Farmers Markets and Libraries - A Perfect Partnership
by Galena Ojiem, Farmers Market Federation of NY Program Administrator
Libraries and farmers markets have more in common than one would expect. At their core, both organizations strive to support their surrounding communities and enrich the lives of the residents. They both provide so many more benefits than just promotion of a love of reading and a place to purchase local veggies: from supporting a strong local economy, to encouraging community events and programs that support youth and the elderly. Whether in a small town or a larger city, visitors to libraries as well as patrons at markets, share information and fellowship and find a place to truly feel connected to their local communities and all that these places have to offer. Although you would not normally connect these two types of organizations at first glance, markets and libraries have a lot to gain by working together because they have such similar goals.
Whether the market comes to the library or the library comes to the market, there are many potential ways for local libraries and markets to partner together on programs that advance both of their missions. One of the simplest ways is to hold a farmers market at your local library. The library parking lot, or in the winter months - an inside space, might prove an ideal location for your local farmers to set up their tables once a week. If you have available space and there are no existing farmers markets nearby, perhaps this is something your library should consider? If you already have a thriving farmers market in your town, why not take the library to the market? Work with your local market’s manager to suggest a “Library at the Market,” either as a special event or a weekly program. This can involve anything from distributing information about how to sign up for a library card and where the library is located, to holding a sale or giveaway of used or out-of-date books, to bringing library books with you that can be checked out right from your market booth. If you aren’t sure if your town already has a market, you can find a farmer’s market near you on the Farmers Market Federation of NY website. Another great way to cross-promote that doesn’t involve any staff time is to exchange signage, with the market posting a sign of upcoming library programs and events and the library posting a sign reminding their patrons not to miss the upcoming farmers markets.
Here are a few more innovative ideas about how markets and libraries can work together from market managers around the state:
“This year our farmers market partnered with our local library who received a grant to host a program for local youth called Farm Market Kids. The library set up at the market every Saturday from 10:00 to 12:00 and did themed craft activities, had books to read, played children’s music, and even had their therapy dog attend so kids could read to her. It has been such a wonderful collaboration and very successful for both the market and the library. We also had students from our local high school volunteer their time with the children. We received great feedback from our customers who loved that they were able to bring their children to the library's themed activity when they visited the market. A win/win all around!” Nichole Friedrich, Manager, Copake Hillsdale Farmers Market
“We collaborate with our local Mid York Library System through their summer read program. One summer they even featured reads related to eating and buying local foods! We had a display set up all summer with free copies of the recommended books (supplied by Mid York), and we co-promoted the final event of the program right after the school year started, featuring the author of the recommended adult book at a local theater. It really helped drive attendance at the market and helped get the word out about the reading program and Mid York Libraries." Beth Irons, Manager, Oneida County Public Market
“Our market takes place on 1 Library Green, which is the park directly in front of the New Rochelle Public Library. In the summer, the library has a hands-on children's garden staffed by a gardener who helps little hands pick radishes, peas, or plant a seedling to take home. The friends of the library book sale takes place in the lobby of the library during the same hours of our market, which benefits both the library and the market. They sometimes even wheel books out onto the green for purchase! This year I also created an outdoor reading room where market patrons can browse books on healthy eating/cooking, farming, local agriculture, etc. (including a large selection of children’s books). Books aren't for sale, but rather to be enjoyed while at the market. Jennifer Furioli, Manager, New Rochelle Farmers Market - Grand Market
As you can see by looking at these examples, the number of ways in which markets and libraries can work together are endless with a little bit of creativity and some elbow grease, as well as willing partners on both sides. If you enjoy supporting both your local library and your local farmers market, take a moment to consider some of these ideas and forge a plan to work together for the betterment of both organizations, and indeed, for your community as a whole.