Ah, the farmers’ market. The trend of this decade, the crown jewel of the local food movement. In our town, the farmer’s market has become an event of festival proportions. We have cheese makers, musicians, mushroom farmers, photographers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers — not to mention hundreds of adults and children, canvas bags and wicker baskets in tow, ready to partake in the local offerings. As my partner and I strolled through the crowded market this morning, lemonade and peach pie in hand, I began to wonder…why all the hype?
Sure, all the produce and products are local, mostly organic, and hand-crafted with care. That’s wonderful. But there must be something else that’s caused the farmers’ market phenomenon to go so “viral.” As I watched a woman in a cowboy hat, grizzled face, and earth under her finger nails, hand a box of potatoes across her table in exchange for $5 from an elderly lady…it hit me. Connection. Engagement. The golden tickets we talk about in PR and marketing. What an amazing thing to be able to shake the hand of the person who grew the potatoes you’re about to eat.
Even beyond the real-time connection generated at the market itself, I got to thinking about “the long tail of marketing” and the shift from large mainstream markets to more niche products and services.* If a man who melts beeswax into candles shaped like cows isn’t a niche provider, then I’m not sure who is. These vendors are in the perfect position to take advantage of their long tail status and talk (market) directly to their loyal customers on a daily basis.
And some of them have started doing just that. Once the peach pie was gone, I began to count the number of vendors that I follow on Twitter. I realized that at least 5 vendors had communicated with me that morning, before I even arrived at the market, and those interactions had shaped my plan and expectations for my farmers’ market experience. Brian of Only Burger had told me to expect a veggie burger with a fried green tomato and pimento cheese, Dolly of Dolly Mama chocolates let me know to expect Celebrity Dairy Cajeta Caramels with Salty North Carolina Peanuts, and Ms. Santiago of Liberacion Juice Station told me not to expect her truck because they would be celebrating a two year old’s birthday. Truly amazing.
The bottom line? I believe the hype. Social media is bringing us all closer, and businesses that are embracing this — no matter how small their niche — are reaping great benefits. Don’t believe me? Do a search on Twitter for the vendors at your farmers’ market. They’re out there just waiting to talk to you about their niche products and services.
Now…if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to look up the beeswax candle guy on Twitter.
1) David Meerman Scott (@dmscott); The New Rules of Marketing & PR (2010).
2) Chris Anderson (@chr1sa); The Long Tail, Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More (2006).