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Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Farmers or Crafters Market?

Eugene finishing setting up the market stand. We brought a lot of lettuce, that's what's in most of the bags.

Yesterday was farmers market day in Oxford (as well as Miami U's graduation-congrats to any graduates who are reading this). It was a beautiful sunny morning but the market was pretty dead early on. And even in mid morning when the attendance got better not a lot of produce was selling.

The market had 27 vendors yesterday and only 2 of us, Locust Run and Boulder Belt, were selling vegetables plus Downing's which has cider and apple butter and will soon have fruits and veggies. We also had two meat vendors, 5 people selling plants and 1 selling goat cheese. So we have 11 farmer types selling at this market out of 27, a farming minority at the farmers market. You would think that with so few produce vendors at this market we would both sell out. That did not happen for any of us. All of us took quite a bit of produce home. I did hear the craft people did great sales, though.

I have noticed since last year when several people on the board decided that there should be more crafters at this market (which I hesitate to call a farmers market any longer) the ratio of craft people and bakers to farmers is skewed away from this market being farmer friendly. When I helped to create this market we established a rule that there could be one craft vendor for every 5 (or maybe 7) farmers. We made this rule to ensure that this farmers market would be a FARMER'S market and not be taken over by the arts and crafts crowd. Last year with a new bunch of people on the board that rule was tossed out and "Artist Alley" was created. Now we had a market that had about as many crafters as farmers. Not a good trend in my mind, and I did question this move with several board members and felt like I was blown off by them.

Move forward to 2008 and now we have more crafters than farmers and we also have space issues in the spot where the market is held due to a building going up next door. This has lost us about 7 spaces. So far this season every space has been filled and I know that there are at least 4 farmers who will be coming in later on this season. Will the board tell the crafters there is no space for them (after they have paid their annual fee?) or will the growers be left out? It's gotta go one way or the other (unless the market is moved to larger quarters) because space is very limited.

My issue is that we created a market for farmers to sell their wares when the Oxford Uptown farmers market was born. And now it seems that this market is becoming a weekly craft show. I have read of several markets that went this direction and eventually the farmers were kicked out. I do not want this to happen in Oxford. I do know when you have too many crafters people going to the market start spending their money on the craft items and do not spend their money with the farmers and quickly the situation is a winner for the crafters and a losing one for the farmers. I was hoping this was not going to happen in Oxford but from the looks of things I do not see encouraging things for us growers. Hopefully this will change and what I have been seeing is the strange buying patterns of Oxford's Graduation/Mother's Day weekend and in the coming weeks/months people will be coming to the farmers market to buy food

Eugene and I are lucky because we have a store here on the farm and after 2 years the locals are finding us and shopping here. Sales are up 500% so far this year. The store is not yet supporting itself but it is going in the right direction. As the industrial food system continues to fail I expect we will get a lot more business and in a couple of years will be able to quit going to the Saturday market altogether (man it will be nice not to have to get up at 4:30am in order to get to market by 7am, which we rarely do. We seem to always be late). We plan on sticking with the Tuesday market which, so far, does not have this out of whack farmer to crafter ratio problem. And since I still have a lot of influence with this market, should not for many years to come. I love going to the Tuesday market because it is so laid back and it has a wonderful mix of vendors, all of whom I like a lot. Oh and I don't have to get up at 4:30 am to get there on time.

I just may have to run for the OFMU board this fall, even though we really cannot afford the gasoline to get to Oxford for the meetings. But something has to be done to get the board away from this craft takeover of the farmers market and back in the farmers' corner. Otherwise, we growers may well lose what should be a spectacular market for us.


valereee said...

Lucy, wow, I'm sorry to hear this is happening. If Oxford wants a crafters' market, they should do a CRAFTERS' market, not try to join crafts with produce.

I think you should join the board and make the argument that you can attend the meetings just fine by conference call. In fact, everyone could. What a waste of gas just to be able to sit in the same room.

Lucy said...


your response that you emailed me was not too long at all, and so I am posting it.

Rebecca owsley (my step-mother) sez:
Happy Birthday!

I noticed this trend at the Tawas market early last year. Lots of flowers, soap, bread, herb plants, cheese--hardly any veggies. My complaint was overheard by the market manager, who pointed out it was early for harvesting anything in Michigan. Later on, it was better--and I said so. But still there was a preponderance of things other than fresh produce (canned, jellied, preserved, yeah) I wondered why this was so. I think maybe much of what you talked about may have been an influence. Why should the farmers go to all that work, just to be shoved to the end of the area with their green beans, when the tourists are buying jewelry? I didn't go as often, because there wasn't as much to buy that I couldn't get closer to home. If there were more like me, I would guess that discouraged produce vendors from coming.

Ex Rower said...

Have you guys ever considered going to the market in Dayton on Webster Street?

Mike in Dayton

OhioMom said...

We do have a few "other" vendors at our local market, but so far (knock on wood) the board gives priority space to the farmers.

Frankly I do not go to a farmers market to buy jewelry, I go for food.

Makes you wonder what some people are thinking (or are they?).

jason said...

I definitely agree that the farmers should have priority at the market. It would be a sad day for oxford if boulder belt (and other farmers) were squeezed out of the saturday market.

I do think, though, that this past Saturday was probably an off day because of graduation/move-out (a lot of tourists were in town whereas a lot of residents were likely staying away from the fray) .

Lucy said...

ex rower, we did the Dayton Webster st market years ago. The cost was way to high for us at $40 a day per space. Plus they were allowing reselling which is something not allowed at the Oxford market.

Jason, you are right that graduation weekend does bring out more crafters than normal and the townies do stay away from uptown as it is insane with out of towners who do not know how to drive streets with 4 way stops (and there is no parking). But I am still concerned about the increasing amount of craft people at the market that started last year. the good side of this is the market is full of people it's just a shame they are not mostly farmers.

It does not help that we have now lost two long time farmers, though their families may carry on with the farmers market in their stead.

Things will likely get better as the season goes on. More farmers should show up at the market.