“White Board Democracy: A New Community Ritual for the Farmer’s Market?” - New Myth #94 plus Interview with Carol Reed, Burlington, WI Farmers Market. New Mythology by Willi Paul Studio / Planetshifter.com
“White Board Democracy: A New Community Ritual for the Farmer’s Market?” - New Myth #94 plus Interview with Carol Reed, Burlington, WI Farmers Market. New Mythology by Willi Paul Studio / Planetshifter.com

- Appetizers -

[ 1. ] A farmers' market is a physical retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers. Farmers' markets typically consist of booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, meats, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages. They are distinguished from public markets, which are generally housed in permanent structures, open year-round, and offer a variety of non-farmer/producer vendors, packaged foods and non-food products.

Farmers' markets exist worldwide and reflect their local culture and economy. Their size ranges from a few stalls to several city blocks.

[ 2. ] John 2:13-17

13 - And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem,

14 - And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

15 - And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

16 - And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.

17 - And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.


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New Myth #94 - “White Board Democracy: A New Community Ritual for the Farmer’s Market?”

The large white board at the front entrance to the Saturday Farmer’s Market is already jumping!

One shopper wrote: “A farmer’s market requires re-visioning, re-purposing, redefining. What are the needs and benefits to the community?”

Another community voice scrawled: This needs more integration with citizens, kids and seniors - and the poor - in this town.”

Another lament: “How is a farmer’s market resilient? Why not talk about a “living incubator for permaculture and related job training?”

And this zinger: “Who is the community?”

A new ritual for an old tradition:

The Tradition is the farmer coming "to town" to sell produce and meat to City folks.

The new ritual is to raise issues during the market on the white board and then discuss them together in a town meeting at the close of business. Education and politics shared live between all people.

The promise is to transform the market into an agora for local democracy and localization.

What is sacred here? The harvest?

City Hall?

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Core Values @ Farmers Market

Nourishment, Sustainability, Relationships, Excellence and Organizational Strength are core values to Burlington Farmers’ Market. Food is at the heart and soul of our lives. Access to fresh, nutritious food is the foundation for health and human dignity. The relationships that are built by positive personal connections and cooperation are meaningful contributions to our community. By combining innovation and industriousness we can achieve our best while making the Farmers’ Market fun, functional and beautiful. A salaried Market Manager and a Board of Directors was established in 2009, made up of volunteers with different backgrounds, to help with management and direction for the market.

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Interview Carol by Willi

What is the history and original purpose of the Burlington, WI farmer’s market (FM)?

2017 start the 10th year of the market in Burlington. It started with a local business owner contacting our UW Cooperative Extension office in town. He had recently visited the market on Capital Square in Madison. Came back to Burlington and asked how we could have something like that here. I had been hired by Extension to do a survey of local markets.

I visited about 30 markets in SE WI, interviewed farmers/vendors, managers and consumers. The vision for the market was different for each of us, the local business man wanted an event that would bring consumers to Burlington, visit the market and also shop in our quaint downtown. My vision was to create a venue that local farmers/growers could sell their crops without having to travel, making food access in the city a reality and increasing income.

Was the FM always a for-profit affair? How did the idea of community manifest in today’s FM?

The market was to be a for-profit affair for the producers. We really kept fees very low, we worked on a very small budget. Sponsorship by the City is the mainstay of the market monetarily, so we have keep it on the front burner, what is good for the market, is it a benefit to the city? I am also a 4th generation Burlington girl and wanted a good for our community as well. We are very committed to the market, our producers and always try to collaborate with the city, local business and service clubs as well as food pantries.

The city funded us, but really had a very “hands off” approach and let us manage the market as we thought best. In 2011, the city administrator suggested we form a board of directors. I approached people that I knew had the best interest of the market in mind. Since then we have become a non-profit, have a treasure that keep us functional and community leaders that have helped promote the market.

Considering the current design and participation level of the FM, what needs to improve? Do you gather event data?

We continually strive to educate consumers about “local”. More consumers is always a need, events and draws to bring consumers to the market. After 10 years, consumers still come to the market in May and ask for tomatoes. We have formulated a season chart.

