Supporting Local Producers Goes Beyond the Farmers Markets
Learn how the Take 5 for Local campaign is investing in local farmers, ranchers, and food producers.
Spending a sunny Saturday morning roaming through the farmers markets, you wouldn’t necessarily get the impression that we are on the brink of a generational change in local agriculture. While your weekend ritual remains intact year after year, the markets evolve with each season as veteran vendors step back to retire and young new farmers burst onto the scene. It’s a complicated scene to enter, requiring not only farming expertise but also business savvy. Eager young farmers looking to transform our local food systems face many challenges, including reaching customers and distinguishing themselves amidst a glut of big businesses touting their “local” bonafide.
Farming is a labor of love that most people simply wouldn’t sign up for. There’s the outdoor labor that doesn’t go away whether it’s pouring rain or over 100 degrees. The hours of hard work that goes into a crop that could easily be wiped away by a pest infestation or weather event. Then there’s the constant work in the summer, including getting up at the crack of dawn to prepare for the markets. Despite these challenges, our vendors don’t cut corners in the same way that big agricultural players do to fatten up their bottom line. Instead, they work vigorously to conserve water, revive the soil, and create natural ecosystems that benefit all creatures and hope that their mission will reach customers eager to invest in their work.
It’s the tireless work of our local farmers and ranchers that inspires us to develop thriving markets in our community. For many of our vendors, the farmers markets provide their main source of income. This is especially true for new farmers who don’t already have an existing customer base or wholesale connections that they would need to succeed. Providing this economic opportunity is the core mission of Boulder County Farmers Markets, and this year we decided to explore new ways to support our vendors in growing their businesses. Through our Take 5 for Local campaign, we launched the Farm to Market Masterclass to help our farmers and small food businesses learn how to market their products to help increase sales and promote local agriculture. The class consisted of 14 vendors across all categories in our markets, from vegetable growers to orchards and food trucks.
Vendors participating in the class attended meetings focused on branding, digital marketing, and merchandise display led by experts in our community. These sessions were paired with peer learning opportunities to help troubleshoot issues and create connections between vendors that might not otherwise have the opportunity to share their knowledge with one another. “Working with the team for the Boulder County Farmers Markets’ masterclass has been our best collaboration and promotional experience with a farmers market we participate in,” shared Lara Boudreaux, who leads operations and marketing efforts at Bjorn’s Colorado Honey. “Of course, the class has provided tons of great learning opportunities, but the time spent with the BCFM team and other vendors has been the most fruitful,” she added.
Farmers markets are just one way to help emerging small food businesses succeed. At Boulder County Farmers Markets, we strive to go above and beyond the role of farmers market operators to help advocate for what our farmers need and provide them with resources and support in achieving success. The Farm to Market Masterclass has demonstrated how markets can dedicate resources to helping vendors who are already navigating issues such as climate change, high costs of labor and equipment, and an economy that’s becoming more focused on convenience over quality every day.
As we move into these colder months, it’s increasingly important to show our vendors the support they need to make it through the slow winter months by shopping at the farmers markets. This week, try stocking up on farm-fresh goods and learning how to preserve Colorado’s bounty while it’s still at its peak. You can freeze peaches, pickle cucumbers, or turn tomatoes into a fabulous sauce that will brighten up cold winter days.