This is my third post in our Farmer’s Market Series
Five years into running a farmer’s market we have the following results.
The most often comment we get is that the “Farmers Market brings people together in a way they haven’t before.” We definitely see the community now. We love getting to know all the people int he neighborhood. Since getting people to church is not the goal (serving them is), we get to know many of our Jewish and Catholic friends as well.
Many people WALK to our farmer’s market, which is superfun
We have regulars! Last year we had about 4 Tuesdays where it didn’t rain at all, and yet approximately 400 people attend a week. Our word is spreading via natural talk, advertising and increasing our sign circumference in a considered fashion.
We have about 20 groups that meet in our church building. Including over a dozen AAs, some other churches, the playgroup and the nursery school students, the Neighborhood Association, Choirs, etc. The Farmer’s Market was definitely when some of these communities started to connect with one another, and us. The communication improved, and the church worked to serve as a community of these communities.
Building a Community
The biggest result of the farmers market is difficult to communicate, because it is so huge. We have in essence started to build a community.
Starting with the Farmers: We set an amazing tone through two things 1. a Civility clause in the contract 2. our customer service. We required civility, but we also modeled it, lending chairs, helping farmers put up and take down their tents, asking what they needed, you know helping them out. We have a very small community market, but we are told ours is like no other. People are not mean-spirited or pushy, our vendors built a community, trading tips and goods, being genuinely kind. We are like no other market in this way.
Building more communities: Since the Farmer’s Market started, we have learned to be savvy about building events and communities off the market. We have offered exercise (for children and adults), conducted chicken BBQs both the week before and after the market, advertise our children’s events (ex: breakfast with Santa, Easter egg hunt). We have also art spaces including a community visual art show, putting on tiny theater plays, and paying local musicians a small fee to play at the market. We do this, because we want to support the community and build it up in as many ways as possible.
Farmer’s Market Community: And of course we’ve built a community of people who want to go to a neighborhood farmers market. Some of them walk their children around, some of them drop by just to get dinner, some of them like to get out and chat, and some of them are hardcore local/organic followers. There is a lot of natural communication that goes on in a Farmers Market (what corn isn’t available all year? Strawberries are more expensive because of the frost). When you know your farmer you appreciate where your food comes from and how much work it takes to get it, and you start to consider what you consume in a slightly different way.
Millennials & Silent Generation: One of the best things about communities–and churches–are when multiple generations get together (its one of the church’s strengths in fact). The Farmers Market draws together millennials who are invested in cooking, bodies and the health of the planet, and the silent generation whose families often were farmers, who know how to and love cooking, and who remember and value farming.
Community Gardens: We have a small bin out at our Farmers Market. It doesn’t seem to get much every week, but two years ago 100 pounds of fresh vegetables were collected to redistribute in the urban food deserts, last year over 200 pounds were collected. This is the seed of extending to the community.
Our church has changed. Always a community invested in serving our neighbor. Through the farmers market, we have found energy & purpose. We value the community and being in the community. We are shifting our perspective from sometime landlord with ministry to community participant and incubator. People have noticed, and our church has seen some growth. (We are teeny-tiny remember). We did not do a farmer’s market to grow the church, we did it to serve the community. This has made all the difference. We continue to strive to figure out how to serve the community, and if sometimes people find their way from the parking lot to the sanctuary, we are doubly blessed as a congregation of servants.