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Pamela Bond's Blog

An idea from Food, Inc.: store-operated farmers’ markets

The other night I finally had a chance to watch Food, Inc. The movie covered familiar, albeit still fascinating, territory.

On one hand, the movie threw me back to my teen years, when I first became a vegetarian (I’m not anymore; I’m just picky) and when I worked a part-time job at a “health food” store (The Bread Shop in Chicago, circa 1991). After watching the movie, the glass-half-empty woman inside me wondered, Has anything improved in the past 20 years?

On the other hand, the popular movie has screened at sold-out venues. Maybe the time is finally ripe for change. Another case in point: The plethora of recent food-horror and eco-living books (think Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and No Impact Man and Farewell, My Subaru and Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet) have gained such mass appeal that they’ve earned a label from the venerable New Yorker: fad.

How do we turn what may well be a fad into a lasting thing? And how do we make sure that natural products stores are still vital in the new food order?

One of the recommendations in Food, Inc. is to buy local at farmers’ markets. If consumers bite, will this take business away from your store? Has it already?

If you’re Summer Auerbach, vice president of operations for Louisville, Ky.-based Rainbow Blossom Natural Food Markets, you see an opportunity to lure locavores rather than a threat to your business. (She’s clearly a glass-half-full woman.) Rainbow Blossom’s flagship shop on Lexington Road just wrapped up a third season of holding a Sunday farmers’ market in front of the store. Auerbach says that the market is now the third busiest in Louisville. Far from taking away from the store’s bottom line, the market has increased sales, and because it operates on Sunday, Rainbow Blossom’s market doesn’t compete with other Saturday markets in the city.

“It has added to sales because of the extra foot traffic,” says Auerbach. “It offers a one-stop shopping feel.”

For more on Rainbow Blossom’s farmers’ market and Summer Auerbach’s creative strategies for success, look out for NFM's February issue. Also, Auerbach will be leading the retail store tour at Expo West in March. Should be a great trip.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about Food, Inc. and store-operated farmers’ markets. Sound off below.

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