The Oregon Farmers Markets Association announced in September that it had been awarded a $247,000 federal grant through the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program and Clatskanie Farmers Market is one of five farmers markets selected to take part in the program. The Oregon Farmers Markets Association (OFMA), in partnership with five small and medium sized rural farmers markets, Oregon State University’s Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems, and other partners, received this three-year grant to launch the Beginning Vendor Support Network (BVSN), which aims to study and support the role of farmers markets as small business incubators for their beginning vendors.
With the average age of the American farmer steadily climbing, reaching 58 years old as of the most recent USDA Agricultural Census, fostering beginning producers has become a hot topic in food system conversations. Farmers markets are a place where many new producers get their start. “We know that not every farmer ends their career selling at market, but a great many of them begin their careers there,” said Kelly Crane, OFMA Executive Director. Jen Cheek, Executive Director of the national Farmers Market Coalition agrees: “Farmers markets serve as small business incubators, providing low-barrier entry points into the local foods economy for beginning farmers and food businesses to get started. Just like farmers grow crops, farmers markets grow farmers,” says Cheek.
This program is designed to create a community of practice around the five farmers markets selected for participation, and give them the tools they need to better help their newest vendors succeed at their markets. The managers of the Albany, Clatskanie, Manzanita, Umpqua Valley and Wallowa County Farmers Markets, will spend the next three years hearing from experts, sharing insights with each other, launching customized support initiatives for their own vendors, collecting sales data and working with consultants. According to Sonia Reagan, “This program is very important to our small community and we are excited to have the opportunity for this support as we seek more concrete access to peer insights and expert resources as we continue to grow our market into its next five seasons!”
Oregon State University is also heavily involved in this project. OSU faculty will help evaluate the program’s success, conduct research and publish the results to help others who are looking at solutions for these issues. “OSU Extension is excited to provide research capacity as we partner with OFMA to better understand and meet the needs of local food entrepreneurs who are selling through farmers markets in rural Oregon,” said Dr. Mallory Rahe, Extension Community Economist. “The OSU Center for Small Farms and Community Food Systems has a long history of partnership with OFMA. We are excited to work with them on this innovative and important new project,” said Dr. Lauren Gwin, Assistant Director of the Center.
The BVSN has already received a great deal of support from Oregon policymakers, including U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley. “Supporting farmers markets in rural areas and throughout our state is critically important to provide Oregonians access to healthy and tasty local foods,” Wyden said. “The Oregon Farmers Market Association and local farmers markets deserve huge praise for taking a leadership role to ensure that farmers markets develop and grow in rural Oregon while helping to build on the strengths of our state’s signature agricultural economy.”
“We were really pleased to be chosen for this grant award,” said Crane. “Since farmers markets are the gateway to the local foods economy, it just makes a lot of sense to target our energies into shoring up this important entry point. I think we are going to be able to do a lot of good together for Oregon’s farmers and farmers markets.”
About Clatskanie Farmers Market
The Clatskanie Farmers Market was organized in the spring of 2014 as a result of positive community interest. After a successful first season, the CFM became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, operating under the guidance of a Board of Directors, with an emphasis on food literacy education and advocacy for our community’s healthy lifestyle. The Market is open seasonally, June through September, from 10am-2pm in Cope’s Park, across from the Clatskanie Library, just two blocks off HWY 30. Clatskanie Farmers Market features a unique green-space setting, weekly live music and a family-friendly outdoor venue to shop for local and unique produce, arts & crafts, and much more!
In 2018, for our 5th season, the Market welcomed over 25% more shoppers, increased overall sales, and saw a peak participation of 20 vendors in August. The Market board of directors and volunteers worked diligently all season to bring special events to our community and fun for all ages. Highlights during 2018 included a special Kids Day, a Bee Education Day, the popular Garlic Festival and a Cider Pressing Season Finale. The CFM gladly accepts EBT/SNAP payments for qualifying purchases and additionally, select farmers honor the FDNP and WIC vouchers. Consider shopping locally for your family’s healthy groceries, ingredients for your next barbecue, unique gifts for those special people in your life, or just come to have lunch and enjoy this weekly fun, community event! We’ll see YOU at the Market!