May 21, 2012Farmers’ market association educates consumers
One of the missions of the Colorado Farmers Market Association (CFMA) is to educate consumers across the state about the value of fresh, locally grown produce, said Annie Catura, current CFMA board president.
In the wake of the tainted cantaloupe outbreak that was traced back to Colorado’s Jensen Farms, CFMA decided to use that as an opportunity to teach.
“While none of the affected cantaloupes were sold in farm markets, we did use the opportunity to educate consumers on how to properly use, clean and eat produce sold at farmers’ markets,” Catura said. “We hope to add more training in the future.”
Educating and training consumers is just one of the challenges facing CFMA, Catura said.
Colorado farmers’ marketers are playing catch up with the rest of the country when it comes to marketing and telling their story. The reason for this, she said, lies in how the state population is distributed.
The Rocky Mountains control the state geographically, and most of the agriculture is centered on what is known as the Front Range, the part of the state to the east of the mountains. These agricultural centers, however, are quite a distance from the population centers. Adding to that challenge is the extremely high cost of land and the limited water supply, Catura said.
“There is a huge demand for locally grown produce, but growing it and getting to the consumer is a serious challenge,” she said. “When we can make that connection, the result is invaluable to not only the growers and the market, but to the community.”
Finding the vendors is just one challenge, Catura said. Getting the right type of personality to manage is a key element to a farmers’ market’s success.
“Getting the right manager makes for a good market,” she said. “You want one who will recruit growers and spend the time, energy and money to really tell the story and bring in the customers. We’re very lucky that all of our member managers are really excellent. Each market is proving to have a definite economic impact on the community they are in. A recent economic impact study of the Crested Butte market showed a dramatic boost to the local economy.”
Catura feels a strong connection to the Crested Butte market, where she got her start with farmers’ markets in Colorado.
There were 96 markets enrolled in CFMA as of last year. There is a $70 membership fee, and each market gets listed in the newsletters and other publications. There is also a market finder and mapping feature on the CFMA website, www.coloradofarmers.org, as well as tips on starting a market and other features for growers and consumers.
“We offer collective insurance plans and help with understanding all of the laws pertaining to farmers’ markets,” Catura said. “We recently had a cottage foods law passed and we’re working with the state to see what that will mean for our members.”
Catura said CFMA is working with Colorado State University and the Rocky Mountain Farmers’ Market Association to ensure that the structure of the association best suits the needs of the members. They are also working on getting WIC benefits into the markets and expanding the SNAP program.
“We want to make sure we’re doing the very best we can for our member markets,” she said. “We all love farmers’ markets. They bring communities together.”