So…#farmersmarket @ #church=>Results

This is my third post in our Farmer’s Market Series

Why Farmer’s Market?

How Farmer’s Market?

Five years into running a farmer’s market we have the following results.

Neighborhood

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.

 

Community

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.

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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.expanded

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.

 

Church

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.

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How to Farmers Market

When we started our Farmers Market we knew two things.

  1. We have a parking lot
  2. We wanted to be there to help and “man” a table

See the post on Why the church decided our ministry would be a farmers market

We had to figure out logistics: Time, Duration, Placement of Vendors, Parking, Cost, etc.

We started visiting Farmer’s Markets in the area. We kept on a lookout for when other farmers markets are…

TIME:

We decided right away, no to Saturday. Too much “competition” probably not enough vendors, plus I couldn’t commit to spending every Saturday at church.

We picked Tuesdays, there seemed to be different markets on other days, but none on Tuesdays (by the way, multiple markets nearby seem less important, just that they are not on the same DAY in the same Area). Plus we rent out our church a lot and Tuesday was an “open” time.

We decided to do 3-6pm. We wanted to hit the afterwork crowd, and we are nearby the state offices that begin releasing at 3:30, and a elementary school.

Duration:

The First summer we were only open June-Sept. The next year we expanded from May-October. The fall months are GREAT for veggies, the early months are better for craft vendors: people tend to buy from them only once and they aren’t spending much on food yet.

Cost:

Our parking Lot is free…so our cost is minimal. We decided the first year to invest some church money, but also to promise that all the dues will go back into advertising for the Farmer’s Market to get it off of the ground.

We decided to ask $25 to hold a spot, and $100 total for the four months. Costs were purposely lower than other markets. This was good, because we soon learned that farmers spend a LOT of money to get to the market. Then we made signs, lots of signs to put up around the city. We put them up every Tuesday and then took them back down (you avoid a lot of regs that way, plus people tend to notice moving signs more).

Farmers:

Getting Farmers to agree to try us out was HARD. (Nowadays we can give them two weeks to try us out). We weren’t established, and no one knew anything about it. The Farmers Market circuit is a tight one. Everyone knows each other.

I and a co-chair took turns calling everyone. We would tell them our principles (we will spend your fees on advertising), our location (all the good parts), and who else we had on the line (translation, they haven’t said yes, but they might).

We visited lots of Farmers Markets, took lots of names, and called lots of people for months. I think we started in late February.

Then finally, one farmer, Farmer Jon said yes. Once we said “Farmer Jon confirmed and …..so and so and so and so are on the line” everyone else started signing up. We opened with a couple of food vendors, a couple of crafters, and three farmers (Farmer Jon never did show up…but he did his part).

Logistics

We made a contract, we included the website with all of the regulations telling people they were responsible to abide by it.

We told people they had to call us if they weren’t coming.

We gave them timelines and fees

And we made them promise to realize that “This is a church” and we “expect civil behavior”

We got signatures.

Then we set up the farmers in the middle of the parking lot, staked off a walking area with cones, and got ready for the first day.

Grand Opening

We invited the neighbor, we cut ribbons.

We papered invites on the cars who came for AA, other churches, most of the people who used the building. (We did the annoying under the windshield thing, but only ONCE for each group)

We personally dropped flyers in the local neighborhood–abiding by the mailbox rules (mostly flyers can’t go into mailboxes, I think door mailslots are the exception)

We invited the mayor and local small news stations.

200 People came for the grand opening!!!

Next post will be about the ONGOING effects and results of what started out as “just” a farmer’s market.

 

Our own personal Logo!!Farmers market logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why a Farmer’s Market?

We are blessed to open our 5th Farmer’s Market season this summer. A Farmer’s Market that we put out for our community. A Farmers Market that the church’s volunteers run from May to October.

So why a Farmer’s Market? Where is the discipleship in this? and how exactly is this a ministry?

New Covenant Presbyterian Church spent a lot of time trying to participate within the neighborhood. We wanted to be a part of what was going on. With approximately 15 community groups meeting in our building, we felt the disconnect. Many people will come to these gatherings, but nothing sponsored by the church.

We got to work to be a part of the community. Some events were short: a one day electronic recycling drive, a Mendelssohn concert and Ice Cream Social, a Dove Nominated Gospel Concert. We started some long term things too…we opened a free weekly playgroup.. We organized and oversaw an ongoing clothing exchange.

We looked at our resources, we looked at our strengths. We are place that is easy to gather at, we have a large parking lot. We are close to major highways.

How about a Farmer’s Market? Which we committed to do, as long as we remembered WHY we want to do this. To participate within the neighborhood.

To be a part of the community.

To be PRESENT. We committed to help to set up, to serve, to strive for a caring environment built on balance and needs (as opposed to being purely profit driven).

We will then sit at the church table and HELP people. Answer questions and LISTEN carefully to what is being said so we could get reacquainted with the community.

We did the work (See the upcoming post on HOW a Farmer’s Market) for details. By the Grand Opening close to 200 people came. Which was a huge number for a 50-60 person church.

By the middle of the summer we clarified our why into one phrase.

Won’t You Be Our Neighbor?

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Because we want to be your neighbor, we want to be a community-building congregation, we want to be a community that supports communities.

The ministry of presence, of listening of neighboring is a part of who we are and what we do today! We look forward to our 5th rendition of this particular ministry of Farmers Market.