Aug 7, 2008

Style Weekly - at it again

An open letter to Style Weekly (its editor, reporters, advertisers, and readers),

Wednesday arrives again, bringing with it a new edition of Style Weekly and another unfair sleight to the 17th St Farmers Market and its vendors. We'll leave aside the preponderance of errors in the most recent article, entitled Fresh From the Farm, and focus instead of its message, overt and implied. The article described each of Richmond's farmers markets, highlighting their attributes but only in the case of 17th St, also its foibles. It gives the impression of poor performance at a farmers market that continues to hold its own, just as it has through recessions, droughts, and hurricanes.

First, the proportion of crafters to growers is mentioned as if this condition is singular to 17th St. By way of example, South of the James Market, clearly the favorite child of this publication, features even more crafters and with less concern for quality, diversity and handcrafted-ness.

Regarding the “outdated” schedule, we openly admit that work-day day-time hours are not ideal for everyone, but then no schedule could be. Many patrons find our hours convenient as they live or work nearby. Additionally, it bears noting that three of the five largest, most successful farmers markets in the nation are open during the work week.

A word on parking. In addition to on-street parking, 17th St Farmers Market has a tree-lined lot mere feet from north end of the market and a large lot just beyond that (entrance on 18th). All these parking options are free for shoppers.

The vendors one sees each week are local small business owners, people with families to feed and mortgages to pay. To survive, particularly in the current difficult economic climate, a vendor cannot afford to waste a single day. They must go where their customers will be to be able to earn a living. The vendors depend on the customers and the customers depend on the vendors. If attendance of one drops, the numbers of the other cannot be sustained. Your disparaging comments only serve to make a trying situation worse for the vendors who appear at 17th St loyally every Thursday, some of whom have for decades. They paint an unfair picture of a fictitiously inferior shopping experience.

Each of the farmers markets in the Metro Richmond area serves a different, distinct community. Each market is, in effect, created by the community which its serves. Each market is a different as their location and their patronage. Given the wide array of venues and days, there is no reason that all five of the markets listed could not succeed simultaneously. Ergo, there is no valid reason to denigrate one market over the others.

In the future, please review your articles for tone and fairness more thoroughly. There is no valid reason to single out one farmers market as superior or inferior to the others, particularly given the considerable over-lap of vendors and the overall pro-farmers-market environment in Richmond.

myself and 80% of the vendors I spoke to today


Jason Roop said...

Thanks for your feedback on the story. I'm happy to speak with you about it further. But it's difficult to see a point at which you might be satisfied. We chose to feature local farmers' markets as a cover story, with several pages of beautiful photos in full color, written by one of our most talented food writers. There was an editing error in which one paragraph, unfortunately and regretfully, was moved below the heading of the wrong farmers' market, and of course we're doing everything we can to correct that error. You may reach me at Style during business hours: 804-358-0825, or by e-mail at

Jason Roop

Anonymous said...

Also note how the article has glowing quotes and/or cheerleader pep talk from a vendor at every single market EXCEPT 17th St. Could they not find anyone to talk to? Did they even show up or just write the blurb from memory? They seem determined to kick it in the shins.

brandon said...

After the positive comment you left on my blog, Brandon Eats, I was surprised by your post.

I interviewed many of the vendors and heard both about their concerns for 17th St. and their preferences for other markets (most vendors I talked to attend more than one market). I felt my criticism was balanced. The other markets around town are new and have yet to weather some of the challenges the 17th Street Market has been facing in recent years. It will be interesting to see how they fare in the future. For even better suggestions and a more in-depth analysis, please follow this link to John Sarvay's blog, Buttermilk and Molasses.

My suggestion for other hours on Thursdays was a response to what I feel is an outmoded model of consumer behavior: no longer are there as many people at home during the day, shopping for the weekly groceries, as there were in the past. It's time, at least in Richmond I think, to think about those changes.

And in response to the second anonymous commenter, I never, ever write a "blurb" from memory.

I'm a dedicated supporter of local farms and markets, and have been writing about it on my three-year old blog and in Style whenever they'll let me. I belong to two different CSA's and pick up fresh milk and eggs weekly from the drop-off at the Ellwood Thompson parking lot.

As Jason wrote, I'm not sure how to satisfy everyone. I couldn't overlook some of the concerns I was hearing (and some that I felt as a consumer), but I tried very hard to write what I thought was a positive, descriptive article aimed at an audience who may not have tried some or any of the burgeoning markets around town.

And that's about all I can do. For the original version of my article--before several editing errors out of my control were made--follow this link.