Thursday, May 31, 2012

Market Research

Last seen on Facebook, with names removed to protect the innocent:
Finish this sentence: I would come to my farmer's market more often if it had________________
Artisan cheese. (This post is for my wife...who decides what Farmers Markets we go to)

Bear in mind, my village is Owen Brown, and I feel strangely possessive of its farmers market.
"If it had weekend or after work hours." Since it currently does not I go to Oakland Mills. So "if it had more greens."

Me:  I am wondering about added attractions which would make a Farmer's Market more of a "happening." Live music? Children's activities? A cafe set up for sipping coffee and eating fresh bakery treats?

Artisan vodka.

 Me:...and free samples?

. . . moved with me. ;) I miss being able to walk up the street to it!!! :)
You can't go wrong with a moon bounce as a family magnet.

Live music

Goat yogurt.
... hot models in bikinis giving car washes!

Different hours. It may work for people in the Oakland Mills Interfaith Center. . .but not for other church goers.

Me:  I know! But since there are a variety all over the area, they offer different hours from the OM one. Not everyone goes to church, and working folks need non-weekday times.

Saturday hours so that I didn't have to miss church to get the early fresh produce.

Me: Isn't there a Saturday one someplace?

Flea market?  I would totally dig a venue for impromptu garage sales. Agree in re OB farmer's market.
I usually just go to the stand on Oakland Mills Road. . .Pete's? Easy to get to and I don't have to try to remember which days it is open. Of course, they don't have bakery products.

Me: But they DO have snowballs!

Things that make it an event. Put one at the lakefront at the start of  Friday nightconcerts/movies so folks might buy some provisions for a picnic dinner or just impulse buy some groceries for the weekend. Make a big-deal weekend market like Olney's. Perhaps the library could have outdoor story time under a canopy at the current East Columbia market so parents can shop with kids somewhat in tow. Have gardening and cooking demos/Q&A booths.

Me:  Shade, water tables and a sprinkler pad.
Air conditioning

I like the cafe idea. Maybe if the coffee guy could bring a big thermos of ready-made coffee, and we set up a table with chairs , people would have a chance to linger and chat. Yet another thing to look forward to, especially if there was music.

In this completely unscientific sample I notice a breakdown emerging which mirrors our well-known conflict between Village Centers and Big Box Stores, Neighborhood versus Downtown. The HoCo Farmers Markets provide a number of market days and hours in different locations. Doing this provides choice and, for many, the convenience of taking a reusable shopping bag and walking or biking to the farmers market nearby.

On the other hand, some folks appear to think that this arrangement dilutes the impact of the Farmers Market Experience.  They envision more vendors, and a wider variety of vendors, a more centralized location, activities, live music, perhaps cafe seating.
Descriptions of  the big "happening" market hints at a deeper yearning for a vibrant, inviting downtown experience. Aren't we hearing a desire for a community experience: walkabout shopping, music, eating, drinking, fun for kids?

Columbia Aquatics spent a good deal of time wrestling with the issue of neighborhood pools vs. destination pools.  It would appear that their is a similar tension at work as we look at neighborhood vs. destination Farmers Markets.

Fresh food, support for local agriculture, a chance to see neighbors and friends--our Howard County Farmers Markets provide these opportunities throughout the growing season. And we--typical HoCoLocals--want to tinker with it, put ourselves into the mix, and make it "just right."

Me?  I'm all for moon bounces,  a misting/cooling tent, and a place to sit down with an iced coffee.

And--hmm--what about free wi-fi?



  1. I'm so glad you blogged about this! Since none of the HoCo markets are "neighborhood" markets for me, I am definitely looking for that "destination" market atmosphere. I took my five year old to the market at the Miller Library yesterday because I wanted fresh strawberries and I wanted to see the new Enchanted Garden. It had the neighborhood/convenience factor atmosphere, but if there had just been a little more in the way of activities (a story time or other event for my child in the garden, perhaps), I could have browsed the market more, perhaps had a conversation with a vendor or two. I don't think every market should be a destination, but I would like to see the smart use of amenities that foster community. A lot of large grocery stores have cafes (even if it's just a vending machine with some tables and chairs), so I love your idea of a shade tent and iced drinks.

    1. There's a curious little No-Man's-Land between the residential area and the shops in Maple Lawn, which I think would be perfect for a destination farmer's market. It would definitely need shade, though.

    2. That will all be built up, eventually, with office buildings. Still, office building parking lots are generally wide open on the weekends. Let's have a little market, go get lunch at Looney's, etc. In the meantime, I go to Gorman Farm for my summer "neighborhood" market shopping, and Olney's market for my "destination" shopping. We went today and saw (and ate from) a brick oven pizza vendor - at the market! It was yummy!


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