For Immediate Release . . .
Farmers' Market Experiences Lead
to New Book for New Virginia Farmer
Staunton - When Augusta County's Jeff W. Ishee joined as a participant
in the local farmers' market a few years ago, he not only got involved,
but grew passionate about direct marketing local farm products. "I'm a
listener by nature, and my customers at the market were avid conversationalists.
They repeatedly told me how important it was that small farmers come to
town on Saturday mornings to provide fresh food products straight from
the farm" said Ishee. "They were thrilled about not only buying our farm
products, but they really wanted to vocalize their concerns. Routinely,
customers would ask questions about this year's crop of so and so. They
also wanted to know how everything on the farmstead was going. It was readily
apparent to me that many wanted to keep the vital farmer-consumer link
Ishee found the subject of farmers' marketing
so fascinating that he started taking notes and keeping journals. He recorded
customers' buying habits, the most profitable and consistent items that
were selling, and how other vendors effectively displayed their farm products.
He was asked to become a member of the Staunton/Augusta Farmers' Market
executive committee, serving in the role of farmers' representative.
Having helped launch the flourishing Middlebrook publication Augusta Country
as marketing director and columnist, Ishee was well armed to delve into
researching farmers' markets across the country.
He learned that during the previous two years
(1994-1996), there had been a 40 percent increase in the number of public
farmers' markets across the nation. Apparently, there was enough keen interest
in the topic to warrant some sort of written publication for the typical
30-odd vendors at the 2,200 markets in the United States. "The original
idea" said Ishee "was to put together a small booklet, report, or collection
of marketing ideas that I could share with other farmers' market vendors."
In autumn of 1996, Ishee decided to proceed with the idea and made it his
self-described "winter project."
The first-time author made hundreds of phone
calls, interviewed dozens of prosperous small farmers, and visited several
farmers' markets in other states. He logged every interesting story that
he heard, photographed the best display methods that he came across, and
listened closely to what successful market organizers were doing. "By the
time I had finished the research phase, I knew that there was more material
than would fit into a 20 or 30-page booklet of ideas. This winter project
of mine was slowly becoming, unintentionally I might add, a publication
that would be of interest not only to the farmers, but to market managers,
market organizers, and city planners. During a couple of off-season seminars,
word got out about what I was writing and people started asking the
price of the 'book' and how they could get a copy. Well, I
gave the 'book' a title and then created a little homespun
brochure with price and ordering directions. Within a few weeks, I had
prepaid orders from 25 different states! This was before the first page
was ever printed."
Ishee articulated "As far as I know, this
is the only book currently available that is dedicated to the sole
topic of selling your farm products via the local farmers' market. Others
may have a chapter or two about the topic, but I have dedicated the entire
book to both the vendor's success and the efficient organization of a public
farmers' market. I've also included an appendix of actual testimonials
from the 'frontlines' of the marketplace, an appendix of sample market
rules, and yet another appendix of assorted stories and news releases concerning
the Staunton/Augusta Farmers' Market.
"Magazine editors, book distributors, and
retailers have inquired about the book, and now I'm getting orders for
multiple copies from municipal governments, agricultural institutes, and
grassroots farm organizations" Ishee continued. "National Public Radio
even taped an interview concerning a story they were doing on the economic
viability of small farms as we enter the 21st century. More than anything,
I hope this effort can facilitate the survival of a few more small family
farms by their becoming more profitable via the local farmers' market.
That is really important to me."
Jeff Ishee lives near Middlebrook, Virginia
with his wife Sheila and three children. He is the host of a daily, farm-oriented
radio program on WSVA in Harrisonburg. Ishee has spoken on numerous occasions
to farmers' market organizations, and has produced a slide presentation
of the best farmers' marketing ideas in use today. He has written numerous
articles for weekly and monthly publications across the United States.
The title of Ishee's book is "Dynamic Farmers'
Marketing: A Guide to Selling Your Farmers' Market Products." It
sells for $14.95 and is illustrated with b/w photographs and charts. The
book is 148 pages cover-to-cover and is softbound.