Tag Archives: America’s Favorite Farmers Market

Cultivating Community at Arlington Farmers Market

The Arlington Farmers’ Market is led by a grassroots, volunteer-run organization in the small town in northwestern Washington state. They hand-paint sandwich boards with directions to the market, attend city meetings to cultivate a presence in the community, and they look everywhere–even their own kids’ rooms–for books to read at a story time in the park. It’s fitting, then, that the market was started by farmers looking to expand upon their CSA. Mark and Patricia Lovejoy wanted to bring their fresh, local food to the residents of Arlington, so they simply showcased their produce downtown on Saturdays. Other farmers and crafters joined them. Two years ago the market was turned over to sisters Audrey Houston and Samantha Schuller. The Lovejoy organic produce tent still anchors the market, which has since doubled in size and sales and is recognized as a 2012 winner of the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets™ competition.

Vegetables at Arlington Farmers Market in Washintgon

Vegetables from farmers Mark and Patricia Lovejoy, owners of Garden Treasures. (Photo: Audrey Houston)

The market is focused on locally grown produce. In fact, most produce is grown within about 25 miles of the market, expect for the stone fruits grown on the other side of the mountains in Eastern Washington. Houston, who serves as the market director, said “the most popular items at the market are the tiny ones–berries.” During peak season, shoppers buy flats full of berries for jams, pies, or to eat by the handful.

On any given Saturday during the market, some 800 people will shop at the 13 or so vendors. More vendors join during berry season, but there’s always a variety of goods for the happy shoppers. Residents build relationships with the growers and many parents say they are glad they have the chance to model a healthy lifestyle to their kids by shopping for vegetables, spending time outside, and getting their kids engaged in story time and the free activities, Houston said.

“And maybe most importantly, it’s a community gathering space,” Houston explained. “There aren’t too many places in our culture these days where you can bump into your fellow residents without paying an entrance fee. If you stand in the middle of the market, you’ll hear neighbors greeting each other, friends grabbing some fruit for a picnic at the park, and a lot of laughter.”

The farmers at the market build the same relationships. These personal relationships drive their businesses and customers love the experience of not just knowing, but liking their farmers, Houston said. “Our farmers are people who’ve chosen lives of honest, hard work, who love experiences more than material goods, and who are willing to give up their summer Saturdays to get downtown and make connections within their community,” she added. The market offers growers a unique opportunity to sell to residents. As most grocery stores in the area only purchase food from large growers, the smaller, local farms can use the market downtown as a chance to expand their customer base and it provides an outlet for sales.

The Arlington Farmers’ Market also shares a healthy relationship with other local markets in the area. None of them are in direction competition. Instead, Houston said they build one another up, “the same way that the farmers at Arlington’s market don’t actually compete.” The markets spread the word to people of the importance of eating real food and they stress the need of growing our own food, Houston said. “The more farmers’ markets there are, the faster that change in public perception can happen.”

That grassroots efforts of organizing the market has paid off with the award of best small farmers market. Houston said it’s helped create a buzz in Arlington and the surrounding communities. Organizers plan to build on this success and add new vendors next year, including meat, dairy, prepared foods, and even more farmers.

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Fayetteville Farmers Market, Crown Jewel of the Community

The Fayetteville Farmers Market was founded nearly 40 years ago by a group of active farmers and gardeners looking for an opportunity to sell their goods to the community in the third largest city in Arkansas. The group worked with the community and formed a partnership with the city to host a farmers market on the downtown city square. Now with four markets a week and more than 100 vendors, the Fayetteville market draws over 250,000 visitors eager to purchase local food. The market serves as a regular community event and a gathering location for residents. It’s the place to be on a Saturday morning and the vendors make regular donations back into the community. For these reasons and more, the Fayetteville Farmers Market is one of the winners of this year’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market competition in the large category.

The market started in 1974 and is now open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturday mornings around the historic Downtown Square. There is also a smaller Sunday market held at the Botanical Garden right along the Lake Fayetteville pedestrian trail. The Saturday market is known as the “Crown Jewel of Fayetteville,” and comes to life with street performers on every corner, local musicians, and community organizations and politicians promoting their projects and positions.

“It’s a family outing as well as a place to meet up with friends,” said Lori Boatright, the market’s Public & Media Coordinator. “It’s not just a place to buy the freshest food available, it’s a party every weekend.”

The entertainment and community vibe is not the only thing that draws people to the market, it’s also the locally grown and produced food. There are several produce vendors, while meat vendors sell beef, chicken, lamb, pork, and eggs. You’ll also find a variety of trees, plants, and shrubs, including some native species. The northwest of Arkansas offer a long and diverse growing seasons; farmers grow a variety of berries, apples, pears, and peaches, and more than 20 varieties of tomatoes. Eggplant and bok choy are regularly available and the market is proud to offer one of the only Animal Welfare Approved farms in the state.

“What began as a place for people to access local food has become the place to be on Saturday morning,” Boatright said. “The community has a very special place in their heart for the market. The market is also proud of our community partnerships with the city and with other area businesses and non-profits.”

Market organizers work hard to raise awareness of food insecurity in the community while vendors have donated more than 20,000 pounds of produce this season to local food pantries and kitchens. The market also plays an important role in the economic development of the community with monies spent in the community staying in the community. For the vendors, the market offers a place to sell their goods, but it’s also a place for educational opportunities and food safety information.

“We are so proud to be America’s Favorite Farmers’ Market,” Boatright said. “We hope that this title assists us in bringing even more awareness to small scale agriculture and its place in our communities.” Market organizers are also looking to expand opportunities to offer customers in other parts of town access to locally grown food.

Also, be sure to check out The Food Network show, The Great Food Truck Race, and their visit to the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market.

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Pick Up the Mantle for Farms, Farmland and Farmers Markets

When we say, “America has been losing more than an acre per minute of farmland,” what does that mean for you?

Let’s imagine that everyone in the U.S. was equally responsible for saving the land that sustains us. According to the last Census of Agriculture, there are about 922 million acres of land in farms. If we evenly divide responsibility with your fellow 308 million Americans, what is your slice to protect? Just over 3 acres of land. At the rate we have been losing farmland—your acres could have been developed in the time it took you to read this post!

You may not own a farm or be a farmer, but as an eater you depend on farm and ranch land for every meal. The good news is that there are many ways that you can make smart choices as a consumer and as an advocate to protect your “three acres” and beyond. This summer, American Farmland Trust is calling on you to help others make the connection between the fresh local food you buy at farmers markets and the local farms and farmland that supply them. “No Farms No Food®” is our mantra, which applies to the farms and ranches that sustain you wherever you live— after all, there is no local food without local farms and farmland!

Where to begin? Let’s start with the most delicious form of advocacy around—promoting the delights of your local farmers market. Yesterday, Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack released an official proclamation declaring August 1st – August 7th as “National Farmers Market Week.” Farmers markets play a vital role in keeping farmers on the land. They help keep farms viable, which is an essential way to save the land that sustains us. As we head into National Farmers Market Week, lets take advantage of the peak of the summer to support farms and farmers markets by participating in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest.

Will you be our grassroots presence on-the-ground? The America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest is a national outreach campaign, but we need your help to spread the word about farmers markets in your state. Let’s work together to make a big impact in every state by getting your fellow farmers market enthusiasts, local media, and local governments excited about promoting the farmers markets in your state. Check out the current Top 5 Favorite Farmers Markets in your state and use our tools for spreading the word!

About the Author: Gretchen Hoffman is Manager of Engagement and Communications at American Farmland Trust.  She can be reached at ghoffman@farmland.org

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