|By SARAH B. AUBREY
NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — The prevalence of farmers’ markets and direct-to-consumer sales is becoming increasingly popular throughout the Midwest. According to USDA’s latest online figures, there are approximately 80 farmers’ markets registered and actively operating in Indiana.
Purdue University Assistant Professor Jennifer Dennis recognizes that there are more markets out there, but they are not listed with either the USDA or the Purdue Extension. She indicated that is one reason for this year’s first annual Operating an Efficient Farmer’s Market, a Workshop for Market Masters and Vendors series.
“There’s not officially an organization that represents vendors at farmers’ markets in Indiana, so our goal is to help markets be efficient and get everyone on the same page with respect to insurance and the Board of Health,” she said.
“Every year we receive calls from people interested in selling at markets or starting one,” she added going on to say that a toolkit and workbook about how to establish a farmer’s market should be ready and available from Purdue Extension in time for next year.
“Purdue and ICDC (Indiana Cooperative Develop-ment Center) saw a need for this type of workshop,” said Chad Martin, ICDC Business Development Specialist. “These will provide a networking opportunity for vendors to get ideas and an opportunity for market masters to sign up new vendors,” he said.
The workshop formats include both educational programs and roundtable idea exchange sessions.
“Liability and Board of Health regulations are the key components that most vendors need to know,” Martin said.
The workshops offer presentations from Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance as well as the Indiana Board of Health to alert vendors and market masters to concerns and rules essential to operating a successful market. Other sessions include information for vendors on how to develop pricing, products and displays and information for market coordinators on planning and developing a farmer’s market.
“Our sessions are designed with interactive discussion time,” said Martin noting that participants’ feedback from the first two workshops was positive.
Scott Gilliam, Indiana Board of Health, serves on a task force that is working to author Food Code Guidelines to help local health departments apply the food codes to farmer’s market situations.
“We’re not here to squelch the growth of farmers’ markets,” he said.” But we do want to help people operate legally.”
The workshops are dispersed around the state and last from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at each location. Those interested should e-mail Dennis at jhden firstname.lastname@example.org for information about the remaining dates in Elkhart County, June 15 and Porter County, June 16. For information on food codes for farmers’ markets and a list of products approved and not allowed for sale in Indiana, contact a county health department or call the Indiana State Department of Health at 317-233-7360.
This farm news was published in the May 31, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.