Guest Blog: Community driven farmers markets {part 1-building community} by Nathan and Michelle Howell of Need More Acres CSA and Community Farmers Market!

By Nathan and Michelle Howell, needmoreacres.com
Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 8:00 AM CST

We are very proud to be part of Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green, Kentucky.  This grassroots market was established in 2011 when Western Kentucky University offered land in an excellent location to local farmers.  At the time we really weren’t looking to become leaders in the local food community, but saw a lot of opportunity to help establish a community driven market.  We wanted to see the rich diversity of our community finding connection to farmers and local, healthy food.  The success of the market really lies in the hard work and dedication of our founding farmers, empowered volunteers and loyal customers.  We have been given the opportunity to use our own gifts and abilities to help increase local food production and promote healthier habits and a connection to local food for more people.  In the end, the market has given back to us much more than we have contributed!

There are three things that Community Farmers Market has done that I think has added to it’s success and I’d love to share them with you.  Let me start by saying that the efforts of the market have always been in response to the needs, obstacles and successes unique to our community rather than following a step by step market guide.  Many of these things may work great for you, but I encourage anyone working in market development to take a look around, engage your farmers and customers, and reach out to relational leaders in your area to take the next best step.

1.  The name COMMUNITY came from a desire not to create a group of people who all look, dress and act alike selling and shopping together, but rather to create a place that represented our present community (the Bowling Green area).  We have worked diligently over the last three years to provide outreach, education, transportation, translation, entertainment, engagement and relationships to as many people as possible.  Moms with babies, refugee families, chefs, immigrants (specifically Hispanic/Latino Americans), WIC/Senior Nutrition participants, college students, neighborhoods, busy professionals, SNAP participants, foodies, food pantries, gardeners and future farmers.  We could go on and on.  We didn’t just go into communities, work groups or neighborhoods and say, “you should shop at the farmers market”, instead we reached out to leaders in those communities, developed sincere relationships and asked them how the market could serve them better.  Most importantly, we realized how honored we were to be accepted in each new community group.  The new mobile farmers market is the “next step” in being able to reach more people with the market and I can’t wait to share more about that soon.  This kind of work is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a huge time commitment, relationships and partnerships get messy, it can even get uncomfortable, but what results is a very beautiful thing.  If you are ever in the Bowling Green area please stop by and see it for yourself!

Check back in for part 2 tomorrow!

Nathan and Michelle

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