pondering farmers markets

DSC_0081I decided a little more farmers market pondering was in order.

Farmers markets are a wonderful idea in their true form of promoting sustainable agriculture in communities and all that good stuff.

But lately there has been farmers market drama and intrigue which detracts from the positives.

The most recent drama involves West Vincent Township.  But what did I expect it’s West Vincent and drama and intrigue go hand in hand, don’t they? Now if the folks who originated this market idea would just slow down, and if West Vincent would just do something the right way (as in the way everyone else does things and not their definition of the right way) there would be no drama and this market would probably be open already.  But the horse is out of the barn on that one, so only time will tell.

The other market drama is the thing going on between the East Goshen Farmers Market and their former market managers who have started Malvern Farmers Market in the borough of Malvern and Downingtown under a for profit entity called Growing Roots Partners, which by their own description offers “farmers market management and event management in Western Philadelphia Suburbs”.  They also say:

In addition to farmers market management, Growing Roots Partners also offers farm to table dinners, education in sustainable nutrition, event management, culinary and farm tours, and artisan craft shows.

From what I can surmise Growing Roots Partners is a for profit business model that I find oddly similar to my friend Janet Long’s Clover Market. And if that is the case, just woman up and admit part of what drives them is the all-American dollar. Who doesn’t get that?

Growing Roots in their own mission statement says:

Growing Roots Partners is dedicated to community education that nurtures the importance of sustaining our local agricultural food system.

As a weekly community event, our Farmers Markets offer vital economic opportunity to regional farmers and food producers while playing an important role in revitalizing a community’s economic profile.

But given the drama and who shot John over if you are in Malvern’s market you can’t apparently be in East Goshen’s Market, are they living their mission statement?

After all if you are pro-farm and pro-farmer how can you tell them if they want to sell in a particular market they basically have to be exclusive to that market and no other?  And why is it Malvern Market sends people to “shop” East Goshen Market every week like it is a competition versus sustainable agriculture and connecting the community to local food sources, i.e. the localvore movement? Not only is that ethically and morally wonky in my opinion, we are a country based upon a free market system aren’t we?  I mean wow that is like telling little girls they can’t be in a Brownie troop because it’s full but in fact you can’t deal with some of the moms, right?  And who would do that?

I did not pull this drama out of thin air, I have had farmers and other food vendors tell me and people I know flat-out that this is the case.  As a matter of fact someone from where I used to live whom I do not speak to very often called me this week after she had a similar kind of conversations with a vendor who participates in  Oakmont and Bryn Mawr Farmers Markets, which are Farm to City Markets.  They called me up because when they had asked a couple of farms if they were doing East Goshen this year their was this long dance and mumbling about how it all got “too political” so they were doing Malvern instead. How embarrassing that they are even talking about this drama in non-related Main Line markets, right?

Huh?  Who made it political?  Certainly not East Goshen. I mean the ladies of Growing Roots Partners even seem unable/unwilling to take down the East Goshen Farmers Market blog spot from when they ran the market and isn’t that petty?  Is this done to confuse people into thinking there is no East Goshen Market? Or to make it difficult for people to find the REAL East Goshen Farmers Market Web Page?

And why is it o.k. that the Growing Roots folks have in essence poached a lot of farms and vendors from Farm to City Markets and that is o.k. (and they did it last year as East Goshen Farmers Market) but it is not o.k. for these farms, farmers , and vendors to go to East Goshen if they wanted to? East Goshen has crossover vendors with West Chester Growers Market and others and that is because that is the name of the game isn’t it? Exposure for farms, farmers, vendors and multiple market choices for the public is win-win for all?  After all I don’t know about you, but don’t you have certain vendors or farms that are favorites and if you miss them at one market, you catch them at another?

Now to what started me thinking about this today.  I still go once in a blue moon to Bryn Mawr’s Farmers Market which is Farm to City run.  Not only because friends of mine were the driving force behind getting it established, but also because it is a nice market with some farms I really like.  Anyway I received an e-mail this morning of who this week’s vendors/farmers this Saturday  are:

Amaranth Bakery

Birchrun Hills Farm (yuck)

Brulee Bakery

Canter Hill Farm (awesome farm)

Davidson Exotics

Good Spoon Seasonal Foods

Freshapeel Hummus

Jenny and Frank’s Artisan Gelato (super yummy)

John and Kira’s Chocolates (delightful but VERY tasty in price)

Philly Fair Trade Roasters

Sea Findings (new – fresh seafood, know nothing about them)

Shellbark Hollow Farm (hmmm one of the Growing Roots Partners partners, yes?)

