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Jul 20, 2009 06:36 PM

Arts and crafts vendors at farmers markets

I'm trying to redirect a non-food realated discussion from my local board.

I don't like craft vendors at farmers markets. When going to a farmers market I'm looking for fresh produce. I don't even like too many prepared food vendors when they start to take up room that can be used by farmers.

If I want to buy cooking oil, jellies, jams, etc,etc ... there are stores that do that. If I want to buy earrings ... there are stores that do that.

However, there is no substitue for fresh from the farm produce other than driving out to a farm. Supermarkets don't do it as well.

I was complaining about too many craft vendors at a local farmers market. One vendor wrote ...

"Perhaps it is not that they have too many crafts stands, but too little produce. I would hope the Napa area is supportive of their local artists. How many weekly or monthly art (or art and craft shows) can you name? As artists, we are desperately trying to stay afloat and reach the public. The economy has created a need for us to move to northern California. We used to be in the weekly Santa Barbara Art and Craft Show on the Beach. While we did not make enough to brag about, we did manage to survive. Here we are fighting to find any venues possible to show our artwork. Spending the hours and/or days required to create artwork, driving hours to your venue, hours setting up your display or taking it back down, hoping to sell enough to cover your expenses and give you a small profit if you are lucky... this takes determination and lots of will power. But first and foremost, we are artists. Build an art and/or craft show, and we... along with many other artists, will come. Until then, I am sure the artists and craftspeople attending the Napa Farmer's Market are very grateful to be there, and thankful you take the time to look at their ware. And hopefully, you will find something to compliment your home or lifestyle!"

The problem is that crafts stands take up spaces that could be used by farmers. Fewer farmers, fewer customers going to the market. Eventually it defeats both the craftspeople and farmers.

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  1. This irritates the *heck* out of me. Unfortumately, beggers cannot afford the luxry of choosing up here in Boise. We have one and only one (the City Market on Saturdays). It is nice to stroll around at every once in a while but it is closer to 75% arts and crafts and only 25 % food (10% of which is prepared jams, sauces, breads and only 15% fresh goods - fruits, vegetables, herbs). I completely wish the proportions were the other way around!

    I am jealous of you Bay Area hounds as you have many more to choose from, with the Ferry Market at the top of the list (of which I am so jealous)!

    1 Reply
    1. re: enbell

      I am so happy to partially retract my post. I had not been to or market lately because my first few trips early in the season left me feeling disappointed in the minimal offerings at the few farms represented. I returned today probably because of this thread and am SO GLAD I DID! Granted, there are still more watercolors and pottery than produce but the ratio felt more like 60% arts and crafts 40% food. The produce was absolutely gorgeous. I was so pleasantly pleased :)

    2. In Eugene all the artists and crafters are on the other side of the street away from the farmers, growers and such. If you want tie dyed hippy stuff, that is where to go. All the local producers stick to one main area, this is by design of the board.

      Some smaller markets may need the artists and crafters to get enough customers to visit. It takes a certain amount of vendors and customers to make the whole thing worthwhile for everyone.

      2 Replies
      1. re: duck833

        The Eugene Saturday Market started out as arts and crafts and a bit of prepared foods in the early 1970s. My first wife got started there and now has a successful high quality hand built pottery line in Carmel, California. The farmers arrived several years later - both in the area and at the market. The pot growers were the first successful area small farmers, but they've never sold at the Saturday Market.

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka


          Are you sure they never sold at the Saturday market? (g)

      2. that's an extremely lively debate in DC as the last of our Market halls has just reopened after renovation and a lot of crafty types expanded in the closed street during the work.

        3 Replies
        1. re: hill food

          Was just about to say, "Just went to the Eastern Market after it re-opened. Not much produce at all!" But I Google Mapped first and see that there are other Eastern Market sections in the immediate area. Did we miss something?

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

            Sam, what day of the week were you there? the "farmer's row" is most populated on Saturday. but yes, the flea market dwarfs that and the inside vendors as well.

            Google maps aren't always accurate and several businesses in the area incorporate the name into theirs.

