Sheila Keller Powell- Farmers’ Market Geography Lessons

Sheila is part of the Utah Geographic Alliance, a semi-retired teacher / “preacher”/ presenter providing resources for teachers, and is always promoting the “gospel” of geographic literacy….wherever she roams.

image_kellerpowell_1.JPGI have been following the exponential growth of farmers’ markets in our state (UT) for several years. Most of our bigger cities and smaller towns now have farmers’ markets as outlets for fresh “locally” grown, lower cost fresh vegetables/fruits, and as community gathering events. My small town, which is agriculturally-based & under pressure from rapid urbanization, has a privately run farmers’ market, but has few truly agricultural vendors (instead it has more art/crafts vendors).  I was convinced our town needed a “true” (agricultural produce and products only) farmers’ market, and so I went to our community council meeting to propose the idea of a farmers’ market in our town.  I did my homework in order to prepare for the meeting; and geography was at the top of my list.  Apparently I convinced the community council of the need for a farmers’ market, because I quickly found myself, along with a volunteer from the community council, in charge of organizing and co-managing a small farmers’ market in my town for about 7 weeks August-October of this year. WOW! What a lot of work, and geography was involved at every turn in the organization process:

1)    Location of the FM (City Park? Private or business property?)
2)    Size of location (large enough for vendor tents, produce trucks, etc.?)
3)    Road and parking access (for buyers and vendors/farm vehicles?)
4)    Advertising (where to place signs to get the most attention?)
5)    Demographics and economics of surrounding communities
6)    Available “Local” crops and orchards
7)    What is “local”?  Some crops are just not available from my town, so looked to Central Utah for several crops/vendors.
8)    Transportation of crops to farmers’ market site (lots of freeway
construction caused traffic delays, road closures and detours)
9)    Location and dates of neighboring farmers’ market communities
10)    Learning and understanding town/county/state health, tax, special event codes


Our small, but very successful Farmers’ market has closed now for the
season, but we are already making plans for next year’s market.  No pun
intended here, but our farmers’ market really became a “field action”
geography project. Geography helped me find a great location,
understand local demographics and economics, produce/vendors location
accessibility, and locally grown specialty items like heirloom melons;
and bee pollen, and has helped me to become better acquainted with the
agricultural aspects of my own town and state!

Yes, geography was an important means for our farmers’ market this
year, and will be for the future, too. We’re looking to the local high
school FFA students for not only produce, but possibly working on a
GPS/GIS project to collect data about crops/orchards grown in our area.
We’re even planning to work with community groups to help gather and
transport produce to our FM from farms short-handed for help or

To all who frequent, organize, or bring produce/products to farmers’
markets, I’d love to hear how geography has influenced your market!!
Tell us about your geographic solutions or suggestions to problems. 
I’d also like to know what you think “local produce” means, or your
experiences with different types of farmers markets.  Why do you think
they are so popular, and/or are important events for a community?
All farmers’ market “GEO-ideas” are welcome!!

Check out Sheila’s blog!

One thought on “Sheila Keller Powell- Farmers’ Market Geography Lessons

  1. Sheila,
    As a teacher in Utah, I love your site! It has so many interactive things to do right in the classroom from my computer and projector.
    Since I was born in the area where you are doing the Farmer’s Market, I am thrilled to see the “old-fashioned” market that was there as a child. Some of my earliest memories are stopping at those markets as a little girl. To this day, when I bite into a Golden Delicious apple from the area, I am a 4 year old again!
    I am curious about things I’ve heard…that this region has some of the richest nutrients in the soil, thereby giving the fruit a fresh and distinctive flavor. I would like to add this idea to your further use of geography to promote the fruits and vegetables!
    Wonderful ideas, website, and by the way…delicious jam! I will be frequenting your market next summer!
    Thanks for all you do for education and the State of Utah in the way of geography! You truly are the Geo-Queen!!!
    A thankful teacher….

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