Two Gander Farm & Apiary

Wimer’s Organics

Wild Flour Bakery

Vera Pasta

So now here is the line up for Growing Roots Partners Malvern and Downingtown markets ( I am not segregating by market, you can go figure that out if it interests you):

Blueberry Hill Farm (used to be at East Goshen and Bryn Mawr, also found at Oakmont)

Canter Hill Farm (at Bryn Mawr, and Bryn Mawr used to be their only market because they are small)

Down Home Acres

Down to Earth Harvest

Frecon Farms (used to be at Bryn Mawr and East Goshen)

Kimberton CSA

Longview Center for Agriculture

Oley Valley Mushrooms (can’t remember if they were at East Goshen, Bryn Mawr or both)

Two Gander Farm (at Bryn Mawr)

Daily Loaf

dia Doce (used to be at East Goshen and was most recently at East Goshen’s Winter Market)

Laura’s (used to be at East Goshen and I know from the now closed food business Panache Foods)

Market Day

My House Cookies (think they were at East Goshen)

Saint Peter’s Bakery

Lindenhof Farm

Wyebrook Farm

Birchrun Hills Farm (at Bryn Mawr and elsewhere – I personally do not care for and choose not to patronize this farm and their price points are also a bit steep)

Shellbark Hollow Farm (at Bryn Mawr)

Blue Cafe

FreshaPeel (at Bryn Mawr)

Jenny & Franks (at Bryn Mawr used to be at East Goshen)

John & Kira’s (Bryn Mawr, used to be at East Goshen)

MomPops (used to be at East Goshen, forget where else they are)

Naughty Nutty Love (used to be at East Goshen – good but price points are high)

Old Mill Gourmet

Pureblend (used to be at East Goshen, used to be at West Chester Growers Market – not sure if they still are, and are in Lancaster Central Market among others)

Vera Pasta (at Bryn Mawr and not sure where else – I make my own pasta so I do not buy a lot of fresh pasta from outside sources)

Ellen April (used to be at East Goshen I thing and has been at West Chester Growers Market and Kennett Square Market)

Rustic Bunch

Veronica’s Doggie Delights (was at East Goshen and East Goshen winter market and Artisan Exchange)

So you see the majority of the vendors and farms and farmers at Malvern and Downingtown came to these markets from other markets didn’t they? Do we see those other markets making farms, farmers, and vendors choose in either overt or passive aggressive manners?  And seriously Farm to City could be justifiably annoyed here right?

Look, what happened is simple: the women who used to run East Goshen developed a for profit business model to benefit themselves.  That is totally cool, it is the American way in a free market economy.  From what I understand, their business model is not how East Goshen Township wanted to operate their township sponsored market so they went in a different direction.  That is East Goshen’s right.

So the former managers of East Goshen got their model picked up by Malvern and Downingtown so why can’t they be happy with that?  After all why make so much issue with your home township of East Goshen? (at least one of the Growing Roots Partners partners lives in East Goshen do they not?)

I like going to multiple markets and would love to go to Malvern’s market but I just do not feel I can in good conscience do that until the farmers market wars which they seemed to have started calms down.

The ultimate point of this post is all these farms came to these markets because people either patronized them directly or found them at other markets.  Local farmers markets on different days don’t have to be utterly exclusive, live and let live and everyone get over themselves and have crossover.  After all Growing Roots Partners did not invent the idea of community farmers markets and therefore shouldn’t be able to demand exclusivity of farms, farmers, and vendors like that should they?

I missed East Goshen’s market yesterday but hope to get to West Chester Growers Market tomorrow.  I also hear raves about Phoenixville’s market.  I will tell you that I got the most fabulous shrubs and perennials from Applied Climatatology at the West Chester Growers Market.  I also got fabulous herb plants from TWO produce purveying farms at East Goshen Market – Brogue Hydroponics and Sunny Slope Farm- I recommend them all highly!

Let me know where you farmers market and what some of your favorite farms and farmers are and why.