Improving the Farmer’s Market Business Model
Because most farmers’ markets are operated by not-for-profits or local government employees, and few have full time staff, there is often not the time, resources or inclination to effect change to the fundamental way markets do business.
Farmers markets exist to bring together farmers and foodmakers with consumers who wish to purchase their products. The market entity arranges the location, attracts vendors who represent a spectrum of local food and produce, publicizes the existence of the market, and sets and polices the rules by which the market operates. These functions take a great deal of time to execute, leaving little, if any, time or resource for making improvements that may be in the interests of the vendors and the consumers who shop the market.
Though the vendors and consumers in the market are captive to the basic way the market operates, they often can, and do, adopt new ways of conducting business that improves the overall experience. The best recent example of this is the increased use of mobile smart phone attachments that enable vendors to accept credit card payments. Not only does this increase vendor sales, but consumers also like the flexibility of paying with credit cards.
Last summer we conducted a survey of 400 farmer’s market shoppers. One of the most surprising results of the survey was that 47 percent of respondents would have liked to pre-order their food and produce online for pick up later at the market. The main reasons for this preference were that (1) shoppers could avoid out-of-stocks on their favorite items, and (2) they would not have to arrive early at the market to get the best produce. (The benefit to vendors would be increased sales and the ability to better plan how much food to bring to each market).
In addition, our survey respondents wanted to hear more from the particular vendors they liked. The farmers and foodmakers who produce the food at the market have a great deal of knowledge to share with consumers but often are not available or accessible at every market.
In response to these customer needs, Fresh Nation developed a simple, free, easy-to-use interface allowing vendors to pre-sell their products online (for later pick-up at the market), and to communicate with their customers about the food they sell. Vendors who utilize these new services can over time experience a substantial rise in their revenues from an increasingly loyal and connected customer base.
In addition, we found that vendors had few opportunities to present their businesses in the most favorable light to attract not only individual customers, but also restaurants and wholesale accounts, so we created a free business Profile for every vendor that requires zero maintenance and can include a wholesale price list. Vendors can add photos and narrative to their Profiles making their products all the more attractive to prospective buyers.
Farmers and foodmakers must begin to take more responsibility for the success of their businesses outside of the traditional farmer’s market, and not leave their success solely in the hands of market operators who can provide only the physical space in which the vendors operate. New methodologies are now available to vendors to increase their revenues and customer retention, and open up new audiences to their products both during the traditional farmer’s market season, and after.
Fresh Food, Fresh Ideas, Fresh Nation
Markets have been part of society since its earliest days. It was not in the too distant past when your grandparents or great-grandparents went to the market several times a week to buy all the food needed to keep their home kitchen stocked and bustling. The food they bought was wholesome, fresh and local.
As society became more efficient and mass production became the norm, we traded some of that wholesomeness, most of the freshness and all of that local for the convenience of one-stop shopping. Not that there is anything wrong with modern conveniences! Knowing that the supermarket will have everything that you are looking for—and several payment options— is something we have become accustomed to. And let’s be honest, the convenience of the supermarket is almost essential since our harried twenty-four- hour day seems so much shorter than the twenty-four hours that our grandparents experienced. And yet with all that, a part of us longs for that old-fashioned, in-person local market experience.
So here we are in the twenty-first century, our craving revived for wholesome, fresh and local food: that craving drives the modern Farmers’ Market movement. Across our Westchester community and across the nation, Farmers’ Markets of all different styles and sizes are dotting the landscape as we rediscover what our grandparents knew. Fresh food, simply, is the best food. Small farms are again basking in the glow of feeding their local communities. As patrons of these local Farmers’ Markets we benefit as we eat healthier, once again connect to friends and neighbors and begin to heal our environment one weekend at a time.
And yet, some of the convenience is missing…..enter Fresh Nation.
Fresh Nation is a regional organization that has the potential to enhance how we shop at our local Farmers’ Market! Their services embrace the convenience of supermarket shopping while, crucially, preserving the local experience that is the soul of Farmers’ Market shopping. What Fresh Nation is attempting to do—and we at Gossett Brothers think they have an excellent shot at achieving this goal—is to give you the consumer the ability to pre-order your favorite items from each vendor and pay for those items on the internet with your credit or debit card. Then, on market day, you simply pick up your special order and enjoy!
So think about this for a moment or two. Imagine being able to pre-order your favorite Farmers’ Market staples from your favorite vendors and having your parcels magically waiting for you on Market day! Imagine being able to pay in advance on a secure site and not having to worry about having enough cash to pay for all your goods! (Most vendors, as you probably know, aren’t yet equipped to accept credit cards.) With Fresh Nation, you still have the fun of going to your local market to see what’s new and exciting, talk to the farmers about what they are growing and connect to friends and neighbors. It’s the best of the world of technology and the best of old-fashioned community.
