By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 7/03/14 (Thu)
I just received some very interesting information that some of you may have seen on social media.
The Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania just released a list of the most farmers’ market friendly states and I’m really happy to say that North Dakota is in the top 10. We actually ranked No. 7 of the 50 states.
This is significant because the North Dakota Farmers’ Market and Growers Association is celebrating its 10th year as an organization and I will tell you what I told an economic developers convention several weeks ago is that since I got on the board of directors of this organization in 2005, we’ve grown from 14 to 56 farmers’ markets across the state.
No. 7 is also significant because we have long envied some of the states that have had established farmers’ markets for decades and North Dakota has beaten two of them; Iowa and Wisconsin.
Topping the list is Vermont, which is no surprise. That state sets the industry standard and has for a long, long time.
Maine, New Hampshire, Oregon, Hawaii and Rhode Island follow. Wisconsin is No. 8, Montana, 9 and Iowa, 10.
Other states that have had strong farmers’ markets over the years have fallen out of that top 10 group. They include Massachusetts, (11), Alaska (17), New York (23), California (38), Florida (41) and Arizona (49).
We’ve come a long way in 10 years and we should all be proud of that including the North Prairie Farmers’ Market in Kenmare.
This listing tells me that we are doing something right here in North Dakota.
We are educating each other and consumers on farmers’ markets, local foods, organic foods, putting a face to a product and mixing socially with customers at our local markets.
Whether it’s baked goods, canned goods, fresh vegetables, farm fresh eggs, local crafts, honey, jelly, or even organic beef in the case of North Prairie Farmers’ Market in Minot, a multitude of products are now available from a local source.
In recent years local source has become a buzz phrase in North Dakota. We’ve heard it for years in farmers’ markets in Davis, California, Madison, Wisconsin and Burlington, Vermont. Now, we’re hearing it in North Dakota and seeing it in our customers’ demands.
And those of us who are vendors at North Dakota markets, we are answering those customers’ demands in a big way.
Interestingly enough, the rankings aren’t just put together willy nilly. There is criteria to meet; number of farmers’ markets, number of CSAs (community supported agriculture) number of food hubs and how many farm-to-school programs does the state have.
I’ll admit, we are a little weak in the food hub category, but we are working on that. Holly Mawby at the Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture at Dakota College in Bottineau is working on a model for North Dakota.
But in all the other criteria, North Dakota has grown by leaps and bounds.
CSAs are a big one. An economic development person mentioned in early 2008 that my wife and I should start a CSA. I thought about it, followed a CSA on Internet that summer in Burlington, Vermont and concluded that this would never work in North Dakota.
Just a year later, in 2009, we had CSAs in Minot and Bismarck and in the past three years, we’ve supplied 63 families with fresh, locally grown, organic produce.
And ours, under the name North Star Farms, was the first one in North Dakota. Now there are 14 with numerous others considering taking that step.
A CSA is “share” in which consumers pay up front and we deliver in-season produce to them for a number of weeks.
My wife asked me why I didn’t think it would work in North Dakota and I told her that I didn’t think people would want to pay in advance.
But I stand corrected. I could say arguably that the demand for CSAs is beginning to outpace the demand for farmers’ markets.
If you get a chance, go to our website at (ndfarmersmarkets.com) and learn more about our organization.
The N.D. Department of Agriculture also has information about farmers’ markets, CSAs, roadside stands and farm to school programs.
Locally, visit the North Prairie Farmers’ Market in Kenmare on Thursdays this summer. The vendors have certainly helped North Dakota reach the top 10 in the United States.