Please note – I (Sandra, Painted Hand Farm) will not be at Bethesda Central Farm Market on Sunday, January 28 because I will be in New York at Cornell University’s Winter Green Up Conference teaching the benefits of multi-species grazing.
While a missing vendor at the markets may be due to weather or health related issues, there is a third option that may cause your favorite producer to go AWOL for a week, especially during the winter season – conferences.
Professional development isn’t something you think of when it comes to farming and the production of artisanal local goods…but for those of us involved in the industry, conferences and workshops are imperative to our ongoing success. Like many of my fellow Central Farm Markets vendors, I did not grow up on a farm and my formal education was not centered around agriculture, production or business. It took more than just grit and a leap of faith to farm full-time, selling at regional markets and supplying local restaurants. It took an investment in myself and my business through educational opportunities offered by organizations such as Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, whose annual Future Harvest conference was in mid-January and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture’s annual Farming for the Future conference happening in February.
Similarly, trade shows garner vendors’ attention as both attendees and exhibitors.
“By far the main one we, and most growers in this area including people from all over the Northeast U.S., attend the Pennsylvania Vegetable Growers Association Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention, which is coming right up, Jan. 30 – Feb.1, in Hershey PA. It has workshops, tours and a large trade show, at which we have been known to cut a deal or two for machinery, or fruit and seed purchases,” explained Twin Springs Fruit Farm.
Market founders Mitch Berliner and Debra Moser were in San Francisco last week at the Speciality Food Association Winter Fancy Foods Show promoting their Skinny Salami, a product that was first launched at Central Farm Markets via MeatCrafters.
Here are a few of the many benefits producers gain from taking time out of their regular market schedule to attend conferences and trade shows.
Connections with other farmers, potential buyers, equipment suppliers and specialized labor are a sampling of the relationships cultivated at these events.
To learn something new
Fruit vendors interested in making cider? Livestock farmers want to add a different species to their operation? How to increase soil health, decrease pests, install solar equipment? Farmers rely on learning from others who have forged the way with their own successes and failures.
To teach others
Armed with experience, many from the Central Farm Markets family take time out to help bring the next generation of market vendors online. For instance, at the 2017 Future Harvest Conference, Debra Moser offered a detailed roadmap for producers wanting to participate in local retail markets. “We are passionate about the future of farming and young farmers. Plus, it’s a great way to recruit future vendors for our growing markets,” she explained.
To stay on top of ever-changing regulations
FSMA, GAP, USDA, FDA, ATF, Certified Organic, Kosher, federal, state and local regulations are all moving targets. It’s up to vendors to stay on top of the necessary regulations we must first meet before selling to the public.
To stay inspired
Talk to any of the vendors at Central Farm Markets and you’re likely to meet someone who is excited about what they are doing. Such strong feelings don’t materialize out of thin air—they are instilled by others who have forged the way, showing that it can be done. Respected industry leaders, authors and visionaries fill our minds with ideas and our hearts with energy to continue to go to market week after week, to do a better job at serving our customers and our communities.