farmer's markets....

Discussion in 'Professional Chefs' started by shroomgirl, Feb 10, 2006.

  1. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    Well this is year 6 for Clayton Farmer's Market....can you believe it? When I joined Cheftalk, CFM was a work in progress.

    Contracts are going out and the phone responses have been extremely positive. There are several newbies wanting to participate....a old order Mennonite family with 20 acres, 2 hoop houses and a whole lotta produce.
    By starting May 20th we'll miss alot of the asparagus and strawberries....there are generally some but it's the end of the season.
    2004 season several of the tents took flight in Oct, thus 2005 and 2006 we'll shut down Sept 30. Kids Day is set May 27th.....last year it was a blast! design your own tomato, talk to a farmer, get a characture of your child and their favorite veg/fruit, cooking just for kids (and actually some adults), treats, drawings....
    July 22 is ice cream day, every year I celebrate my birthday by cooking on the market or giving away local fruit ice cream and sorbet....always a HIT.
    Aug 17 is Heirloom Tomato Fest....amature cooking contest, 8-12 restaurant chefs sampling out tomato dishes, tomato quizzes, prizes, various food booths celebrating the "love apple".

    Each year I edit the contract, tweek the offerings and hire more staff....dangit for the past 5 years I've missed a whole lotta mushroom hunts because Sat is taken.....that's just gotta loosen up some.

    So, what's happening in your local food scene? Are your farmer's markets going year round? Are there fresh meats, cheeses, value added products, arts and crafts, cooking demos? What do YOU expect to find at the markets in your area?

    *one of the nicest compliments I've recieved in years was last Tuesday when a farmer that had just come off a tractor from feeding his cows said I sounded like summer.....just gotta love that.
     
  2. nentony

    nentony

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    Shroomgirl, we don't have anything like your farmers market around here. I wish we did, it sounds awesome. How did you get started in it? Around here there are a lot of fruit/vegetable stands. Really good stuff. Right now is one of my favorite times of year, Plant City strawberries are in. They're just great! We also have a lot of good seafood, a lot of shrimp and live crab vendors. It would be great to have a single destination type place like what you have and bring them all together. Love to hear how you organized it.

    Tony
     
  3. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    two years of talking to farmers, working with local chefs, designing an outdoor space, fundraising, writing contracts, working on PR, designing events, lining up staff, buying/sourcing equipment, going to meetings throughout Mo and Illinois, looking for funding, working with a city that was extremely protective of their high end location, working with a city that had no $ for this destination weekly event.......farmer/chef dinners, farmer/chefs/rds in schools, writing, teaching......it was/is a labor of love.

    7 years ago a couple of farmers asked me for help selling to restaurants....I called 30 farmers and 10 were giving up their multigenerational farms. The stuff they were raising was far better than ANYTHING I'd seen wholesale or in retail stores. The more research I did the more I'd learned about the industrialization and governmental abuses of our food system.....sounds vague but it's a reality. I'm not a spoiler for fighting, heaven knows I'd rather do proactive positive things than dig my heels in and have a shouting match with businesses that have deep pockets.

    I've got 3 sons and have since the eldest went to Kindergarten been appaulled by typical school food....by the time my middle child hit 8th grade I was teaching a series of classes with farmers/chefs/RD....the food in the cafeteria was shipped in and was "brown and neon colored". Kids were not cooking anymore or just using a microwave.....it's into the third generation....if no one cooks from scratch there will not be a need for quality raw products. This is going to sound weird but the mission statement for the farmer's market and essentially mine too, is to teach people how to cook....

    Farmer's markets have blossomed in the past 5 years, but there is still a higher demand for product than producers in the area. Shoot when I have farmers driving in Sat. morning from 2.5-3 hours away something is dreadfully wrong. Missouri used to be self sufficient, at the turn of 1900 we had everything necessary to sustain our population. One of the highlights of STL is an extremely old farmer's market in downtown STL......it has very few growers anymore....the majority are brokers of shipped in product.
    As a single mom with 3 children I was not looking for another major project...but as the initial 10 cooking demonstrations at this old farmer's market were going on I discovered that the public (even those that shopped the market) did not know who the farmers were and who the brokers were....they did not know what was in season HERE....they did not realize that the loss of farmers was due to them not being able to make a living anymore. Interestingly, many top chefs were in that group too....they didn't know what was in season HERE.
    So, the goal was to design a high end market that was growers only....you may only sell what you've raised.....it was founded and run by chefs so cooking demos were a natural part....cooking from the market was even more evolutionary.....

    I could talk about it for days, but that was the beginning. Now I consult with other communities (outside of STL) that want to develop a farmer's market for their community....as well as garden to table projects, thematic local food's curriculum for private schools, teaching still....teaching always...

    Basically I could not imagine the city that I chose to live in not have farmers in our community...and I'm a very strong believer in if you really want it don't look for others to do it.......or it may not happen.
    I'm also a very strong believer in not having a dog and pony show....when I work on projects I want to have students walk away with a working knowledge....otherwise it's a waste of my time and theirs
     
  4. andrew hope

    andrew hope

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    My village and the nearest city here both have large farmer markets once a week in the summer months. They are great the city closes off a whole block and there is live entertainment and normally 50-100 stalls great place for produce. I plan on starting a decent size garden this year.
     
  5. shroomgirl

    shroomgirl

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    Where are you Andrew? I met an awful lot of farmers market folks from Canada at the PPS conference in Washington DC last fall.
    What kind of entertainment do your markets have?
    Is there prepared food booths?