Every weekend, America’s smallest towns and largest cities are participating in one of the most basic and fundamental economic events in our nation. For longer than the national economy has been growing, regional micro-economic trends have enjoyed a boost from local farm markets. With almost 9,000 farm markets registered with the U.S.D.A. and countless more informal gatherings occurring, local exchanges offer more than simply fresh produce and crafts.
Stroll an eclectic collection of tents, booths, and trailers on a weekend and you notice something that does not exist in any grocery store, downtown shop, or mall. People are interacting and conversing…there is laughter, debate, flirting, and catching up. America’s entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the local farm market where a sale begins with a smile and a hello and ends with a relationship.
Farmer’s markets are informal and casual events without suits and ties or rules and regulations. They are relaxed, even though the day’s receipts can make or break a household. Over 8,600 true farmer’s markets are registered with the United States Department of Agriculture, and thousands more operate as craft and home fairs, arts festivals, and miscellaneous local sales or celebrations. Some are big business and some are tiny events where everyone knows each other by name. No matter the size or location, however, most markets share common themes: opportunity, success, and the American dream.
Donald Trump may have written the “Art of the Deal,” but is demonstrating quite cogently of late that any moron can be a CEO who gambles with millions…as long as there is a bankruptcy court. In the world of local markets, making millions is no big deal. The real art lies in making the first dollar of the day, in a market where every sale counts as the first. Stand Trump in a tiny booth with some local honey, a few Labrador retrievers, a crying baby, and friendly shoppers and he’ll probably call a lawyer to begin filing Chapter 11 to offset the cost of his tent and folding tables.
There is an art to being an entrepreneur and risking everything from week to week on the local market. A rainy day might mean the difference between something new for the house or a bill being paid on time.
Three years ago, Time Magazine published an article with a curious slant. They profiled careers with the least and most psychopathic personalities. Topping the list of the most psychopaths was CEOs like Donald Trump who have very little interpersonal time and skills. Successful, motivated, and focused, but isolated and self-absorbed, businesspeople like Trump have no time for the vital people skills that psychopaths often lack. Based on Trump’s recent personality flares, Americans are learning how accurate the Time profile is.
Being a people person is a must-have for any local market. Farm markets are by no means gritty places, but they are competitive. Shoppers have agendas, lists, and very often, limited funds. They make decisions carefully after tasting and trying and weighing their options. And the market is no place for a shill like Trump with his fake orange tan, hanging suits, pretense, fake people skills, and blustering windbaggery.
Sincerity goes a long way in earning that first dollar and maintaining a steady flow of customer interest and repeat sales. A good product is worthless without someone with people skills to highlight its virtues.
The local outdoor market (indoor in the winter) is an exchange of more than product for money. It is a place where friends, vendors, and strangers share ideas, tell stories, and establish, nurture, and solidify relationships. At the farm market, innovative women and men do not “hawk” their goods — the pushy are rarely welcome. Instead, they rely on sincerity, instinct, and conversation to earn a living. The risk and reward of small business independence is on display each weekend and success is in the numbers.
Two years ago, during a farm market boom, the U.S.D.A set direct sales at farmer’s markets at nearly $2 billion. Case studies suggest that close to 50% of that money remains in the local economy, as opposed to shopping at a chain store where less than 15% stays close to home. That’s good news for more than just local vendors. Markets benefit everyone in the community.
While Trump boasts of the success of the stock market in the past nine months, and crows about the economy while signing copies of “The Art of the Deal” at $25,000-a-plate fundraisers, the real economic success stories are right at home. Instead of anchoring his cabinet with billionaire CEOs, Trump should have looked to a more profitable group of advisors in building his administration. Maybe then, his approach to government would have been more farm-market friendly and less clownish carnival barker.