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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Note from the Market Manager

Image from the 2015 State Farmers'
Market Conference, Manhattan, Kansas.
I had the pleasure of spending last weekend in Manhattan at the 2015 State Farmers' Market Conference.

It was nice to meet and get to know people from across the state who shared a passion for markets and local food the way I do. It's easy to find those people in Emporia, of course, but as a gathering of market managers, this was a wonderful opportunity to share and gather ideas and inspiration.

Our first keynote speaker of the event was Ronelle Neperud who spoke on Cultivating Success with Engaged Volunteers. She had some great ideas for distributing the workload and my farmhands (a growing lot -- thank you!) will be hearing from me soon about additional ways they might help support the market.

One of the breakout sessions I attended was about the Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program, of which we have vendors participate every year. Participation has been down the last couple of years, so I was looking for ideas to help make sure those vouchers were getting distributed in our community. I will continue to train EFM vendors and encourage them to enroll in the program so that we can have as much fresh produce as possible available at the market for those who most need it.

I also attended a presentation by Adam Inman of the KDA, talking about the importance of food safety at markets. He reviewed the updates to  Food Safety for Kansas Farmers Market Vendors: Regulations and Best Practices. I am excited about these changes because they will open up a few new avenues for products at our market. I will cover these in more detail in a future note.

On the market's wish list is a wine vendor, so I enjoyed being able to learn the nitty gritty details of what is involved for Kansas farm wineries to sell at farmers markets. It sounds like we aren't quite there yet, but there is certainly possibility for the future. I also got to listen to Linda Cottin of Cottin's Hardware Farmers' Market in Lawrence fame. They have a unique setup for a market and I look forward to a field trip one day soon.

I enjoyed hearing Jill Campbell of the Pittsburg Farmers' Market talk about what they went through to get a covered market going. It looks like a beautiful set up and it gave me lots to dream about for Emporia.

Finally, I was able to share my love of the Emporia Farmers Market with the final keynote of the day. I talked about our market money promotions and community engagement with our market. It was well received, and I finished the weekend feeling as if my market family had truly grown.

I came home with a long list of ideas for the Emporia Farmers Market. I may be feeling as giddy as my market vendors. They have their seed catalogs and vegetable starts this time of year, I am planning for our wonderful, neighborly gatherings in the parking lot.

Spring is just around the corner!

See you at the market --

Tracy Simmons
Market Manager