By Olivia Taylor-Puckett, Manager of the Lawrence Farmers’ Market
When I walk through the Lawrence Farmers’ Market, the majority of the faces behind the tables are those of women. Ours is the oldest, and largest, producer-only market in Kansas, and we’re grateful to say we have 87 vendor members. Of those 87 businesses, 23 are women run or co-owned, and many more of those booths are run by women.
This reality that I and many others in the farmers’ market industry have experienced contradictions with the image we normally have of farming. When we imagine farming, we see an older man on a tractor, looking out over his fields of corn, wheat, or soybeans; this image doesn’t reflect the direction farming is heading. What many of us see these days are diversified farms whose products range from fresh produce to value added products to animal products, and are run, led, and marketed by women.
As we see a resurgence of younger people interested in farming, we see a demographic shift in our farmers market vendors. Women in particular are taking advantage of the cornerstones of market culture: connection with customers and other farmers, low entry cost, ability to diversify products offered, community building, and capturing a larger share of the customer dollar.
The final two are especially valuable to women. Farmers markets are frequently seen as the town gathering place and customers average between 15-20 interactions per visit, making them perfect places for women to build local coalitions centered around food, farming, health, and relationships between customers and producers.
By building these partnerships with other vendors and consumers, women stand to gain more of the retail dollar. Farmers markets allow producers to set their own prices and they serve as a platform for them to inform the public about why their product costs what it does. Because many women are beginning farmers who don’t inherit vast plots of land or machinery, it is crucial that they are able to reinvest as much as possible back into their young business.
Women have always played a role in agriculture and are vital fixtures of the farmers market revival. I’m excited by the influx of women into farmers markets, and look forward to seeing more of us on the other side fo the table.
Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by finding your neighborhood farmers market and supporting local women in agriculture!
Like what you’ve read? Join the conversation in the NFU Women in Agriculture Facebook group.