Christie and Al Welch. Welch's Strawberry Farm  319 E Hydell Rd, Chillicothe, OH 45601
Phone:(740) 703-4826.(Photos by Jodi Miller)

How to sustain farmers markets

Christie Welch sells her strawberries at local farmers markets. It’s a place where she connects with customers and farming peers and where her impact is bigger than just selling fruits and produce. As the Direct Agricultural Marketing Program Director for  Ohio State University Extension, Christie collaborates with other organizations to provide education in marketing, creating value-added products, health department and food safety issues, agritourism, selling to restaurants and wholesalers and more.

In the past 10 years, the number of Ohio farmers markets has grown to more than 300 and Christie has interacted with at least half to provide training and education to both farmers and market managers.

“Communities recognize the benefits of farmers markets,” Christie said. “They want to start one but they need to begin with the producers’ perspective to be successful.” Providing what the consumers want and what the producers grow is key. “Producers have a financial stake in their farmers markets,” she added, “and markets help these small businesses grow as long as communities support their efforts.”

Interest in farmers markets is at an all-time high fueled by food insecurity issues, nutrition concerns and public incentives such as the inclusion of SNAP benefits at farmers markets. “There’s not enough supply to meet demand,” Christie said. “We need to encourage young people and individuals to consider farming as a career choice.”

To connect to the resources offered by Ohio State University Extension’s Direct Agricultural Marketing Program, go to southcenters.osu.edu/marketing.

 

Marilou Suszko is a food writer from Vermillion, Ohio.