Our farmers are an amazing group of people. Not only do they work the land, they are also part businesspeople, part transportation company and part salespeople. They have to grow crops and take care of livestock, get up before the sunrise to transport their wares to our neighborhood, share their fresh-picked crops, go back home, do the bookkeeping (hopefully making a bit of a profit) and then do it all over again the following week. Like our business here at Gossett Nursery, our farmers’ business is a seasonal one and subject to uncertainly of weather and other variables that nature throws their way. Farming is demanding; it takes a persevering spirit to create a thriving local business.
BUT, thriving businesses—even time-honored businesses like farming— embrace change and Gossetts’ Farm Market is looking forward to exploring, along with Fresh Nation, new ways to benefit both our market patrons and our farmers. Fresh Nation is a Fresh Idea. So how do you benefit from what Fresh Nation has to offer?
- CLICK HERE to go to the Gossetts’ Farm Market Fresh Nation Page to learn more about this up-and-coming service.
- If you like what you see on the Fresh Nation page, then consider choosing to “favorite” Gossetts’ Farm Market. (By “Favoriting” us, you will receive updates both directly from our vendors and from Gossetts” Farm Market)
- Ask your favorite vendors if they are willing to explore this exciting new opportunity to partner with Fresh Nation so that their products could be available to you for pre-order.
Want to be sure that you come back home with all the fresh foods you need to create your perfect week’s menu? Then start a dialogue this Saturday with all your favorite Gossetts’ Farm Market vendors about Fresh Nation. Starting now you are invited to be part of something wonderful, a conversation that links Fresh Nation, Farmer and you. Let our Gossetts’ Farm Market vendors know that you are willing to make a commitment to their product for the convenience Fresh Nation offers.
The Fresh Nation team is not expecting our farmers and vendors to go it alone. They are behind the scenes helping them along the way until this Fresh Idea becomes the norm. It is going to take lots of work and some time, but the end result will be more of your dollars going directly to the farmer and greater convenience to you. This is a win-win situation that Fresh Nation can make a reality if we all do this together, and doing things together for the greater good is something your grandparents would have understood and what the modern American Farmer’s Market movement is all about.
-Gossett Farmers Market
You Can Never Have Too Many Pickles
From the backyard or from your local farmers market, crisp cucumbers are a summertime favorite. I usually eat these green delights in a salad or as a snack, but after being told by many people how easy canning and pickling was, I had to give it a chance. This push for pickling could not have come at a better time since the Fresh Nation garden is being overrun with cucumbers!
After picking the cucumbers from the garden, make sure to remove the spines from the skin and wash them thoroughly to rinse away any dirt. We decided to use the ‘Ball - Kosher Dill Pickle Mix’ since it is easy to prepare and quite tasty. We are also preparing these pickles without sealing them in their containers, so they will be ready sooner but do not last as long. Ball calls this type of canning the “enjoy now” preparation method, but we just call it being too excited to wait to eat our pickles.
Assuming the pickles are cleaned, preparing the brining mixture is really easy. Many Ball products list the directions on the side, but the website is also helpful to read what other people are doing and to keep us confident we were on the right track.
As per the instructions, we planned on making 2 quarts of pickles. This required about…
- 14 small to medium pickles (or about 6-7 very large pickles in our case)
- 1 cup vinegar (at 5% acidity)
- 2 cups water
- one packet of ball spices
- 2 quart ball jars
- a large bowl
(The recipe recommends that you cut the pickles into spears, but since we are rebels we chose to keep the pickles whole.)
With the pickles prepped, we combined the water, vinegar, and Kosher Dill Pickle Mix in a medium saucepan and heated it to a boil.
Place the pickles into a large bowl and once the brining solution is at a boil, pour it over the pickles in the bowl.
Let the mixture sit with the pickles until it is cool. When everything is at room temperature again, pack the cucumbers into the 2 quart jars and evenly distribute the brine solution among the jars. As mentioned before, because we were rebels and chose to keep the pickles whole rather than cut them into spears, we needed to add a little extra pickling solution to the jars because of the extra space.
At this point, all that is left to do is wait as the pickles sit in the fridge soaking up flavor. Who would have thought making pickles was so easy!
What Women Want!
Tony Lee - Founder & CEO
In researching her 2003 book “Just Ask A Woman”, Mary Lou Quinlan surveyed 3,000 women and found that the number one issue that influenced their lives above all others was stress. She writes “women’s feelings about stress in their lives threaded through every one of the 3,000 conversations”.
