FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Innovative Pilot Program Addresses Local Food Challenges
Service Will Connect Vendors to Three Cleveland Markets
Cleveland, Ohio – May 24th, 2012 – Operating a farm or local food business requires entrepreneurs to possess a dauntingly diverse set of skills. Successful growing or production, accounting, sales, and marketing - including direct sales at farmers markets - are all integral. Many businesses are interested in having their product at farmers markets, but have trouble staffing a booth. Starting in June a new service will connect value-add vendor products with farmers markets. Market Connect, which will pilot at the Broadway, Kamm's Corners, and Lakewood Farmers Markets during the 2012 outdoor season, seeks to address obstacles faced by vendors and markets alike.
Market Connect was born out of the need to attract value-add vendors to the fledgling Broadway Farmers Market in Slavic Village now under the direction of Kelley Green Web, a communications and development collective which will also operate the Market Connect service. Citing staffing, logistic or financial obstacles, vendors were reportedly unable to attend the Monday evening market. Having diverse and unique market offerings is crucial to attracting and retaining a solid customer base according to seasoned managers and Kelley Green Web partners, Jenny Kelley and Christa Kraft. There are 600+ employees within the block at neighborhood anchors such as Third Federal, Metro Health, and Cleveland Central Catholic. A preview event at Third Federal on Monday, June 18th from 11:30 am -1:30 pm will give employees and residents a sneak peek at the local food products that will be available throughout season which begins Monday, June 25th from 4-7 pm and runs through October 24th. Returning participants such as Green Corp, Por Bar Farms and Harvest in Christ will offer produce, and new vendors such as Bluebird Meadows will provide a variety of meats, baked goods and more while other products such as pasta, jelly, tea, coffee, olive oil and spices will initially be offered through Market Connect.
The service will act as a stepping-stone to creating a self-sustaining market. The Kamm’s Corners and Lakewood Farmers Markets, which have focused on growing new vendors from their own communities, have demonstrated that when a customer base is established, neighborhood residents see opportunity to turn their talents into a business. The service could also address issues of site management by providing an experienced staff person on site at markets as well as generate the revenue to compensate this staffer through product sale proceeds.
Collaboration between the Broadway, Kamm’s Corners and Lakewood Farmers Markets led to the natural expansion of the Market Connect pilot beyond Broadway. Kelley and Kraft each saw reasons why the service would help the other markets they operate. Vendors often work seven days a week during market season, Saturday and Sunday are especially difficult in terms of vendor / staff availability, not to mention the wages to compensate them. With many markets, including Lakewood, which begins June 30th from 10 am – 1 pm, taking place on Saturday, vendors choose the ones that make the most logistical and financial sense for them to attend and are sometimes already covering multiple markets. In the case of the well-established Kamm’s Corners Farmers Market, which takes places every Sunday June 10th – October 14th from 10 am – 2 pm and is going into it’s six season with 35 vendors, a breadth of offerings exists. However, Market Connect, which will add a few highly sought after products, in conjunction with a new fee structure that incentivizes vendor attendance and enables booth subletting, will ensure that customers will have a better and more regular product selection. Further solidifying customer bases by diversifying the offerings will continue to attract neighborhood local food start-ups in both Kamm’s Corners and Lakewood.
Cooperative solutions are not a new strategy for Kelley and Kraft. Their Kelley Green Web business model is based on the concept of connecting organizations in a cohesive economically and environmentally sustainable ‘web’. The pair also volunteer as the Program Director and Engagement Director respectively along with Executive Director, Gwen Forte for Growhio, a holistic marketing, branding and informational resource for local food in the region. Through it’s website, outreach and partnerships, Growhio aspires to connect consumers to our local food system. Programs and activities include: (1) Growhio.org, a comprehensive website with information about where to buy local in Northeast Ohio, what’s in season, how to grow/farm/compost/preserve/cook, starting a local food business or project and connecting to additional resources; (2) Local Food Guide, a 30-page printed directory of farmers' markets, CSAs, farm stands and pick-your-own farms across Northeast Ohio; and (3) What’s Growing program, a collaboration with 9 area farmers’ markets (listed below).
Jenny Kelley | Founder, Kelley Green Web | 216-526-3803
2107 West 101st St. | Cleveland, Ohio 44102 | firstname.lastname@example.org