Love Your Farmers Market: Contest Winners


Flint Farmers' Market, Flint, MI

$5,000 First Place Winner
Number of votes: 6,083

Contest strategies: According to Dick Ramsdell, retired high school teacher and farmers market manager, hometown loyalty played a big role in the Flint victory. As with the other winning markets, the local media and market customers played a big role, but Flint also called on former residents for support. "So many people have been forced to leave Flint due to the economy, but they are still very loyal to Flint," he said. "The contest was announced on Facebook and on a few websites for Flint residents in diaspora, and that may have helped us."

The community: As viewers of Roger & Me will remember, Flint was hit hard when, in 1999, GM shut down "Buick City", at one time the largest auto plant in the country. The farmers market is located just half a mile from the old plant, and in the plant’s heyday, autoworkers frequented the market before or after their shifts. The plant’s closure had a huge impact on the market.

Owned by the City, the market was slated for closure seven years ago. A nonprofit organization stepped in and offered to take over its management. They cleaned up the market, worked hard to make it a welcoming place for everyone, and gave the market more of a regional focus. Today, many in the community find the farmers market to be "one of the good things that is happening in Flint," said Ramsdell. "There’s another side to this town."

What people love about this market: Though called a farmers market, the Flint market is a public market, open three days a week, year round. Along with their locally produced farm products, they host a few permanent shops inside including a butcher, a fine cheese shop, bakeries, and a wine shop.

Plans for the prize money: "The first thing we want to do is thank everyone, and then start asking for ideas about what to do with the prize."

Fernandina Farmers Market, Fernandina Beach, FL

$3,000 Second Place Winner
Number of votes: 4,785

Contest strategies: Fernandina farmers market manager Jan Smith started her campaign early, and didn’t let up until the very end of the contest. When I spoke with her two days before the close of the contest, she had her eye on hanging onto her third place position. Fernandina ended up pulling into second place in the final stretch of this contest. Smith said, "It sure made the summer go by fast, doing all this with the contest!"

The community: Fernandina Beach is an island town of 12,000 located in extreme northeastern Florida. It is known for its beautiful beaches, and attracts many tourists. The market is beloved by the town’s year-round residents, as well as by second home owners and the tourists. What people love about this market: Called a "green market", the Fernandina market includes no arts and crafts vendors. Instead, its 33 vendors focus on produce, meats, cheese, honey, plants, and prepared foods. Producers sell their own wares at this market, and people love getting to visit directly with the producers in the picturesque downtown historic district.

Plans for the prize money: Smith says their plan is to use their prize money for promotion, promotion, and more promotion. Located just 40 minutes from Jacksonville, the market would like to draw even more city residents to do their Saturday food and plant shopping on the island.Contest strategies: Fernandina farmers market manager Jan Smith started her campaign early, and didn’t let up until the very end of the contest. When I spoke with her two days before the close of the contest, she had her eye on hanging onto her third place position. Fernandina ended up pulling into second place in the final stretch of this contest. Smith said, "It sure made the summer go by fast, doing all this with the contest!"

The community: Fernandina Beach is an island town of 12,000 located in extreme northeastern Florida. It is known for its beautiful beaches, and attracts many tourists. The market is beloved by the town’s year-round residents, as well as by second home owners and the tourists.

What people love about this market: Called a "green market", the Fernandina market includes no arts and crafts vendors. Instead, its 33 vendors focus on produce, meats, cheese, honey, plants, and prepared foods. Producers sell their own wares at this market, and people love getting to visit directly with the producers in the picturesque downtown historic district.

Plans for the prize money: Smith says their plan is to use their prize money for promotion, promotion, and more promotion. Located just 40 minutes from Jacksonville, the market would like to draw even more city residents to do their Saturday food and plant shopping on the island.

Carrboro Farmers Market, Carrboro, NC

$2,000 Third Place Winner
Number of votes: 4,677

Contest strategies: Sarah Blacklin, manager of the Carrboro Farmers Market, says that they promoted the contest since June, and were lucky to have the support of a "fantastic ag community". She named a student group at UNC, FLO (Fair, Local, Organic) as one of the main contest boosters, along with local chefs, agricultural extension agents, farm nonprofits, the media, and local listservs. As Blacklin said, "We were really excited about this contest, and we rallied in every possible way."

The community: Located near Chapel Hill and known for being politically progressive, Carrboro was named "America’s Foodiest Small Town" last fall by Bon Appetit magazine. We’re not sure quite how the magazine made that determination, but with all the community support for this contest, we can believe it.

What people love about this market: Sixty-five vendors come to the Saturday market, and all of them are local. Customers appreciate the market’s requirement that farmers must represent their own products; theirs is the only market in the state that requires this. "Many of our farmers have been selling here since 1978," she said, "so a lot of people grew up knowing them."

Plans for the prize money: Blacklin had many ideas about what the market might like to do with its prize money. They are increasing their outreach to Carrboro’s growing Latino community, and would like to make the signs at the market bilingual. They would also like to get a EBT machine in order to process food stamps as payment.



Back to the September 2009 Newsletter