The Lawrence Farmers Market is a right of passage for many Lawrencians. We anticipate the opening bell in May and schedule our Saturday mornings to enjoy the fruits of our local farmers' labor.
In fact, you may have even tossed around the idea of setting up our own booth and peddling your wares. If you find yourself scratching your head and thinking, "Yes, I have thought of setting up a booth," then the "Grow Your Farmers Market" workshop might be for you. The workshop will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Douglas County Fairgrounds. Registration is free.
Ruth Smerchek, program manager for the Kansas Department of Commerce, Agricultural Marketing Division, knows how fast farmers markets are growing in communities across Kansas.
"Farmers markets are becoming more popular with the retailers and with the public," she says. "In fact, for many vendors the farmers market has become their primary retail venue."
And why not? There is very little overhead, except for booth rental and display materials. The market is seasonal, which appeals to many people who participate in farmers markets as an extra source of income. And it's a fantastic creative outlet.
Not only is the farmers market one of the primary places people sell, but it is also becoming an exclusive venue for consumers.
"People today want to know where their food is coming from and how it was grown," Smerchek says. "If they buy at the farmers market, they meet the person who grew the fruits and vegetables they are purchasing. They build a bond of trust and can ask questions.
"Many people buy at the farmers market because of the freshness of the produce. The customer knows it was picked at the peak of freshness, usually within the last 24 to 48 hours, and it wasn't shipped over many miles to its final destination."
The workshop will allow potential vendors to make an informed decision about joining the farmers market, Smerchek says, by teaching state rules and regulations for food safety, how to competitively price products and how to attract customers.
For the old hats of the market trade, there also will be plenty to learn. Smerchek cites the Kansas Senior Farmers' Market Nutritional Program, which can increase profits, and a class on market displays as examples.
The workshop will feature speakers knowledgeable in farming and selling. They are:
- Jeff Cole, executive director of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets, speaking about the role of the market manager, keys to a market's success, a rewarding vendor/customer mix and financial sponsorships and community participation.
- Katherine Kelly, founder of Full Circle Farm in Kansas City and organizer of the Kansas City Community Farm and Center for Urban Agriculture, which will serve as a demonstration farm that will research and develop farming practices that are appropriate for the small-acreage, urban farmer.
- Joan Vibert, who has grown organic vegetables and fruits south of Ottawa at Windwalker Farm and owns a commercial kitchen.
- Tamara Tiemann, from the Kansas Department on Aging.
|What: Workshop for new and veteran vendors at the Lawrence Farmers MarketWhen: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. SaturdayWhere: Douglas County Fairgrounds, Buildings 1 and 2.Cost: FreeSponsors: Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Department of Commerce and Kansas Center for Sustainable Agriculture and Alternative Crops|
Workshop organizers hope to teach participants how to have a rewarding market experience.
"The majority of classes offered will assist vendors in marketing their products and teach them new techniques for bringing customers to their booths," Smerchek says. "This workshop will give the producer the basics for selling at the farmers market."