue doing business in winter, it may be a challenge to have enough vendors to draw a crowd, especially if the rules of your particular market don’t allow non-farmer/producer vendors.

You may recall this is the case for farmers markets that are part of the Neighborhood Farmers Market Alliance here in Seattle. When Chris Curtis was working to establish the NFMA she consulted with farmers and concluded that excluding non-farmers and producers was the best way to support the farmers and thereby the market. Promoting and providing access to fresh produce was job one.

I think this is a topic that will continue to generate discussion and controversy as long as we have farmers markets. What is interesting is how the tension between farmers and artisans and non-farmers/producers plays out. Will there be more or less co-operation?

In this article from the Washington post we hear why farmer Meg Campbell is upset about non-farm products. She describes the winter farmers market in Gainesville as a “food court” because of foods like kettle corn, barbecue and salsa being allowed, feeling that this was inappropriate. She had requested anonymity to avoid being kicked out of the market, but in this follow-up article her identity is revealed, along with an excerpt of an email she received from Jean Janssen, founder of Smart Markets in Gainesville, citing the reasons that Campbell would no longer be allowed at the market.

In a complete contrast, here’s a case of the non-farmers letting the farmers (and microfarmers) in to their market. Maybe it’s time for all of us to revisit some old traditions and stop bickering, or just find the type of market that supports your values and stick with it.

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