        2. During the winter at the farm markets in NJ (the few that remain open year-round), there are more non-food-related stands in part because there's no little produce being grown by the farmers--so it's not space that could be had by a farmer, but space that no farmer was using. Between early spring and late autumn, the same stands are filled with farmers and produce. A lot of the farmers sell their own jams, jellies, and pies--do you have an issue with those stands too? Or the cheese makers? Or meat sellers? There are dairy goat farmers who also make soap. Some of these I can't even get at the local non-commerical grocers.

          While I ignore most of the non-food items, it's friendlier than having the market completely empty. Next winter I hope to find that old 4" deep cast iron pan I coveted all winter.

          On a related note, getting the non-cooks interested in attending the markets may simply be difficult. My husband doesn't mind, but our neice and nephew get bored quickly (5 & 2.5). Having things for them to ooh and ahh at while picking up produce works well for each of us. Of course they do help choose food, but it's not as exciting to them (or anyone else in our group) as it is to me.

          Growing up, there were always more arts & crafts shows than farmer's markets, and now the reverse seems to be the case (better for me, worse for the artists). There should be space for both.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Caralien

            Actually, I do have problems when the number of jams, jellies, pies, cheesemakers, prepared food purveyers and meat sellers exceed produce farmers.

            As mentioned, I can buy all of these items elsewhere.

            Do I mind the berry grower also selling pies. Nope. as long as they are mainly selling berries. The apple grower selling vinegar, swell. Again it is proportion or you wind up with what enbell has 75% ...well, junk ... and only 25% produce.

            Even in California the other vendors fill in the blanks in the winter and I have no problem with that ... as long as it is food.

            So, when you go to your local supermarket, how are the husband and children entertained? There are times for carney events and children's sheer entertainment.

            1. re: rworange

              I personally don't mind when a food vendor sells versions of their own wares; Terhune is known for their apples, and also sells their cider and cider doughnuts. When they sell things that aren't even local (ie imported vegs), I am irked. I can get that elsewhere.

              Bristol Farms sells their own fruit, and their own jams, and ciders--that too I have no problem with.

              My thing is that if it's from their own farm--great! If it's not, no thank you. Yes, those things, like Smuckers if I ever wanted to get goo, I could get elsewhere. But Pies and Jams from one's own farm? That I can only get from the farm, or market. There are berries that can't be sold for whatever reason, and making those berries into jam and pies is a good thing--it preserves the harvest. For those of us too lazy or uninformed to do the same, I appreciate the effort (just as I appreciate getting preserves from my family members).

              Ditto with cheese. I respect the cheesemakers. In VT my favourite cheese is Plymouth, and as far as I can tell, I can only get that at the Coolidge site, but maybe they've branched out. If the cheese makers are at a farmer's market, I'm happy--as long as they sell their own cheese, and not someone else's.

              I believe we're mostly on the same page.

              My husband, BTW, is entertained. He gets to taste food while we're at the market, and enjoy the picnic we have afterwards, from the produce, cheese, meat, and bread purveyors. The kids like that too. What do you do with the kids while you're at farmer's markets?

              edit: As with what most people wrote, I go for food from the farmer's market. I don't care for the rest of the crap unless it's winter and I don't get that one cast iron pan from the person using up UNUSED space to sell old cast iron. I'm no longer in California, so I don't see it as an issue. If there's an issue with the farm markets no longer selling food at such markets when produce is actually available, that must be a local thing. Here in NJ, the farmers sell what they have at the farm markets for as long as they have produce to sell. It gets cold during the winter and not everyone has a greenhouse to make things year round. That's when the space is used for other stuff--it's not used in lieu of legitimate farmers wanting that space at that same time.

          2. Please be happy you have enough farmers that there are more than you have room for. Some of our markets have to use them to flesh things out. I'd rather have them there than look at four lonely stands.

            1 Reply
            1. re: lemons

              That's just the point, Lemons. There are MORE spaces than there are farmers at the Napa market. If anyone wants to sign up, I am sure Randall would love to talk to them, both for this year and next. Craftspeople and specialty vendors are filing in EMPTY spaces, NOT taking them away from farmers. That has been the point all along, which keeps going unheard. Let me try again: THERE ARE SPACES GOING EMPTY FOR FARMERS IN OUR MARKETS (INCLUDING NAPA). THEY DO GET FIRST CHANCE.