Farmers Market Complaints Answered
Last week I wrote a post and asked you all to share your Farmer’s Market frustrations. Although most people said they couldn’t come up with anything negative about their weekly markets, there were a few comments. Thankfully for every complaint I receive, I get about 10 praises; however, I think it’s important to comment and address your concerns.
Your Frustrations Addressed:
- Parking:“One of my favorite markets has literally no parking unless you get there right at 4 p.m., which is GOOD in that it’s become quite popular but BAD for me and my schedule”
I agree, parking can be one of the most frustrating issues at Markets. I like to remind people that whenever you are dealing with an urban event, there will most likely be an issue with parking. In order to have the Market on some green space, chances are the parking will be limited. At our Market we encourage people to walk, ride their bikes, or take public transportation and even reward them with a $1 Market buck.
- Times: “Why aren’t you open longer? I can’t get off work till 6 which means I never get here in time.”
Choosing times for a Market is very difficult. Market Managers have to take into account that the Farmers still have to drive home (often several hours) after the market and tear down. I know at my Market, I had to have it end at 6:30pm because half of the season it gets dark earlier and we have no lighting at the park. As with any event, we recognize not everyone will be able to make those times and encourage you to ask a friend to help you out, or visit another Market that works better with your schedule.
- Money: “I didn’t bring cash, and now I have to leave to go to an ATM. I won’t be coming back because of the traffic.”
This is one of those issues that usually resolves itself after one visit. Shopping at a Farmers Market is a different experience than going to the grocery store. Since you are dealing with individual vendors, each vendor will take payments differently. Once you visit a few times, you will learn how much cash to bring, and who takes credit cards.
- Supply: “I’ve been waiting for strawberries and by the time I got here they were all sold out. The farmers need to bring more.”
Most of the farmers pick their produce on the morning of the Market, and can only bring what is ready for harvest. Crops are planted months in advance and the supply is limited. This is one of the issues when you are dealing with a small farm – there is not an unlimited supply. Grocery stores order from several mass scale farms to insure they never run out. You are buying directly from one farmers’ crop. If you want to make sure that a specific item is not sold out, it would be best to contact the farmer directly before hand and arrange a pre-order.
- Education: “I’m new to farmers markets and don’t know how this all works. I feel intimated and don’t know where to start, and no one came up to help me.”
It can be very intimidating when you don’t know the basics of a market. Perhaps I should write a “Farmers Markets for Dummies” book. When visiting a new market, it’s a great idea to find the information booth and ask any questions you might have. You can simply just say “This is my first time, what do I do?” and someone should be able to help you out. It’s hard for the staff of a Market to know who needs help and who doesn’t, and will usually create a central location (like an info booth) for customers to come up to. There are also many resources on farmers markets, so do a little research on the basics before you head out.
- Farming Practices: “It’s hard to know what the farming practices of a farm has. I think it would be grand if all the vendors had a printed statement of their farming practices. What do they feed the animals, what, if any, pesticides are used, that sort of thing.”
What a great idea! I’ll have to pass that along to the farmers at the Market. I think one of the best ways to get to know your food, is by talking to your farmer. These are great questions to ask them. Of course, sometimes you don’t have time for that, or they are busy with other customers. I always do research on the farmers when I get home to learn a little more about each farm. It helps me feel connected. I would also encourage you to go visit the farms and really see for yourself how these farms operate.
- Music “The music is just too loud, I can’t handle it.”
This is a hard one to address because everyone’s volume capacity is different. Some want it louder, some want it quieter. My encouragement is to allow the music to become part of the overall enjoyment of the Market. It might not be your taste, and the volume may bug you, but just remember it’s about the food. Don’t let that get in the way of the joy of shopping locally. I would also encourage you to go to the info booth and share your opinion on the volume. More feedback will help the music volume level.
Overall, the Market is a place of shopping and community. Every market is faced with specific challenges because of their location and have to deal with the limitations of that space. That is what makes them unique and fun. It’s a beautiful environment of many quirky small businesses that are ultimately there to bring you incredible local food. Thank you for sharing your frustrations and I hope I answered them in a way that helps you understand the process a little better.