Drought! Itâ€™s hit much of Kentucky hard this year.Â Â
Still, we saw proof that the farmers at the Lexington Farmersâ€™ Market have found ways to work around the obstacles of a hot, dryÂ summer.
During a recent visit to the market, our mouths watered at the sight of the colorful, warm tomatoes, peppers, melons and squash covering the tables. We stopped by to talk with severalÂ farmersâ€”all trying to keep cool under the clean, white canopies they set up to shade their garden wares. We asked for advice on how they get started, about their biggestÂ challenges–and what they do with their leftover produce.
Scott Evans, who owns a farm in Jessamine County, Ky., has been farming for about 20 yearsâ€”and has been coming to the farmersâ€™ market for 15 years.
Surrounded by lusciousÂ orange and redÂ tomatoes and baskets of bright green peppers, Evans echoed the words of other farmers saying the biggest challenge for vegetable farmers like himÂ is the weather.
â€śIt’s the growing conditions,â€ť he says, â€śand managing diseases, too.â€ť
(Even our CSA is struggling a bit to fill our vegetable boxes this monthâ€”but thatâ€™s part of the risk we accepted when we signed up to share in the bounty of the local harvest.)
Evan’s advice to farmers wanting to enter the farmersâ€™ market business, â€śBe patient.â€ť
â€śIt takes a while to build up a customer base,â€ť he says. “But once you do,Â customers willÂ come; theyÂ appreciate the fresh, local food. They know I grow everything I sell. Theyâ€™re looking for that.â€ť
Roland McIntosh, who runs Pawpaw Plantation in Powell County, Ky., has this advice for those who want to set up shop at the farmersâ€™ market.
Over at theÂ Crooked Creek Farm stall, Jason and Darlene Bailey offer a spread that looks like a mini grocery store.Â
The couple took overÂ the Jessamine County farm from Jasonâ€™s parents–and theirÂ life-long farmingÂ experience showed.Â
JasonÂ takesÂ the farmersâ€™ market challenges in stride. His biggest business challenge: making sure he has enough staff available to help in the fields and getting all the produce to the market.
Otherwise, he tells other farmersâ€™ market hopefuls, â€śJust go for it!â€ť
Another burning question for the farmers: What do you do with all the tomatoes, beans and otherÂ produce that doesnâ€™t sell?
- Give it away to people who need it.
- Plan ahead and try to grow only what you know you can sell.
- And as Jason Bailey says, â€śJust feed it to the cows and the goats!â€ť