October 22, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman
RUSSELLVILLE, Ky.

As the marketing season for fresh produce winds down across the state, growers are reflecting on another season and considering what they will do come spring.

Community farmers’ markets continue to grow across the state with around 80 operating in 2003. That reflects a national trend where the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the number has increased 79 percent from 1994 to 2002, with more than 3,100 farmers’ markets operating across the country.

“We have several new ones each year,” said Tim Woods, horticulture marketing specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “Part of it is people are looking to diversify, but the other part is that there is really strong demand for fresh, locally grown produce.”

In addition to new markets, new vendors are going into existing markets and existing vendors are expanding their offerings, he said.

At the Logan County Extension Homemakers’ Garden Market, Wanda and Dan Grayson have been active for about half of its 17-year history. Wanda Grayson recently completed microprocessor training that will allow them to sell additional processed foods at their stand in the market as well as from the farm.

The Graysons are active in the market because they enjoy gardening and meeting people. Diversification and a retirement income also were factors.

“We like to have good food to eat and like to sell good produce,” she said. “We sell produce at our home and this is another avenue of sales to give us an income.”

Wanda Grayson said she thinks farmers’ markets will continue to gain prominence.

“People are becoming more nutrition-wise,” she said.

“They know they are getting good quality fresh vegetables at a reasonable price,” Dan Grayson said.

The garden market in Logan County was the brainchild of a member of the Extension Homemakers, said Marian Davis, Extension agent for Family and Consumer Science.

“It went over well and has done well every year,” Davis said.

Over the years, the market has had a faithful group of vendors, she said. They’ve had various festivals showcasing different items such as herbs.

They meet monthly at the Extension office throughout the year to go over various business issues such as pricing or marketing. Decisions are through “majority rules,” Dan Grayson said.

He said he anticipates the market will expand next year because there are several people who are showing an interest in becoming a vendor.

“The majority of people we’ve been talking to are large tobacco growers,” he said. “Wanda and I have both grown tobacco and we can make more money off an acre of vegetables than burley tobacco, but it is a challenge and you don’t get all your money in one lump sum but throughout the marketing season.”

Along with UK, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture offers support to farmers’ markets. Some markets have received funding through the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board for structures, tents and other items. Funding through the Ag Development Board has been positive from other standpoints as well, Woods noted. For example, in order to qualify for funding, some had to become more formally organized into corporations with boards and bylaws.

The availability of vouchers through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, commonly known as WIC, and the Seniors Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program has created additional customers for markets accepting the vouchers.

“There are good things at work for both the vendors and consumers,” Woods said.

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Sources: Tim Woods, 859-257-7270; Marian Davis, 270-726-6323