While you’re driving to the holiday picnic today, enjoy this Best of Tent Talk episode, our conversation way back on Episode 7 with farmer and author Forrest Pritchard about insuring small farmers’ financial sustainability. Forrest’s first book, Gaining Ground, tells an important story about changing the way family farms operate, and the way they sell. Farmers’ markets and other direct marketing changed the financial picture for Smithfield Farm and meant the farm’s survival into another generation. His second book Growing Tomorrow profiles farmers working in farmers’ markets across the US. Startups and farmers looking at changing the way their farms work will find valuable tips in his third book, co-authored with Ellen Polishuk, Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st Century Farmer.

Keeping our word: farmers’ market means financial sustainability

Forrest shares our concern about the term farmers’ market being coopted by all kinds of businesses as a marketing hook. Shops in airports, produce sections in chain grocery stores, and distributors’ trucks are not farmers’ markets, since they lack the defining presence of farmers and farmers’ ability to keep the retail price of what they produce. It’s important to  keep reminding people that real farmers’ markets are designed to provide a specific result: increasing the financial sustainability of farmers. The better taste and increased nutritional value of fresh food, the opportunity to know food producers, and the community experience that markets create are all added value.

Education matters

Reading Gaining Ground years ago was actually one of the inspirations for creating and expanding InTents Business and its programs. Financial sustainability keeps farmers farming. Farmers’ ability to continue doing what they do means all of us, in and out of the farmers’ market community, can keep enjoying fresh, nutritious food. Through our educational offerings, our annual conference and Tent Talk, we encourage farmers, food makers and farmers’ market managers to embrace the idea that the passion for what you do isn’t diminished by earning a profit and making life a bit more comfortable. All of us in the farmers’ market industry are involved in education in our own ways. Your shoppers and their children learn important lessons about how their food is produced. Be sure to also teach them that where they buy affects farmers’ ability to keep growing.

Our team is reflecting today on the meaning of Memorial Day, and enjoying some time off with friends and family. We hope you and yours are too.

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