Though they comprise just over one half of the U.S. population, women buy or influence the purchase of 85 percent of all products and services. For the most part they control what their families eat, and are responsible for making sure there is an adequate supply of food in the house at all times. But finding the most healthy and nutritious food for their families can add to their already stressed lives because it is not always available when and where they want it.
Farmers’ markets are the best place to pick up fresh local food that is nutritionally dense and the most flavorful. Yet sometimes when you go to the market the vendor you went to see is not there, or has run out of the food you want to buy. Plus, there can be long lines at some vendor stands, turning your visit to the market into a chore.
That’s why we added “Pre-Order Online, Pick Up At The Market” to the Fresh Nation site, enabling you to pre-order your produce and food from your favorite vendors a day or two before the market, and then pick it up from them at the market already bagged and ready to go.
It’s our way of reducing all that stress.
Good Fats & Bad Fats: Know Your Food
Hannah Pullman - Community Manager
A few people have recently asked me about fats and what are the different types of fats. So, I am going to write this post about the different fats, which ones are good for you and which ones to avoid.
First, fatty acids are the main component of fat. There are three types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. These fatty acids are defined by their saturation – the amount of hydrogen attached to the carbon atoms on the fatty acid.
Saturated fatty acids, commonly known as “bad fats,” have carbon chains completely packed with hydrogen. These fats are linked to increases in heart disease and some cancers and are mainly found in animal products. Most plant foods contain very little saturated fats (except for coconut and palm oils).
Then there are monounsaturated fats, commonly known as “good fats.” These fatty acids are missing one hydrogen atom on their carbon chain and are generally liquid at room temperature. They have been shown to protect against diseases, like heart disease, and are neutral or beneficial in relation to cholesterol levels. High levels of these fatty acids are found in olives, olive oils, avocados, and nuts.
Trans fatty acids, a fat damaging to one’s health, are a type of unsaturated fatty acid that has had their hydrogen atoms rearranged during food processing. This processing allows the fats to withstand higher temperatures, ideal for high temperature cooking and deep-frying. These fats are much more damaging than saturated fats, raise blood cholesterol levels, and are linked to heart disease. The main sources of these fats are processed and fried foods.
The third type of fat is polyunsaturated fatty acids. These fatty acids have more than one hydrogen atom missing from their carbon chain and are involved in the functioning of the brain and nervous systems and the regulation of organs. They are mainly found in vegetable oils, seeds, nuts, grains, legumes and other plants. Two important polyunsaturated fatty acids are linoleic acid (omega-6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega-3). For optimum health you should have a good balance of both, however western diets tend to favor linoleic acid. If you are vegetarian or vegan, common sources of linoleic acids are seeds, walnuts, butternuts, corn, and soybeans. Good sources for alpha-linolenic acid are dark leafy greens, broccoli, seaweeds, flax, nuts and soybeans. If you are not vegetarian you can consume long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids directly from meat and dairy products (sources of omega-6) and by eating fish or microalgae (sources of omega-3).
So the question remains, “what fats and how much of them should we eat?” Most health experts recommend 15-30% of your daily calories come from fats. However, the type of fats consumed is very important. Studies have shown that a diet lower in fats, especially lower in saturated fats, trans fatty acids, cholesterol and animal protein, decrease the risk of heart attacks and strokes. So, try to avoid saturated and trans fatty acids – avoid eating processed and deep fried foods, decrease meat and dairy consumption, and eat more nuts and fresh vegetables.
A good source for what foods to eat and avoid in terms of fats and their effects on health, go to the American Heart Association.
Why I Buy Local
Hannah - Community Manager
A year ago I was given the opportunity to work with local farmers, farmers’ markets and create delicious foods. When I did this, I was instantly catapulted into the world of farmers markets! For the next six months, I ate only fresh and local food from farmers’ markets and it was amazing! Fresh green including spinach and the multiple varieties of kale were my favorites. The sweet Japanese turnips were also a great discovery my family and I loved. All the local and fresh vegetables were tastier, more nutritious, and I was able to connect with the farmers who grew them.
I am thrilled to be working with Fresh Nation to connect others with fresh, nutritious foods from their local farms and farmers’ markets. After doing a little research, I learned there are over 2 million farms in the United States today. I am not talking about big agribusiness farms (of which there are a few), but rather small-scale family run farms. Out of these 2 million farms, 90% are small farms that you may bump into at your local farmers’ market. That is a lot of local fresh food! Recently harvested, fresh, ripe food is the most nutrient dense and allows your body to get the most bang for your buck. Plus, the flavors of the produce are more pronounced so you can fully enjoy the wonderfulness of your fresh foods. I spent all year creating delicious recipes with season produce that I will share in future posts.
Spring is near and summer farmers’ markets will begin. Summer vegetables, fruits and herbs will be available. I can’t wait!