Local farmers met early in 2007 to begin preparing for the upcoming year for the Four County Farmers Market. Due to weather conditions the Four County Farmers Market opening was delayed until June 5th. The market got off to a good start with several new producers participating and producers from the previous year returning. The adverse weather conditions continued once again to severely impact the crops and participation. Community support continues to be excellent.
1. To benefit local farmers by increasing disposable income and encouraging entrepreneurship.
2. To generate economic impact in the community from dollars spent and retention of these inputs within the region.
3. To assist producers to implement sustainable agricultural practices.
4. To provide an economical supply of wholesome foods for consumption.
5. To assist homemakers to prepare nutritious and healthful food products for their families.
6. To develop a sense of community relationship among citizens, private enterprise, and government for the common good by applying strategies that creates and support sustainable agricultural and community life.
This project has provided a part-time job to one individual in the county and it has also provided an avenue for individuals to increase their income through participation in the Farmers Market. The project has enabled Webster County residents to increase their income and better provide for their families.
As a result of the Four County Farmers Market and the location of the market within the building purchased there were approximately 25 jobs created. The jobs averaged paying $7.00/hour and the work weeks averaged out to be 40 hours per week from planting season through harvest which would have been approximately 24 weeks. Some weeks the hours were extremely long and others were very slow. This amounted to an income of $6720.00 per person with a total for the 25 of $168,000.
In addition to the boost to the economy resulting from the jobs created there was equipment purchased by the farmers to aid them in the planting and harvesting of their crops. The total cost of equipment, fuel, seed, fertilizer and other supplies purchased by the farmers was approximately $35,000.
The Four County Farmers Market Producers Association was formed to establish the rules and regulations by which the farmers market would operate. A fee schedule was also established by this group for participants in the farmers market. Following the first year of operation the producers did not see the need to make any changes to the rules and regulations initially established.
As a result of this project 28 farmers were provided with a permanent location where they can set-up and sell their produce regardless of whether it is raining or not. The estimated total income of the farmers participating in the market averaged between $50 and $200/ day. The market was open a total of 47 days during a 15 week period. This averages out to $3,000 to $12,000 of income per farmer. Those farmers on the low end of the earnings were generally selling the excess out of their home gardens. For a couple of farmers produce was sold at the farmers market and also on days the market wasn’t open. Their income far exceeded what they made at the market. The number of farmers participating stayed the same as the first year of the market. This is attributed to the weather conditions experienced (late frost and extremely dry weather) that negatively impacted the quantity the farmers were able to produce.
The market manager noted that during the peak season there were as many as 300 customers to visit the market in a day. Over the season they averaged from 50 to 100 customers visiting the market. The ability to purchase fresh homegrown vegetables in a convenient location was well received by the people in and around Webster County.
One producer in the county that participated in the farmer’s market did so after diversifying his farming operation. He began rotating his cotton crop with peanuts and sold them at the farmer’s market as well as through other outlets. His peanut operation has grown and he is now a contract grower providing peanuts for JIF peanut butter and the Hershey Company.
One significant outcome of this project has been the recognition of agriculture as a valuable part of economic development in Webster County. The Corn Maze started during the first year of the project has grown to serve a larger area and had a very successful year. The farmers market is also providing an outlet for the sale of such things as bundles of corn stalks, hay bales and potted plants for decoration purposes. This is considered to be added value to the agricultural product because the corn stalks would have been cut up and plowed under.
The Four County Farmers Market producers met early in 2007 to review the by-laws and determine if any changes needed to make for the upcoming market year. It was felt that no changes were needed and plans for the opening were made for May 15th. Unfortunately the weather did not permit opening on the 15th of May but had to be delayed until June 5th. The manager got started early making contact with various producers to invite them to participate in the market. He contacted previous participants, especially those having sold at the market only a couple of days, to encourage their return. Several commented they were planting additional produce so they could participate more during the 2007 season. The local Extension Service Expanded Food and Nutrition Educator assisted with the market this year providing publications on food preparation and preservation to growers and customers frequenting the market.