Conversation With a Farmers Market Manager
March certainly came in like a lion in most parts of the country but over the course of the month we all received brief glimpses – those days where the sun was out and there was a hint of warmth in the air – that reminded us that Spring was coming. And, at least in these parts, not far behind Spring is the beginning of farmers’ market season. So I figured there was no better way to kick off the last week of March then by talking with a farmers’ market manager to hear first-hand what managers look for in new food vendors and then, once accepted, what vendors can do to improve their sales and make Market Managers’ lives easier too.
Winter Caplanson, the founder and organizer of Coventry Regional Farmers Market, which is located 30 minutes east of Hartford Connecticut, is no ordinary Market Manager though. She is a woman who exudes passion for farmers’ markets and for the role they play in our community these days. She (a soap artisan) and Carol Miller (an herbalist) started the Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market eight years ago after they had both individually vended at other farmers’ markets and realized that it could be done better and that their area of Connecticut needed a strong farmers’ market. But rather than simply throwing together some farmers, food producers, and crafters, Caplanson, Miller, and a team of volunteers decided that they wanted to create a destination market that would be a gathering place not only for people in the area but also provide people outside the area a reason to travel to it.
That group of committed volunteers have since created the farmers’ market we all dream about. Set on Hale Farm in Coventry, CT and surrounded by 500 acres of gorgeous landscape, the Summer Market has become the largest farmers’ market in the state filled with approximately 50 farmers, food producers, and craft artisans as well as live music, demostrations, and even some farm animals for the kids (and kids-at-heart) to pet. Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market also hosts a Winter Market at the local highschool that hosts 30 farm-fresh vendors and artists. With approximately 65,000 visitors annually, it’s easy to see why New England Travel Magazine calls Coventry Regional Farmers’ Market “Connecticut’s preeminant farmers’ market,” and it’s been picked as one of the top markets in all of New England.
For an area long steeped in the farmers’ market tradition, this is no small honor and it was obvious in talking with Caplanson that the reason behind the markets’ success is the commitment that all of the volunteers have to create a community – a community of vendors who all work together for the betterment of the market which in turn creates a sense of community between the vendors and the patrons. Caplanson generously shared with me so much insightful information that I can’t simply edit it down to fit in one post. So tomorrow’s post will share Caplanson’s views on how new food producers should approach farmers’ market managers if they want to try and get into that market and on Wednesday I’ll include her thoughts on what vendors in farmers’ markets can do to increase their own sales and things to consider to make the lives of the market managers easier.