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177. Saratoga Farmer’s Market | Market Manager Julia Howard | Saratoga, NY
29th May 2017 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 00:56:10

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The Saratoga Farmer’s Market

Julia Howard is here to talk a bit about the Farmer’s Market process. She’s the Market Manager of the Saratoga Farmer’s Market.

Now do you have your own farm?

I have a very humble plot, we live just outside of Saratoga but we are in a rental home…

Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up 100% my mom gardened and grew everything that we ate. I think I’m a little bit spoiled working at the farmer’s market, because I pretty much get showered with produce. Every time a vender has something they haven’t sold or says here’s have a cabbage. 

If I weren’t at the market, I’d certainly be an avid gardener. We have grapes and pears and run an herb garden and a big crop of tomatoes! 

That’s pretty big in a rental property!

It is I’m pretty proud, it’s very sandy here… soil mending… pretty much how I eat. 

Growing Up

But growing up it was all about the garden. My mom was always cooking. We lived in the Adirondacks.. she was canning, pickling

kept me in touch with that… went off to college. I was always really appreciative of all the hard work she did and to know where our food came from. Later in life I was working a very monotonous typical 9-5 and I just felt broke so I left that job to work on a berry farm. 

outside of the Albany NY area

SAratogaFarmer'sMarketLogo

Farmer’s market history

farmer was involved in the farmer’s market

I loved it that experience. I don’t know if it was from coming from a desk job to kneeling in the dirt. Strawberries are no easy job, it’s not an easy crop to grow or harvest. It’s a lot of time on your knees and bending over. I still love that farm and connected to that farm. My baby girl eats those berries in the summer and she eats them all year and we freeze them.

That’s wonderful because strawberries can have a lot of chemicals!

My official introduction of Julia comes here! 

I’ve been thinking about having some kind of market challenge like maybe pick one product to take to the market. I’ve had a lot of guests approach the market manager and find out what the market needs, David Wolvertine said we need tomatoes and you have to do something about the price of tomatoes.

That’s a big thing in Farmer’s Markets and you want to make sure there’s

  • diversity
  • no oversaturation
  • marketing

not everyone is a natural sales person

it’s hard to stand behind a table that maybe 6 or 7 other people have. What makes it different? How to make it appealing to the customer base.

Another thing David told me  that surprised me is a Farmer’s Market is not a market with only one vendor and he talked about the challenge of sitting on the board of his market, having enough vendors so people want to come. NAomi has done a good job here, getting some music, it was a struggle in the beginning. Another guest Joyce Pinson talked about sampling and how she could sell zuccinis for a good price all summer long while the person next to her couldn’t give them away.

a lot to that

Tell me about your first gardening experience? How did you learn how to garden organically?

It was growing up literally in dirt, weeding, understanding the growth cycles in plants

that entire experience

being in it as a child

I wasn’t

there have been long periods where I didn’t grow a thing. I had some house plants in a window. Didn’t have access. Didn’t have the motivation, it’s an education that never left me. It’s always been with me. Mom did right..

Let’s go right to the Farmer’s Market!

Let me give a little bit of a background, every farmers market is different. Every town is different, so every need is different for local agriculture. 

Our farmer’s market was founded in 1978.  We’ve been running a really long time. It started out just a couple of farmers in a parking lot. Very humble beginnings. Currently we host a year round markets. In the winter time we host 40 vendors Nov-April housed indoors. Then we move to an outdoor location every park from may to oct we have about 60 vendors.

Our market has a history of growth. The pun is intended. Every year it changes. We really rely on our customers and community and we are a cooperative. We all work together to make the best it can be! It’s not an easy beat. Every year we deal with the challenges that come up an every year we grow. 

Statistics

In recent years, there are recent statistics on a decline in farmer’s markets, most markets are down 20-70%!  So this is a national study. Some farmers, specifically at the Saratoga market, said we see there’s a transition who’s coming. We have a lot of women in the age group from 50-65. 

If there’s a season we have a horse racing season in August where a lot of locals leave, most people leave. When most markets are picking up ours dips in sales. So there’s a difference in who’s buying what and when.

