Farmers Markets Don’t Just Happen. That’s the theme this year from Farmers Market Coalition, a nationwide organization supporting farmers market organizers, and The Farmers Market Pros, a group that helps with the business side of farmers’ markets for managers and vendors.
Hi. I’m Elaine Howell. My husband Bill and I were handed the reins of this market by Clayton Hillhouse in 2018. We had been selling our pickled products at the market for a few years and when Clayton was ready to retire, we stepped up to take over management rather than see the market end. Now, mind you, neither of us had any experience doing such a thing but we thought what the heck and jumped in feet first. As we enter our 5th year now, we have things down to a routine and thought this year’s theme was the perfect time to give you a behind the scenes look at how the market comes together.
My work begins long before the first market day. I update our market policy and application in February, then I begin reaching out to past and potential vendors. I update the vendor database as applications come in. Insurance needs to be renewed, and a new contract with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District needs to be submitted. I design and print the posters we hang at various locations around Soldotna and Kenai, as well as any advertising needs we have for the season. And before you know it, the first market day is here!
Once market season begins, during the week it is mostly office duties: bookkeeping, curating social media content, mapping market day booth layout, and such. Friday afternoon we load the product for Saturday’s market into the trailer which stays loaded with our two tents, five tables, five signs, four feather flags, table displays, and all the other items needed to sell at and run the market. Saturday morning we load more signs, fresh water for the handwashing station, coolers with samples and our lunch, and off we go at 8 a.m.
Once at the market site, we begin setting up our tents. Bill has his Krafted on the Kenai in one and I have my Elaine Howell Photography and Design and the Market Information in the other. Once our tents are set up, we begin setting up the market signs, flags, and handwashing station. Vendors begin to arrive, I check them in and we help any that need assistance with their booth set up.
After the market opens it’s a matter of tracking the number of customers entering the market, answering any questions, making change, handing out information, ensuring the public observes the market rules, checking on vendors throughout the day, collecting booth fees from vendors, and selling my own photography.
This year we are breaking attendance records.
Over 700 on July 2.
Breakdown is at 2pm when the market ends and it’s just a reverse of the morning routine: gather signs, feather flags, handwashing station, pack up product, displays, tables, and tents. As well as assisting anyone needing help breaking down their booth. All this is going on as customers continue to arrive and try to make purchases! By 3pm the site is clear, and we are headed home.
Of course, when we get home we are not done. Any leftover product, the coolers, two signs, and trash must be unloaded and dealt with. The trailer is unhitched and waits for it all to start again.
As a consumer you never really think about what goes on behind the scenes of any given business. I hope you have enjoyed this look into what we do to make the Soldotna Saturday Farmers Market happen. We are thankful for the support of our vendors and the community at large. Without you there would be no market.