I was in a little town outside Cleveland, OH recently and took in the weekend farmers market. It was a small event by booth numbers, but bustling, and in talking with many of the vendors it became clear that it was also a highly successful event. It usually takes several years to pick up a following, I was told, but the Chagrin Falls Sunday farmers market was an instant success when it started last year and was immediately profitable for the farmers involved.
I spent some time chatting with various vendors and was intrigued by what I found. First, there are lots of old farms and experienced farmers in the area. At one booth, the second and third generation of farmers with a 50+ year old farm was manning the booth. That is a lot of history right there! Another family affair had two generations and 12 years behind their banner.In contrast, I also met a couple of young, newbie farmers. One with only a year and another with two years behind them respectively. Kelli at Hanley Homegrown particularly stood out, both with her enthusiasm and her innovation. She’s growing assorted greens. And making delicious, unique jams. And making shopping bags from old t-shirts (we share an interest in the concept of reuse before recycle). Oh, and when the appropriate greens start popping up, she’ll be putting bundles of herbs together and selling them in soon-to-be salsa packages.
Kelli stood out not only because of her energy and creativity, it was also her fresh approach. I’m a marketing specialist by trade — well, really, it courses through my veins and I can’t stop myself — and I couldn’t help wondering what kind of havoc she’s going to wreck on the staid, old produce-piled-on-tables image some people have of farmers markets. And I smile. It’s about time.
See, Kelli is her target market. Like her contemporaries she’s young, engaged, creative and knows what she wants: local, delicious, healthy, sustainably farmed food. I suspect she’s going to make that happen.