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Tomorrow is another day for farmers

December 9th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Farmers markets, Growing food

This year is so last year, at least if you are a market farmer. That’s one of the insights I learned recently at my first Lawrence Farmers Market annual meeting.

This year, last year and next year

Lawrence KS Farmers Market logoDuring the gathering of 60 or so vendors and others last month, farmers repeatedly referred to 2009 as “last year.” That was a bit of a surprise for me, considering the market at that stage was going to be open three more Saturdays. That view, though, is a testimonial to the planning that is an inherent part of farming. Most people show up for their jobs and do what they do. Farmers have to decide what to do long before they do it.

In any event,  I was pleased to hear Tom Buller, the market coordinator, report that most vendors had reported better sales in 2009 than in 2008. Not hugely better, but better. That was good news after early scuttlebutt that there were plenty of shoppers but not so many sales—in addition to the fact that 2009 has heralded a surge in home food gardens, a development that’s good for people’s diets but not necessarily good for market farmers.

Farmers Market members have one more shot at making some hay this year: the annual Lawrence Farmers Market Holiday Market. It’s 8 a.m.-3 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Knights of Columbus hall on East 23rd Street. Stop in and see the pickles, jams, woolens, baked goods and, unlike during the season, other handmade crafts.

West-Side Market?

Nothing is final (is anything?), but odds are that the market will have its Thursday weekday market next year in a west-side location off Sixth Street. Keep your fingers crossed that the stars align to allow it to happen. Buller has been doing a good job running the information down.

A west-side market would be a great opportunity for people who rarely get downtown to have another option for buying fresh, local produce from our market. Most vendors seemed excited by the prospect.

My season overview

8_full As a customer but nonfarmer tuned in to the challenges of growing things, I’d have to rate the season as a definite “pretty good.” Many growers are learning better to manage our fickle weather with season-extending tricks such as hoophouses, which means we had fine greens in spring and fall despite unusually cold and occasionally damp conditions.

Some summer crops were disappointing, though. After last year’s flood of fruit, the crops were more modest this year, and the strangely mild summer meant tomatoes just didn’t perform as they usually do in these parts. Peppers seemed less plentiful too.

Still, between the market and the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance, with occasional supplements from Hilary’s Moon on the Meadow CSA and Lynn & Dan’s Wild Onion Farm, I had all the local produce I could eat. Happily, I’m still enjoying some of the goods, thanks to my freezer. My first pot of post-Thanksgiving turkey soup, for instance, featured the rutabaga I blanched last summer, and it was wonderful! And I say that as someone who isn’t crazy about turnips and rutabagas.

How about you?

Was the season a success on your farm, or for your farmers? It’s so last year for the farmers, even if many of us are still enjoying the bounty. I can hardly wait for “this” year.

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