Saratoga is a Healthy City

Saratoga is a healthy city. We are really able to pick up. We are a part of people’s lifestyle. Our market is  local. By that I mean Saratoga county and 3 counties around Saratoga county. If someone is bringing a product that is outside the area, they might not be considered before someone who lives in Saratoga. 

We also have a standard that every product made producer only  has to be produced by the seller. 

avon has asked if they can see products

make us stand aside from other markets

We have a very strict percentage of agriculture, predominantly and ag market we have to ave a ratio 70% ag and 30% everything else

Everything else is

  • crafts
  • prepared foods
  • etc

making cheese

if they have goats on their properties making the cheese agriculture

So we have a pretty set standard

My first question is where are you getting fresh food in Saratoga NY in the middle of winter?

oh my goodness this is awesome

we have so many farms growing under high tunnels so we have fresh produce comeing out of the ground all year

high canvas tunnel similar to a greenhouse

fresh spinach

arugula

hydroponic farm fresh tomatoes

Fresh Herbs and Flowers at Saratoga Farmer's Market

fresh herbs

3 main farms that are vending at our winter market have high tunnels and the hydroponic grower.

storing professionals

growing outside of a climate zone where do

Do you want to talk about where you are. your climate.

Absolutely

We are in the North East. We are considered upstate. Albany is the capital towards the east but central. We are about an hour further north.

You have 4 full seasons. I woke up and my car was covered in snow. Do you have snow right now?

Yeah, today is kind of a fluke! we’re gonna have a 60º in February!. There’s a couple of feet on the ground. It’s been about30ºs during the day. We’re gonna have a couple of really warm days.

not a bad thing

necessarily

fresh greens at the market

because it’s still been overcast everything has been really slow

got it really…

This is great people are gonna be really excited about. If people are growing in Saratoga. We applied for a high tunnel grant a couple of years ago, but didn’t get it.

Vendors

Do you want to talk about how you get to be a vendor?

Let’s talk about that! At our market specifically. We accept applications 2xs a year by season. You either apply for summer easiness or winter season. We try to make it as simple as possible. The application is online. They pay a processing fee of $25. It’s approved by a board.

Our Market is run by 12 farmers and business owners. We’re proud to still be our own entity, not the government or community but the business owners are running the market. 

a little bit goes into that

It depends on what someone is applying to sell. Let’s say we need honey. So a dairy or honey vendor apply. They pay one flat rate for their stall. It’s for the whole season

market get’s crazy paying for week to week

space and layout is

trying to do best of our customers

consistency

messing where someone’s farm is placed

How big is it and where are you if you are not in a parking lot.

Right now our winter location

Saratoga Farmer's Market Vendors

Saratoga Springs is really known for water and natural springs

We are in a state park in Saratoga in an historic bath house. We are now the park head quarters. We are in a long grecian building. It’s the 3rd year at this location for the winter. IT’s a great venue and it’s perfect for the winter. We pay a good chunk to the state of NY to be there. But there’s plenty of parking

We do have a permanent home for our summer market. We are in a park in downtown Saratoga, close to main drag eateries not

right int he middle of things

connected to the city

someone walking around

farmer’s market open today

beautiful park in the summer time

space expand

space

head ache for me

access to electricity

outdoor

ability to expand

when a vendor comes on board, they get an acceptance letter

approve their products to

Saratoga Farmer's Market Vendors

Once you’re in your’e in….

variation

not saturation

  • displays important

  • signage extremely important

  • recipes

  • samples HUGE!

  • putting down that cell phone

  • smile on your face

  • engage with the customer

  • teach them something new

  • teach them what makes your farm different!

  • actually great educational experience

even if you don’t buy anything

open eyes

and learn

what is a kholorabi? how does that grow?

not just a consumer as much as a consumer experience.

The Farmer’s Market in Missoula, I’d go every year if I could , I don’t buy a lot of produce because it is a 4 hour drive… I love your point about it’s education. When I interviewed Jean Martin Fortier he said it was one of his favorite parts. Also my friend Dacia talked about signage. Do you want to expand on those things.

Part of my job – the entire farmers market operations is my job. 

When it comes to a farmer who sets up a little table, I actually did that with a meat vendor and meat is hard to display but some vendors are not always gorgeous produce. Sometimes someone’s hauling...

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