Posted on August 4th, 2011. Filed under National Farmers Market Week.
According to the Farmers Market Coalition, a farmers market “…operates multiple times per year and is organized for the purpose of facilitating personal connections that create mutual benefits for local farmers, shoppers, and communities. To fulfill that objective, farmers markets define the term local, regularly communicate that definition to the public, and implement rules/guidelines of operation that ensure that the farmers market consists principally of farms selling directly to the public products that the farms have produced.”
The Lawrence Farmers Market in Kansas is a prime example. Operating since 1976, the Lawrence Farmers Market now has over 101 vendors, 80 of which are farmers. The market policy states that all products must be from Kansas and produced or grown within 50-miles of Lawrence, and that all vendors must grow or produce their own products. Each farm pays an inspection fee and undergoes a site visit by a member of the appointed committee before they are allowed to join the market. Producer-only policies like these ensure a level playing field for local growers, build trust with shoppers, and help preserve the rural landscapes of Kansas.
Take the Pendletons, a family farm selling at the Lawrence Farmers Market for twenty years. Until 1980, the Pendletons grew only traditional grain crops and cattle on their farm in the Kansas River Valley. That’s when the family planted their first ½ acre of asparagus. Now, John, Karen, and their three children grow a diverse spectrum of vegetables and flowers on 35 acres, along with about 450 acres of corn and soybeans . “Having the farmers market, along with pick-your-own, gave our family business the freedom to diversify and get more people in the community involved in the farm,” says Karen Pendleton, who can be seen selling every week at the market.
Thanks to a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) grant, Lawrence Farmers Market is one of more than 100 markets in Kansas that consumers across the state can find at ksfarmersmarkets.org. The dynamic web site is a project of the Kansas Rural Center (KRC), a non-profit organization that promotes the long-term health of the land and its people through research, education, and advocacy. The grant also allowed KRC to provide training and technical assistance to market managers across the state.
Since beginning to accept SNAP benefits in 2006, the value of sales to SNAP participants at the Lawrence Farmers Market increased more than 500% by 2010. The Market is also involved in community partnerships with the local food bank Just Food and the County Extension Master gardeners to collect surplus produce to distribute to local food pantries. Last season the market worked with several local non-profits to offer healthful food preparation classes to low-income residents of Douglas County.
Visit the Lawrence Farmers Market online at www.lawrencefarmersmarket.com.