After Lora’s comments on my Hump Day post, where she linked to the Baltimore Sun article about the Howard County markets, I have been thinking.
Do we have too many markets? Have we diluted the customer base? How are all the CSAs affecting market visits?
Many friends, other bloggers, readers and hundreds of county residents now get CSA boxes weekly. Add Friends and Farms, and South Mountain Creamery delivery and you have probably thousands of people who no longer buy the bulk of their fruit and vegetables at the markets.
The big CSAs are Breezy Willow, Gorman, One Straw, Zahradka, Love Dove and Sandy Spring. They keep growing every year. We went from about 35 members for Sandy Spring at our one site in Columbia to 59 this summer. My Farms page has links to all the local farms.
Add the pick your own sites like Larriland to the mix, where people who are serious about getting fresh affordable fruit and veggies have made it extremely popular on weekends. It is even crowded on weekdays when we go to pick.
What can be done to increase the visibility, and the profitability of these markets? Something that it seems is discussed quite a bit by the market board and the participants.
Are the hours of 2-6 during the week the right ones? Should it be 3-7 in the heart of summer to help the commuters get there before the good stuff is gone?
I don’t know the answers but any and all thoughts and comments are appreciated here.
I am doing fine in the Buy Local Challenge. I hope others have made that pledge to support our farmers. Will you be joining us for our picnic this Sunday at the Conservancy? A chance to connect with neighbors and friends and share our local goodies. Crossing our fingers that the weather stays nice, and we can picnic in the grove. Otherwise, an indoor picnic looking at the trees through the windows of the Gudelsky Center.
Interesting that you bring up the hours of the farmer’s markets, as a coworker and I were just discussing this earlier in the week. He was looking for one that he could easily get to from Linthicum during his lunch hour……or one that held longer hours on the weekends as he lives north of Baltimore. Columbia doesn’t quite make the cut. Luckily, he found a spot in Catonsville. But I have to agree that starting (and ending) later might benefit all.
Interesting post Annie. Some of the farmers in my community have shared that they’d really prefer not to do the markets but that it supplements the CSAs. They are sooo much work; getting up early, loading produce, setting up, selling, breaking down, going home and trying to find a use for tired produce that didn’t sell.
You raise a very important point. Once you are in a CSA that you know brings you veggies as specified (organic or not, etc), then the farmers markets just fill in for the recipes you plan or eggs if you run out.
Other metro areas have completely different market approaches with more farmers (perhaps not all producers?) and therefore more variety, production and cost comparisons. The markets in Howard County that I have gone to are pretty sparse. For instance, why should you go to a weekend market that does not have a dairy option (like Glenwood) if that is what you need or only has one fruit source? I am also used to weekday morning markets that span over the lunch hour where your produce is not hot already, berries mushy or going into a hot car where they will become so. Afternoon markets are a tough sell for parents with young children.
If commuter markets are the focus during the week than they have to take place at a time/place that makes sense for commuters – train stations, etc.
Gas and money expenditures have to make sense on both sides.
I appreciate having markets wed-sunday. I’ve visited all but the thursday market. I also have a full-share csa pickup and grow herbs & veg in my own garden. Having these great resources allows me to grow things that they don’t provide as well as get to know my county a little bit better.
I visit at least three of the markets regularly. Particularly for certain vendors. But, I do wish all the vendors that I use were at the same market, so I don’t have to take extra trips.
I do believe they are hurt by being disbursed and each one isn’t as large as they could be.
Think about the waste from bringing things out three or four times a week to wilt in the hot sun. If they don’t sell out, they can’t easily use those delicate veggies later.
Don’t know the solution. I thought the Sun article was an interesting read.
I recently moved to Ellicott City from Baltimore City. I was a regular at the Sunday market under the JFX. Imagine my surprise when I showed up at the market at Miller Library on a Wednesday. It was much smaller than I thought it would be. I would prefer to see the markets combined into a bigger market, and perhaps extend the hours (start later maybe?) because it is a struggle to make it there by 6pm. I think next year we are going to sign up for a CSA.