By Randii MacNear
I’ve been the manager of Davis Farmers Market for 33 years, and this is my first op-ed for The Davis Enterprise because there’s a back story about farmers markets that I want to share.
Thirteen years ago, the USDA proclaimed the first National Farmers Market Week across the United States. This year, Aug. 4-10, the Davis Farmers Market is celebrating with the USDA and we’d like you to join us. Everyone can: Folks who love their local farmers market, wherever that may be; those who love their local grocers who promote selling products from California farmers; and those who love your roadside fruit stands and Community Supported Agriculture deliveries.
That might sound strange coming from someone like me who manages one of California’s first farmers markets. But for me, it’s all about the farmers. Our California small farmers need your vigilant support, everywhere you shop, and we want you to show your love by being their best friends forever.
Study after study have shown that farmers markets are financial lifelines for small farmers across California and the United States. Farmers are the reason why there is a Davis Farmers Market. Because of them, we celebrate Pig Day and Fall Festival.
Because of farmers, the city of Davis built the pavilion in Central Park and it has become a major community meeting place for locals, UC Davis students, families and friends. Because of farmers, our community comes out to enjoy live music at Picnic in the Park from March through October.
There is so much fun to be had at the market. But the reason why we are there every Saturday and Wednesday is to help farmers connect with customers to sell their produce and products. Alongside all the yummy treats, live music, children’s activities and community booths, you’ll find the real reason for being there: farmers selling their healthy, magically grown products.
I say “magically” because I admit that I cannot grow much of anything. From my point of view, farmers are magicians.
There are many reasons why each of us comes to the market. Some only come for the delicious treats, for breakfast or lunch on Saturdays and dinner on Wednesdays. Some come just for the music, the entertainment or the events. While we understand those choices, here is my chance to tell you the back story to why we have a farmers market.
The Davis Farmers Market is here because of the farmers, since the market is a California certified farmers market, established by the state of California. The market is codified by the direct market codes of California Department of Food and Agriculture, which authorize our farmers to come together at our beautiful Central Park to create our Davis Farmers Market. By law, everything sold at our market is grown, raised or produced by the sellers.
Those farmers need you. What does this mean? When you come to the market, for whatever reason, do you show your love for our farmers by buying a few things from them — a few peaches or potatoes or some nuts — every time you come? When you do this, you not only keep the farmers and the market strong, you’re also helping to change the world.
Of all the changes in our food system in California and the U.S. in the past 20 years, the growth and success of farmers markets represent perhaps the most important do-it-yourself example of community involvement and small farm support. Making the connection between shopping at farmers markets and keeping family farmers successful and on the land is not something every shopper is aware of. But it is something that everyone who eats should think about.
Shopping at the Davis Farmers Market, or any farmers market, allows all of us to make a real difference. How often do we have a chance to make an impact on how the world works?
Since mid-July, the Davis Farmers Market has been promoting the “I Love My Farmers Market” campaign created by the American Farmland Trust to build awareness about the relationship between farmers and farmers markets and keeping family farmers on their farmland.
The campaign asks farmers market shoppers to show their love for farmers at their farmers market by making a pledge — not a donation, no online spending, just a promise — to spend $10 a week with farmers at our market. (To sign up, visit www.LoveMyFarmersMarket.org.)
The trust estimates that farmers get just $1.58 out of every $10 spent on overall food purchases, but they get $8.50 for every $10 spent at farmers markets. The trust’s campaign aims to put $1 million in pledged dollars into the pockets of family farmers by the close of the campaign on Sept. 9.
The next time you find yourself sitting on the lawn at Picnic in the Park, listening to music, or eating dinner, or watching your children’s joy while they ride the carousel, or just being part of a good time — think about the farmers. Because they are the real reason — and the original reason — why we have a well-loved Davis Farmers Market.
— Randii MacNear has managed the Davis Farmers Market for 33 years. In February, she received the Hall of Fame Award from the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association.