Thursday, July 29, 2010

Elkhart farmers' market closing

So says the Trib. I try to think of the reasons the market didn't do well, and perhaps it's best to consider why I only went a few times despite having a great experience. I have a few quibbles with the place, the biggest being that it has little or no produce most of the time, nowhere to buy non-food groceries, and half or more of the place was occupied by craft stores.

All that aside, though, you know why we didn't go? It was in Elkhart, a 20+ minute drive from our house. The only things we buy regularly from a farmers' market are poultry and eggs, and South Bend has a farmers' market 5-10 minutes from our house where we can get those. That's why.

By far the two most successful markets I've ever seen are in Cork, Ireland and South Bend. They have exactly one thing in common that isn't shared by the failed American Countryside: they're centrally located in the city of their customer base. In a city of 100,000 people, 20+ minutes is a seriously long drive for groceries, especially when you can't even get all your groceries there.

Speaking of, the Old English Market in Cork is by far the most successful of the three for a very simple reason: it had a booth that sold condiments, prepackaged foodstuffs (dried soup, canned goods, etc.), and other such things. It didn't force its customers to go to its major grocery store competitors for their non-fresh-food groceries. There aren't just a ton of people willing to switch to a farmers' market from their convenient, familiar grocery store in the first place. There are far fewer willing to make two trips a week instead of one just so they can get free range eggs and chicken breasts. In Cork, however, the market seemed to do as much business as Tesco.

If the South Bend market had a booth or section where they sold things like cheap mustard bottles, canned beans, paper towels, and bath soap, I would do all my grocery shopping there, even if they didn't have all my brands. The market would gain not only my paper towel and bath soap business, but also my potatoes and milk and rice and sandwich meat business. If the Elkhart market had done so, it's possible we would have made the trip more often.

1 comment:

Greg @ Purple Porch said...

You should check out the Purple Porch Co-op - focuses on local (w/in 60 mile radius of South Bend) produced food. We have lots and lots of fresh produce now. We have online ordering over the weekend, then distribution on Wednesday evenings. You need not preorder everything. Producers bring plenty extras - farmers' market style.