What started as a small produce and craft market has evolved into a flourishing and lively community event. Since WSE started operating the Livingston Farmers Market twenty years ago, the addition of food and beverage vendors, entertainment, and service-oriented educational opportunities have turned it into a place to be every Wednesday evening throughout the summer.
“The biggest change over the years is that it went from being a farmer’s market, which was really just for produce, to seeing an opportunity for small craft businesses to also provide their products to customers who were looking for different things,” Lill Erickson, Executive Director of WSE said. “Once we moved the location to the Miles Park area, and realized we had access to the bandshell, we thought ‘Hey, we could actually have music!’ Then it started to evolve into ‘Well, if we can have music, how about other services the area provides?’ and so on.”
Thus, every week throughout the summer, different local musical ensembles, bands, and playgroups entertain, while service groups, such as hospital staff, fire department, or forest service, provide fun yet valuable insights. By offering more attractions, the larger the crowds became, and the more vendors snagged the opportunity to showcase their wares.
Creating a Resilient Local Economy
Many local entrepreneurs have gotten their start at the Livingston Farmers Market. Per and Barb Gunness, owners of the Wolf Ridge Lamb and Wool farm in Paradise Valley, were able to secure a contract with Xanterra, the concessionaire for numerous national parks, including Yellowstone and Glacier Park, by generating enough customer base through the market to increase their herd.
Tumblewood Teas out of Big Timber also got their start at the farmers market. Once their customer base grew and they could expand their production, the company began its wholesale business. Now, Tumblewood Teas can be found in gift stores throughout the nation.
“WSE’s Livingston Farmers Market was by far the most well-run and welcoming outdoor venue I had ever attended. Wednesdays at the market were always a joy! It was the perfect place to introduce our artisan line of teas to new customers, as well as connect with potential wholesale buyers such as Chico Hot Springs. It was a match made in heaven that has lasted for eleven years and began at the Livingston Farmers Market!” –Riza Gilpin, Tumblewood Teas
Tumblewood Teas also helped a young entrepreneur get a taste of ownership in the market by allowing him to continue to sell their teas for a percentage of the sales. He expanded his business to include baked goods, which was his real passion. “We had a young entrepreneurial steward program where we were teaching children how to be green entrepreneurs,” Lill recalled. “We held a week-long camp in the morning where we taught kids the fundamentals of general business practices, regenerative business practices, and then helped them develop a business idea.”
Over the last twenty years, WSE has created special partnerships throughout the community to provide resources. Currently, in conjunction with the Community Food & Agriculture Coalition, the Livingston Farmers Market is proud to offer the Senior Farmers Market Nutritional Program, where low-income seniors 65 and older can receive $48 in coupons for fresh fruits, vegetables, and honey. The market also provides a space where the Livingston Food Resource Center hosts the Healthy Families Tent, where they distribute tokens to families in need toward produce while also offering social services such as access to educational materials and community professionals.
In striving to become a zero-waste market, WSE also partners with Park County Environmental Council and Happy Trash Can. With the help of volunteers, market-goers are educated on the difference between trash, compost, and recyclable items. Since implementing the program, the market has reduced its waste by 75%.
Looking Toward the Future
Although WSE’s mission extends beyond the farmer’s market, it is a vehicle used to strengthen and expand market opportunities for local producers and educate the general public about the importance of regenerative practices. The market is continually looking for new vendors and is excited to welcome a poultry vendor in an effort to diversify its offerings. July 20th is Healthy Soils Day and will feature water infiltration and living soil demonstrations to show the differences between regenerative and conventional management on our landscapes.
“This year’s market kicks off on June 1st with Wildfire Preparedness Day and Park High Music Showcase,” Shannan Mascari explains. “It is truly an event for the whole family, and we look forward to spending each Wednesday evening with our supportive community!”
For more information on attending or selling at the market, please click here.