You Helped Us Elevate the Important (and Often Unheard) Voices of Farmers!
Tens of thousands of farmers and ranchers across the country rely on farmers markets to build and support their business. Nevertheless, federal programs designed to bolster farmers markets and spur economic growth were threatened with elimination from the 2018 Farm Bill.
Recognizing the need for action, the Farmers Market Coalition launched the 2018 Farmer Fly-In Project and sent six farmers and one market manager to meet with legislators on Capitol Hill about the importance of farmers markets and the farm bill programs that support them. This type of advocacy — constituents speaking directly with their elected officials — is by every account the most effective way to influence policy, and is why it’s so important that direct-marketing farmers are heard by federal lawmakers.
Our participants did an amazing job advocating for farmers markets and critical federal programs such as the Farmers Market Promotion Program, WIC/Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program. The group crammed 22 meetings into a day and a half, including a meeting with the Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Congressman Mike Conaway (TX). And the results speak for themselves. Despite serious concerns about the House draft of the bill, thanks to Farmers Market Coalition advocacy–including the fly in, farmers markets are well represented in the final 2018 farm bill. Given the success of this project, it’s certainly one that will remain in our toolbox for future advocacy efforts.
Who are these champions we sent to Washington? Meet them below, and learn why we chose them to speak on behalf of direct-marketing farmers, ranchers, and farmers markets!
Rancher Amy Greer
Winters Family Beef – Brady, Texas
Produces: Grassfed Wagu & Angus beef
In 2008, Amy’s father gave his children a choice: take up the family ranching business or risk losing the storied Winters Family Ranch, one of the oldest Cattle operations in West Central Texas. Amy stepped up, and has since taken the ranch in a new direction by selling their beef direct to consumers.
“The ability to market our beef direct to consumers through farmers markets has allowed us to get out of the commercial cattle business and have more control over the financial status of the Ranch. Farmers markets give us the freedom to produce high-quality food offered at a fair price and hang onto our family ranch for another generation.”
“I am very proud to have been a part of the Farmers Market Coalition Fly-In to D.C. to advocate for farm bill programs that benefit farmers markets and farmers and ranchers,” Amy wrote shortly after departing from D.C. “Having an opportunity to speak directly to legislators and their staff was inspiring and taught me that all of our voices are important and should be heard. If we don’t speak up and act as advocates, we won’t make a difference for ourselves and others. FMC helped us tell our stories and impress on our lawmakers the importance of thriving farmers markets for small Ag all over our country.”
Farmer Julia Asherman
Rag & Frass Farm – Jefferson, Georgia
Produces: Vegetables, fruit, specialty cut flowers, & herbs
Rag & Frass Farm was started by Julia Asherman who turned an old motel and neglected pasture into a diversified, 3-acre farm complete with laying hens and a cow. After making peace with the fire ants and teaching herself how to farm, Julia fell in love with the long growing season, challenging climate, and southern country ways.
“For my farm, direct farmers market sales is at least 75% of our income, next to production it is the other most important part of the operation. It is how we make a living, how we advertise our products, how we brand and create customer loyalty.”
Farmer Jennifer Taylor
Lola’s Organic Farm – Glenwood, Georgia
Produces: Fruit & vegetables
Jennifer Taylor and her partner Ron Gilmore farm 32.5 acres of land once owned by her grandmother, a sharecrop who saved money and purchased the farm she once worked. Taylor and Gilmore re-established the farm after it had been abandoned, converted to organic, and named it in honor of Taylor’s grandmother, Lola.
“Farmers Markets offer communities access to fresh, seasonal, locally grown organic certified produce. They offer friendly gathering spaces that nurture relationships between small farmers and their communities, local food resources and access.”
Farmer Armen Carlon
Sierra Cascade Farm – Forest Ranch, California
Sierra Cascade was one of the first organic blueberry farms in California when John and Armen Carlon established it in 1989. The Carlons raised their sons on the farm and currently employ 25-50 seasonal employees to grow blueberries of exceptional quality without the aid of off-farm inputs.
“Farmers markets have been important to Sierra Cascade since we began nearly 30 years ago. As our farm and harvests have grown, we’ve expanded to a number of local farmers markets, and over the decades, have been fortunate to educate and celebrate our customers, many of whom we now consider friends.”
Rancher Lyn Garling
Over the Moon Farm – Rebersburg, Pennsylvania
Produces: Poultry, pork, & hay
While Lyn has been involved in agriculture for much of her life, it took her 40 years to figure out how to get her own farm. That was 20 years ago and she hasn’t looked back. Over the Moon Farm, which Lyn runs with Patty Neiner, is a 26 acre, grass-based certified organic farm that sells all of their products through farmers markets and other direct marketing channels.
“Thriving farmers markets in our area have made a huge difference to the profit margins in our direct-marketed animal production operations.”
“What an eye-opening experience it was for me to visit legislators in their offices to speak to them personally about my policy concerns as a small farmer trying to make a living! The Farmer’s Market Coalition staff did a super job of helping us feel at ease, understand the whole process and the issues at hand. Now I am way more likely to be paying close attention to how my legislators are influencing farm policy and also much more confident about directly letting them know my opinions. As they say, ‘this is what democracy looks like’!”
Market Manager Gia Matheney
Hernando Farmers Market – Hernando, Mississippi
The Hernando Farmers Market was established in 2008 by the city and a group of citizens who wanted a place for the community to convene and provide an outlet for our farmers to sell their products. The market accepts Senior and WIC vouchers, SNAP, and provides a double SNAP incentive through a grant to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“Our local farmers are smaller and do not sell commercially. The market gives them an outlet to sell their product outside of their farm and allows them to increase the number of crops which benefits them, as well as the local consumer who is looking to buy fresh and local.”