Spring is just around the corner, and along with longer days and warmer temperatures, the season brings the promise of farmers markets. But these markets don’t suddenly appear like daffodils after a warm spell. It takes months of planning to host a thriving farmers market.
Local market managers have some help getting ready for the season. On a chilly day in February, market managers from across the region came to ASAP’s Business of Farming conference for a Farmers Market Summit.
The farmers market summit is a gathering of market managers and leaders of various farmers markets around the region. They come together each spring to share information, discuss lessons learned during the previous year, and answer each other’s questions. “It’s kind of sharing the joint knowledge that we all have,” says Mike McCreary, ASAP’s farmers market program manager.
Just a few minutes ago, he was at the front of the room at the summit, talking about a wide range of issues that market managers face. To kick things off, they brainstormed ways to bolster market promotions and let the community know about special events and weekly markets. They also talked about common challenges that market managers face, and strategies to overcome them. The second part of the summit was a roundtable discussion and open dialogue where market managers shared experiences and built excitement for the coming year.
Quinn Asteak is part of this network of farmers market managers. She’s been the executive director of the West Asheville Tailgate Market for five years, and she’s a regular at these yearly farmers market summits.
“It’s great because there’s so many different market managers having such different experiences based on their location and their resources, so it’s a really nice opportunity for everyone to share what’s working for them,” she says. “I have been at it for a while and feel like I know what works for my market, but I’m walking away with a 8 by 10 page full of ideas for next year.”
Quinn plans a lot of special events at the West Asheville market, like a summer jam festival, Pepperpalooza, and a Halloween parade that celebrates fall. She looks forward to finding new ways to get the word out.
“Coming up with the graphics, reaching out to the community, collaborating with other local businesses, that’s always my favorite part because what I really love about the market is the community,” she says. “So having that market family of vendors, but also having the greater family of people in the community, anyone that comes to the market is a part of the family.”
This network of farmers market managers is also like a family. They support each other throughout the season and come together each spring for the summit, which almost feels like a family reunion.
“There’s a good bit of energy in the room,” Mike says. “I think most of the farmers market managers are passionate about what they do and dedicated to try and do the best job they can with the limited resources that are available. So having the opportunity to come together with fellow market managers does inspire some enthusiasm for the coming year.”
There are more than 100 farmers markets in the region and they run the gamut – from an urban market in downtown Asheville, to tight-knit community markets in rural counties.
ASAP has resources to help people find the market that’s right for them. There’s a website that lists farmers markets by region and day of the week. There’s also a map of markets near Asheville bus stops, and information about how to use SNAP to buy farm-fresh food. Find this and more at www.asapconnections.org
Aired: March 16, 2020