31 Markets in 31 Days: the final Saturday

Saturdays were the day that gave us the most worry in trying to complete our challenge – with 12 markets happening on that day, would we be able to visit them all? It’s also the day that prods the question from market organizers, farmers, and folks looking at such nuances, do we have too many farmers’ markets in our region? Are they spreading customers and farmers too thin? Should some join together? And what is the best location/time/day of the week, anyway? The latter questions I’d love to see tackled within a systems research approach by a grad student or professional research firm, and to the former question, why, yes! We did manage to visit them all (sort of, more details on that below). On July 23rd, we had just three Saturday farmers’ markets to visit, all pretty close geographically. So we set out up rte 16 and then rte 11 to the Farmington, New Durham, and Rochester Four Corners Farmers’ Markets.

B and SZP are challenging themselves to visit all 31 farmers’ markets of Rockingham, Strafford, and York counties in the 31 days of July, and share their discoveries along the way. Previous entries in this series.

We arrived in Farmington at 8:40, with the market scheduled to start at 8:30. There were no vendors set up. Convinced we must have gotten the location wrong, we asked a postman, who confirmed the location. Stumped, we decided to drive up rte 11 to the New Durham Farmers’ Market, then come back to Farmington.

The New Durham Farmers’ Market takes place in a grassy area to the side of the post office parking lot. The day we visited there were three vendors, including one farmer selling these beautiful and delicious sour cherries, insanely perfect for summer pies with their sweet tart juiciness. This farmer also had maple syrup and honey.

There were two other vendors set up, a baked goods vendor with great cinnamon rolls, and another farm selling some vegetables and fresh eggs.

New Durham Farmers’ Market
Saturdays 9-1
Late May to mid-October
Depot Road, on the lawn next to the
Post Office, New Durham, NH map
more info: www.newdurhamfarmersmarket.com

Then, back to Farmington. We saw just one table set up at 9:20am so headed over to breakfast (a separate disaster story, but one that did kill over an hour of time). By the time we were back at the market, it was 10:45am, and there were now three tables set up. The vendor pictured right sold her own blueberries, squash, and cucumbers, the other two were craft vendors. I asked about the start time, and was reassured that it was 8:30. When I asked again saying I had been here at that time with no vendors, the vendor told me that one of the usual vendors decided not to come today, and that’s why there was no one there at 8:30. It’s very frustrating as a customer, and makes one quick to not want to return, when things like this happen. I appreciate that it takes a two way relationship – customers consistently coming to markets, and farmers consistently being there, to make a strong market.

Farmington Farmers’ Market
Saturdays 8:30-12:30
May to October
Corner of Central & Main Streets, behind TD
BankNorth, Farmington, NH map

Then, we drove back down to the 4 Corners Antique Shop, where the Rochester Four Corners Farmers’ Market is supposed to take place. I say “supposed” because there were no farmers set up outside. I ran into the store to verify I had the correct place and time, and was told, yes, but maybe the two vendors that normally set up found it too hot, and the next weekend they definitely weren’t going to be there for a different reason.*Sigh*

Rochester Four Corners Farmers’ Market
Saturdays 9:30-12:30
May 21 to October 11
Intersection of 202A, Estes & Meaderboro
Roads, 4 Corners Antique Shop
Rochester, NH map

Things like that make me really grateful to the markets that employ technology to keep customers up to date – email lists, websites, facebook … it all takes a lot of work to maintain, but saves (some) frustration in the long run. (And for the official count, we’re counting Rochester Four Corners! We went! Just because the market wasn’t happening that week or the next … )

Farmers’ Market Count: 26 down, 5 to go!

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One Comment

  1. New Roots
    Posted August 1, 2011 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    Interesting. 10 years of fairly meticulous sales records along with brief notes for nearly 1000 farmers markets attended as a vendor indicate that, despite the introduction of new products, alongside a near fever-pitch enthusiasm amongst market clientele, sales are plateauing. Too many markets? No. Not enough customers? Yes.

    Salatin talks a lot about the concept of co-producers- that is, farmers and customers working together to produce the food. Necessarily, the balance will seesaw a bit as we have seen on the Seacoast. Initially, too many farmers, not enough customers. Then an explosion in local food demand that necessitated a huge uptick in capital and labor investment on the farmers’ part, as well as an upswell in the ranks of new farms, all resulting in the current bounty of local food, temporarily outpacing demand. The next step (hopefully, at least for this farmer): A period of equilibrium where we can catch our breath for a moment and enjoy relationships with a new cohort of customers while mindfully planning a mutually beneficial expansion of local food production in NH to 10% and beyond. Gotta go weed. Ciao!

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