With spring comes farmers markets, which for many coffee roasters represent an important revenue stream and marketing opportunity. But as the trend toward local food sourcing continues to develop, many coffee roasters are being shut out of more purist farmers markets, as their products may be grown thousands of miles away.
In an interesting piece in the local edition of the Washington Post, several Washington D.C. areas shared stories about how their businesses are being held back by farmers market organizers who don’t allow products grown in other locales. Here’s Post reporter Ian Shapira:
As dozens of area farmers markets gear up for their busy spring and summer seasons, their managers face an increasingly contentious conundrum: Are they purists devoted to local farmers? Or are they free-wheeling capitalists who don’t mind a few vendors hawking New Jersey kosher dill pickles or Dominican Republic chocolates mixed in with local farmers offering dry-aged, pasture-fed bison that is, by the way, low in fat and cholesterol?
For example, Fresh Farm Markets, a D.C.-area nonprofit that runs 10 farmers markets, including the well-attended Sunday Dupont Circle Farmers market, doesn’t allow vendors in any of its markets to sell products from non-local farms.
“It’s pretty expensive to participate in Dupont, but in terms of the amount of money you can make and the amount of coffee you can move, it would be pretty remarkable to sell there,” Joel Finkelstein, a cafe owner and local coffee roaster, told thePost.
Finkelstein and other roasters have an interesting argument that their product is local. Although not farmed in the D.C. area, much of the product was developed locally. Writes Shapira:
Who gets admitted and rejected also raises a more philosophical question hovering over farmers markets: Is a “local” product something grown and raised within a certain geographic area? Or can “local” mean something more expansive — a raw product from elsewhere transformed here in a significant way?
The full story: Washington Post