We do collect data, consumer totals, Food Share and Debit/Credit card totals. We have done some surveys at times as well.

Why do people go to farmer’s markets? In general, what are the benefits of the FM?

Many reason, some really want locally produced foods, want to talk to the person that grew it and understand the value. Our market is an afternoon market, so we have people that use it as a gathering place to meet friends. We also have prepared foods, so people can have dinner, and we offer entertainment.

Is the FM an incubator for new or start-up businesses?

Definitely! We have several vendors that have started at the market and have approached local grocery/specialty stores that have started carrying their products.

Are FM integrated for citizens, kids and seniors? Are the poorest among us regular visitors?

Yes, to all! We have regular Kids activities, scavenger hunts, craft days, we have local personalities come and read with the kids. We are located in a park in the center of downtown, seniors come and have dinner, listen to music, even dance on the sidewalk. We have the Quest, or Foodshare program at the market, we have a lot of products that can be purchased with their benefits.

How can a FM be resilient?

Hard question! The best answer I can give is always watching trends, listening to consumers and producers, and maybe the most vital is to always do what is the best thing for the market, not what I as manager want or think is best.

What is sustainable about a seasonal FM? Often the FM is promoted as a localized affair but is this true when vendors and goods come from 75 + miles away? Aren’t FM supposed to sell only produce?

Each market has to put their thumbprint on the market. A lot of research and thought needs to go into what the parameters of the market are. We are a producer market, all vendors grow, make produce what they sell at Burlington. We have found that there is a large part of the population that does not really cook and eat that much at home. So by having artisans, prepared foods at the market we may reach some of those that do not even know what a snow pea is, or how it might be prepared. It is our opening to educate.

Often, at the Burlingame, CA Farmers Market, it looks like just another shopping opportunity for yuppies and their baby strollers and dogs?

That is not the case in Burlington. That being said we do have stroller, and dog walkers, but most often they purchase something, so are doing producers a good thing by have a variety at the market, I say yes, it does.

Are most farmer’s markets now a pricey, luxury agora?

I can only speak for Burlington. Our producers have done their homework and know what cost of production is, so they price products accordingly. The old adage that the farmers owns the land, so it doesn’t accost him much to produce, so it should be cheap. Many have no idea what the startup cost, planting, caring, harvesting and on and on cost.

The Burlingame FM, like many events, is located on a downtown side street. Why not integrate it permanently with the ball diamond, play grounds and city gardens at Washington Park as a year-round training site for permaculture and civic discourse?

We are actually in the park, we do plant some gardens and we also have a historic log cabin and gardens that are a teaching tool that the local garden club uses and all of the food harvested there is given to a food pantry.

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Bios –

Carol Reed
Burlingtonmarket at yahoo.com

Carol Reed has managed the Burlington, WI Farmers Market from its inception in 2008. With the City of Burlington’s involvement and support the market has grown from the beginning 7 vendors to about 20 in 2017 under the direction Reed. Reed also has served as Assistant to the UW Cooperative Extension Agriculture Educator, directly relating to farmer’s markets, managers, vendors and consumers. All of these experiences have led Reed to the positions she holds now, managing 2 markets, consulting with startup markets and always building relationships with farmers’ market vendors.

Willi Paul
willipaul1 at gmail.com

As Principal of Willi Paul Studio, Willi partners with companies and individuals to provide custom contract media services including articles, interviews, edu-videos, roundtables and eWorkshops. He co-develops and expands each clients’ creative vision and excels in delivering content in a captivating and authentic way. His target clients are Start-Ups, B-Corps, Incubators and Non-Profit Organizations.

Planetshifter.com is an online community magazine, diverse database and outreach network that launched on Earth Day 2009. Planetshifter.com provides a deep database and wealth of information that includes 225 thought leader interviews with leading mythologists, permaculturists and artists, 1700 articles, 92 New Myths, 33 eBooks and 157 videos. As a globally-connected writer and activist in the Sustainability, Permaculture, Transition, SpiritNature, and New Mythology sectors, Mr. Paul is a visionary for the new global mythologist. Please find him on Facebook, LinkedIn and DPA.com.