For the past couple of weeks I’ve been describing our recent difficulties challenging our ability to make a living growing vegetables organically. Several of these problems are new to us after 46 years in this business!
The freakish weather (continuous, excessive rain) has been the most destructive, but new pests and diseases, and unprecedented ravages by deer and other animals have all hurt. And now there’s yet another relatively new problem, unrelated to farming but also difficult.
The past 8 or 10 years have seen a huge surge in new farmers markets in DC. Our share of the market has been grabbed at by every little group of retail stores hoping to use a farmers market to attract customers.
As long as these markets were far enough away from us it was fine. We thought, there’s plenty of room for more farmers markets, as long as they are far enough apart.
But then, about 6 years ago, the “Van Ness Main Street” group convinced UDC to put up a market only 2 blocks from us at Connecticut and Yuma. This seemed unfairly intrusive (so close!) and I wrote a long email to the UDC person responsible, explaining how long we had been at Sheridan School (over 20 years) and how many farmers depended on our market and how good it would be if we could avoid this dog-eat-dog competition. No response from UDC.
Over the next few years the competition resulted in some minor decreases in our sales, ( the first decreases ever), but we gradually concluded that our great customers (you!) were so satisfied with us and so loyal to us that we could hold our own.
Then last summer came the “Cleveland Park Farmers Market”, another effort of the merchants, this time at Connecticut and Ordway, to take advantage of farmers to attract shoppers. But, we thought, WE are ALREADY a Cleveland Park farmers market. And we’re only a few blocks away!
So the obvious problem is that if there are to be farmers markets every few blocks NONE of the farmers can have a big enough market share to make a living. As the above listings of our farming challenges indicate, it’s already a nearly impossible way to make a living. If you add excessive marketing competition, that could easily be the last straw. Market placements need to reasonable, or at some point many farmers will fold.
Well, I just wanted to make that point. Thanks for reading, and if you have any ideas in response, or suggestions for solutions, please let me know.
The (sporadic) secret word for this week is “competition”. Welcome to your 5% discount!
See you Saturday,