About a year ago, our team at the Missouri Department of Agriculture received a call from Emily Peterson and Levi Olson of Cape Girardeau. Emily had been selling at the weekday afternoon farmers' market, and Levi had been shopping there. Both missed the markets they had in their old towns where the community gathered on Saturday mornings, not just to feed their families but also for the sense of community and friendship that developed with those settings. While they both loved the market they had, they felt there was room to do even more.
After contacting the Department, the two started working with AgriMissouri to gather input from others in the community. With promotion from the local paper, and some good old-fashioned recruiting by the two of them, more than 120 people came together to talk about opportunities to grow, and the directions they hoped this project would move. After and 1 1/2 hours of listening to what the community wanted to see in a market, the team went to work on a market plan.
Of those 120 or so attendees, 75 chose to keep going that night - 3 1/2 hours after the meeting began, possible vendors, locations and sponsors were identified, a 10-person task force was established, and tasks had been assigned to bring the market to fruition.
On June 21, the Farmers Market Coalition launched the Farmers Market Inspiration Award. The award showcases the ways farmers' markets benefit communities across the United States through a contest for essays telling the stories through the eyes of those who grow and sell America’s best food and communites. This award was a partnership between the Farmers Market Coalition, Growing for Market, and the American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest.
Emily's husband, Ross Peterson of Laughing Stalk Farm, told their story and were honored as one of the top eight entries in the nation. An excerpt from their story is below, and the full essay is available online throughou the Farmers Market Coalition website.“Farmer’s markets are the dinner tables of healthy communities. They are the place where everyone can gather to exchange stories and laughter with the accompaniment of good food. They are the place where we can talk about what is going on in our lives – whether mundane, exuberant, or somber. Through these interactions we learn about each other, and in turn grow with one another just like a family. This is the story of our dinner table, our family, and how it has nourished us.”
Read the full essay, titled Home is Where the Market Is, on the Farmers Market Coalition website at http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IA_HonorableMention_Peterson.pdf.