Celebrating One Year of Farmers Market Promotion!

Photo Credit: Laura Beth Davidson, Grand Oak Farm/Washington Co. TN

Thank you to everyone involved in building community and making this first year so grand! 

The ever patient and positive Appalachian RC&D team and board of directors

Lindsey Keen with Appalachian Sustainable Development

Katie Bradley and the folks with the Keller Ferguson Firm

Ashley Cavender with Jonesborough Locally Grown

Cameron Hege and the team at Boone St. Market

Lee Manning with Mountain Harvest Kitchen

Alicia Phelps with the North East TN Tourism Association

Emily Macbeth of Summit Marketing who stepped in and offered her services pro-bono to all of our regional market managers 

Dr. Lindsey King of the ETSU Anthropology Dept. along with 25 students out collecting data

Laura Beth Davidson and her masterful photography skills

Dana York and Camille Cody of Grand Oak who’s faces are now plastered all over the Central Highlands

All of the wonderful and dedicated volunteers that have helped along the way

The many community members who have attended events and offered valuable voice

The Appalachian Farmers Market Association — all of our regions dedicated Farmers Market managers

Most of all the farmers who have stepped in to help organize both the CSA Fairs and the Farm Tours and whose constant dedication and feedback make all of this possible.

Community Matters!

Y’all, we’ve been busy bees this past year continuing to find ways to support our farmers and farmer markets.  Thanks to a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant we received in Sept. of 2017 and in collaboration with many community partners, we’ve been able to step our combined efforts up a notch.  We’ve had a highly successful first year of this grant cycle and have exceeded even our own projections. Now we’re in the middle of compiling data for grant reporting. While this isn’t my personal favorite task, it has proven to confirm what we already knew as true.  Community matters! It is through organizational partnerships, community members actively involved in our local food system, and farmers teaming up to support each other that we all continue to build on a healthy local food system.

Here’s some of that feel good data:

CSA Fairs – Kingsport gave us a grand welcome!

This year marked our third year in hosting CSA Fairs across the Tri-Cities region.  Due to farmer and growing community demand, we expanded the fair series into Kingsport.  The Kingsport community showed up with enthusiasm, making for the most successful CSA Fair of the year.  The addition was well received by the community and provided new revenue streams for multiple farms. Farms established 3 new CSA drop off points in the Model City, around 18 total new CSA memberships, and at least 2 restaurants accounts were secured.

From our friends at Willow Bend:  We attended the Bristol and Kingsport fairs and gained around half a dozen customers for doing so.  That equates to about $1500 in net income for us. We’re able to fill all our spots every year, whether through online advertising or the fairs, but the folks that we meet at the fairs tend to be much more likely to participate for the whole season and to be return customers.  Making that face to face connection is nice for us and the CSA participants.

Andrea Wakely of Bristol VA had this to share of her CSA membership experience: As a new CSA customer, I was delighted to be able to meet various local CSA farmers all at the same time.  It was fascinating to see the variety of different products offered, from mushrooms to hydroponic lettuce, organic vegetables and handmade pasta. The worst part was having to choose which of the possible shares to go with that would best match my family’s tste (and a teenager;s appetite).  I can’t wait until the next fair to thank my farmers for all the delicious produce this year.

We will be hosting the next  CSA Fairs in Johnson City, Bristol, and Kingsport – Spring 2019.  

Farm Tours

When we set out to organize this first year of Farm Tours we aimed to keep the event small,with 5 farms in Washington County TN and 7 spread out across SW Virginia.  We wanted to get a feel for the event and gauge what it would take to upsize it in the next two funding years. The communities in both TN and VA had other ideas. The Farm Tour was a wild success having an estimated 200 participants total over the 2 weekend stretch.  While at times the numbers were overwhelming for all involved, everyone walked away happy with the outcome. It took an army of dedicated volunteers and staff, dedicated farmers and community support. Folks were given the chance to visit farms, meeting farmers, and developing a closer relationship with our local food system.  Farms were given the opportunity to develop both new customers and friendships that will continue to support their farming enterprises.

We’ve learned a great deal from this first Farm Tour venture.  We will begin planning for the Fall 2019 Tour this January giving us plenty of headstart to make it the best Farm Tour (and the only) in our region.  For more information about adding a farm to the tour feel free to drop me a line: rachel@arcd.org

Market Manager Outreach and Opportunities

Through both the Appalachian Farmers Market Association and the ETSU Small Business Technology Center we were able to offer all Farmers Market managers in our region cost free marketing sessions covering website development and social media marketing.

We were collectively able to reach over a million viewers, readers, and/or listeners across the entire Central Appalachian Highlands region spanning across Northeast TN and Southwest VA.

EBT/SNAP Promotion

We’ve just begun what will become our most impactful project — outreach to EBT recipients encouraging them to spend their benefits at our area farmers markets.  This year we have distributed 2000 “how to use your EBT at the market” postcards to Unicoi County students.  Yard signs have been distributed to farmers markets helping with visibility.  Our newest partnerships, Second Harvest Food Bank and the First TN Human Resource Agency will be helping us expand our reach in 2019.  Materials will be distributed throughout our 6 county NE TN service region through the Second Harvest Feeding Program.  We will be working with the First TN Human Resource Agency and UT Extension to help folks going through probation learn to cook healthy foods with local produce.  Programming will also include working with area Housing Authorities in both TN and VA, and the Department of Human Resources in both TN and VA.

 

Now on to the best time of the year — Harvest season, cooler weather, apple cider and corn mazes.  Hopefully we’ll see you out there participating and enjoying all our mountains have to offer!