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How do you measure the success of a new community project? By talking to the locals who actively participate or by taking count of the number of people who take advantage of the program’s offerings?
Both will give the Foods-Are-Us organizers a good idea of how successful their new venture has been in attracting more customers to Meeker every Saturday morning this summer to take advantage of the local and regional produce.
Talking to Dr. Albert Krueger, one of the organizers, not long after the farmers’ market began, I asked if members of the community were taking advantage of the market. While he was a bit cautious when talking about the numbers, he seemed pleased with the weekly turnout and even happier with one side effect of setting up the tents downtown. Noting the number of people who spent time visiting with the other market attendees, he pointed out the positive social interactions that had resulted from the weekly market. While the number of booths offering fresh produce is small this first summer, the fact that many residents counted on the vendors to bring a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables consistently is encouraging.
Why do many of us prefer to buy regionally grown produce? First of all, the freshness of the product is essential. Many of the vendors like to talk about their wares, often putting out a sample for potential customers to try before buying. Ripe peaches and pears lend themselves easily to this taste test and many of the regulars at the organic peach tent found this to justify paying a bit more for the product.
Another advantage is the convenience. Most of us are used to driving an hour to farmer’s markets in neighboring communities and even going directly to the “U-Pick It” farms that surround Grand Junction. The escalation of gas prices over the past few years has kept many people at home.
Familiarity with the vendors can take the guesswork out of the quality. Buyers can trace the product directly back to the producer. Most likely the product hasn’t been squeezed, jostled, bruised, or dropped before being sold — customer satisfaction guaranteed.