Colorado’s state-wide body dedicated to the service and development of farmers markets selected Salida as this year’s site to host its annual conference. The event, attended by roughly fifty market representatives, including the area’s very own Central Colorado Foodshed Alliance (CCFA), created an opportunity for market managers to meet and exchange ideas as well as reconnect with the board members of the Colorado Farmers Market Association (CFMA).
True to the lively and community-oriented spirit that most markets embody, the conference launched Friday evening with a social soiree focused on local food and contra dancing. The night’s festivities encouraged the attendees to bond and familiarize themselves with peers, laying the path for the following day’s agenda which focused on the nuts and bolts of market management.
The CFMA, now in its twentieth year, was originally organized to offer insurance for the handful of markets which existed across the State in the early nineties. As the organization’s Treasurer and Board Member for the Boulder Market, John Ellis explained, “originally cities or lots that had farmers markets required that they carry insurance beyond what most markets could afford. So, we organized mainly for insurance reasons so we could garner for those markets a group policy for up to a million dollars.”
Ellis said he was impressed with the growth of markets over the years and pointed out that the CFMA had adapted its mission to continue to meet the needs of this burgeoning sector of a diversified economy. “The sophistication of the markets has grown so much. We’re now sharing information and creating support networks.” Ellis added that the CFMA has now branched into other areas including food safety and manager training.
Karen Scopel, former CFMA president agreed with Ellis’ views. She said the organization exists to ensure that the proliferation of markets continues to move forward. She expanded on the role of the CFMA stating that their mission now also includes promotional concerns and issue related to regulation and law at the State level. Offering examples, Scopel stated, “we’re currently looking at health regulations related to the sale of eggs, how products are sold, and how we deal with other entities.”
Scopel said she believed this year’s conference was a success pointing to all the discussion seen in the various breakout groups offered Saturday afternoon. Included in those sessions were representatives from the USDA, Colorado Department of Rural Development, and Boulder County Extension. Market managers were provided the opportunity to ask questions about programs offered by the presenters such as the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer Know Your Food,” which aims to fund agricultural development in the State.
Amy Siebert, manager of the Colorado Farm and Art Market in Colorado Springs, said she was happy she’d come. Siebert was offered the management position through association with the market where she came to pick up her CSA share. As a first year manager she’s looking to build on what’s been done well in the past. Siebert said one of her central focuses would be on creating better community awareness about the availability of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) machines at her market in a community that’s been hard hit by the economic downturn. EBT machines allow for the use of government assistant programs, such as food stamps, to be used at markets. She believes the CFMA will be vital to her goals stating the benefits offered through membership.
“The benefit of belonging to the CFMA is a connection with other markets and sharing of ideas. They’re also the means by which you have access to EBT machines. The Farmers Market Association takes one small market and connects it to so many others.”
In fact, it connects each market to 94 others across the State. John Ellis believes that that number will keep growing. “This is just the beginning,” he said. “I expect every town over 1000 people in this State will eventually have a market because they provide the option of local quality.”
Time of course will tell if his projections are right, but given the historical trends, next year’s conference is likely to be even bigger.
Sterling R. Quinton