Farmers’ Markets are going like gangbusters–especially in Arkansas
Farmers’ Markets have long been a popular tool in the South for assisting farmers with marketing. The amazing revolution toward local foods occurring in the country right now has burst this sector wide open. Scroll down for a picture of Arkansas’ farmers market leaders.
The most recent development is the on-line farmers market. Beginning usually on Sunday evening, customers make their choices on-line from a list of all the products a dozen or so farmers have available at that point in time. On-line shopping usually must be completed by Wednesdays. This gives the farmers a couple of days to get the orders together. Then at a specific time on Friday afternoon or Saturday the farmers and the customers meet and everyone is happy. Farmers always bring a little extra for the shopper who has unexpected guests and needs more good food in the house.
And the selection is unbelievable. Producers who don’t have the time or inclination to sit at a farmers market all morning are much more willing to participate in an on-line market. Believe it or not, you can get fresh Arkansas baby spinach and baby arugula right now from Arkansas online farmers markets.
Cody Hopkins and Andrea Todt are running one of the coolest on-line markets. Their website has great pictures of all the products–including the Arkansas arugula and spinach in January!. Delivery is on Friday afternoons to Dr. Betsey Hendrickson’s offices in Conway.
Then there is the ultimate concept in farmers markets.
Jody Hardin and Barbara Armstrong host a traditional farmers market every Tuesday and Sunday at 6th and Main in North Little Rock. Also at that intersection, they have established Argenta Market which has Arkansas food all year round, a bakery, Arkansas wines, locally made beers, and a white table cloth restaurant with a renowned Chef creating all-Arkansas meals.
And if that’s not enough, just ask Jody about the newly vacant 10 acre site just East of his present location. An organic dairy in the middle of the city? An Amish auction house for fresh Arkansas products from across the state? Local, Arkansas food as the anchor in a huge shopping complex? A public market like you’ve never seen before. Wow, this is going to be something great!!! Details of progress are being posted at Jody and Barbara’s website
State government can help. A wide variety of markets have received state support. Some states have focused on combined wholesale and retail, others on strictly farmer retail and others on “public” markets with a wide variety of retail outlets in addition to farmers. North Carolina and Georgia have extensive networks of markets and subsidize market operations. Both Florida’s and South Carolina’s Department of Agriculture manages markets but without a state operating subsidy. Virginia provides construction funds but insists on non-government management.
State Farmers’ Markets are a uniquely Southern phenomenon. In other states with strong fresh produce sectors, such as Maryland, private marketing interests have resisted establishment of state markets. Maryland, instead, has created a very cost-effective program to establish locally-run retail farmer’s markets (called tailgate or roadside markets in other states). With a state investment of about $100,000 a year (less than a typical state subsidy for one large farmer’s market) 32 new farmers’ markets have been created since 1990. All are run by local groups and create $15 million in sales for participating farmers. Maryland’s Department of Agriculture views this program as a business incubator for small and beginning farmers. A number of farmers have begun producing value-added products (such as goat cheese) to sell at these markets. Most of the markets participate in the WIC Farmers Market Coupon program. The markets seem to have caught on best in new residential subdivisions when local farmers have retooled part of their operation to meet the new market provided by the new residents.
Tennessee has pursued the public market concept, with the most successful being the Nashville Farmers Market (Manager: Larry Suitter, 615-880-2001). In addition to retail by Tennessee farmers, this market has restaurants, specialty and vegetables and plants.
Arkansas Department of Agriculture has taken a very strong stand in support of local farmers markets under the leadership of Secretary Richard Bell and the ever helpful Tim Ellison. Tim is untiring in his support for farmers markets. And he knows where the money is. If you are interested in getting monetary, intellectual, or spiritual help for your market, Tim is the one. You can reach him at: 501-225-1598. He has been the driving force behind the Naturally Arkansas website where you can find nearly all the traditional farmers markets in Arkansas.
Below are links to other prominent state Farmers Market programs.