The Slow Foods Dallas Forth Worth Lunch Break series, The State of Farmers’ Markets, held virtually on June 9, addressed the questions of why customers should know their farmers, what legal and logistical challenges there are to operating more farmers’ markets, how farmers’ markets have changed over the years and what organizers can do to meet consumer needs while staying viable for farmers.
Host Seth Brammer, an entrepreneur, food educator and activist, led the discussion that included Casey Cutler, executive director of Good Local Market; Susie Marshall, executive director of Grow North Texas, and Charlie Blaylock, manager of Cowtown Farmers’ Market.
Highlights included challenges in choosing locations for farmers’ markets that are beneficial for the community and for the farmers so they can sell products while being easily accessible. The panel discussed pros and cons of increasing the number of smaller markets versus larger, centrally located event-style markets. It was noted how some farmers’ markets today are transitioning to provide more social experiences such as entertainment and wellness demonstrations; a model, speakers felt may lead to more infrequent shoppers that purchase fewer groceries from farmers.
Other topics included competition and customer convenience. Local farmers face increasing rivalry from online sources selling items such as meal prep kits and grocery stores that offer home delivery. “As our population begins to experience more and more convenience with foods, convenience wins. The issue of how farmers’ markets can embrace these levels of convenience and continue to grow generated discussion on ways markets can offer the convenience busy people seek. Suggestions ranged from working with farmers to pair foods together on their tables that would work well in a meal and offering suggestions for how to use more unusual produce in recipes.
The panel also took questions from viewers such as whether onsite cooking demonstrations are an effective tool in directing customers toward purchasing more produce from vendors. They also discussed restrictions on local beer and wine sales at farmers’ markets; broadening appeal ‘ by adding quality pantry staples; supporting nutritional programs like SNAP and WIC; how farmers’ market growers and vendors are vetted; what “organic” really means; and how nonprofits are partnering with city leaders to advance urban farming-friendly municipal ordinances.
Slow Foods Dallas Forth Worth is a chapter of Slow Foods USA, which strives to change in the food system by reconnecting Americans with the people, traditions, plants, animals, fertile soils and waters that produce our food. They inspire individuals and communities to support a socially just food system that is that is clean and fair for all.
To view the Slow Foods Dallas Fort Worth Lunch Series, visit Facebook.com/SlowFoodDFW/videos.
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