Nonprofit of the year and probably the most consistently successful event to hit Woodland Park, Farmers' Market is evolving to include a feasibility study by consultant Aaron Zaretsky.
“Public markets tend to be places where all kinds of different people come together on common ground to rub shoulders, feel safe and secure in an exciting environment,” said Zaretsky, speaking to a group of residents including the market's founders Earlynn Cowman, Judy Crummett and Lois Sill. “Woodland Park is a terrific farmers' market; people really love it.”
While the study is in progress, Zaretsky made suggestions for “tweaking” the market:
● Add indoor space to counteract the mountain weather patterns. “The goal, or the mission of the market, should be to provide a place where people shop, week in and week out to buy fresh food,” he said.
● Add a commercial kitchen to provide a place for “celebrity” chefs to do demonstrations “Have the market provide a nutritional label including branding, marketing and help with distribution,” Zaretsky said.
● Have more products represented.
● Offer a one-third split among current, experienced and new business vendors
● Find a way to attract out-of-towners, particularly, among the 600,000 people who live in Colorado Springs
On the other hand, in a town of around 7,000 people, more than half visit the market every Friday in the summer. “That's extraordinary; the market is beloved by the people who shop there,” Zaretsky said. “Markets reflect what's unique about a community.”
Product displays as well as the market environment are critical to the success of any market, he said. “A function of the public market should be to bring in people who can help the vendors create displays that look, smell and feel wonderful,” Zaretsky said. “One way to do that is to have people producing food products, baking bread, making chocolate or roasting coffee. You walk in and are assaulted by the visuals, the eye candy.”
For the budding entrepreneur out there, Zaretsky offered a teaser that capitalizes on a natural resource. “Find someone who can establish a trout farm and have them develop a cottage industry, smoking, packaging and making some kind of trout spread with cream cheese,” he said. “Create an environment that is sensuous, makes people hungry and do the worst thing they could possibly think of, parting with their money.”
In addition to offering a gathering place for the community, markets are economic drivers. “There is nothing you can do in the way of economic development that is more powerful for increasing the value of surrounding property than establishing a farmers market,” Zaretsky said.
Zaretsky is doing the study with the help of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union. “We know we have a successful market but there is always room for improvement; we wanted to know what an outside consultant might suggest,” Crummett said. “Zaretsky is one of the most knowledgeable and experienced market people we have met.”
The market was named Nonprofit of the Year 2012 y the Greater Woodland Park Chamber of Commerce.