Megan Penn, Board Director of the Old Towne Orange CA Farmers and Artisan Market
Food isn’t produced the same as it used to be in the early 20th Century. Before World War II, produce and livestock were handled without chemicals or pesticides to provide a quality product to consumers.
Some cite high prices as a main reason why they buy food from supermarkets instead of organic products at farmers markets or from organic specialty stores. But Collin Dunn of Treehugger argues otherwise: in the past few years, the US saw a 17-20% increase in organic food sales whereas more commercial products only increased about 2-3% per year. Matthew Saltmarsh of New York Times reported that the allure of organic produce and livestock is providing consumers with greater health and environment benefits.
Old Towne Orange CA Farmers and Artisan Market is a supporter of organic, local grown produce and local products where students and Old Town Orange citizens can support their local farmers and live healthier. Located in the historic packing house district parallel to the train tracks and diagonal to the Dodge College of Film, the Old Towne Orange CA Farmers and Artisan Market is open every Saturday from 8 AM – 1 PM. The market opened for business on May 7, 2011 with 2500 in attendance; many made trips to the Farmers Market a permanent routine.
I met Megan Penn, the board director of the Farmers Market, two Saturdays ago when she was welcoming visitors to the market. She graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a Bachelors of Science in City and Regional Planning with an emphasis on Urban Design. After graduation, she returned to Orange, envisioning a farmers market like the one she visited by her college campus and set out to make her vision a reality. (This is an excerpt of the 45 minute interview)
Kunze: What do you think makes buying local, organic produce so appealing versus from a supermarket?
Penn: I like getting the chance to talk to the farmer about how they grew my food. I think its great to know that you are buying produce with the knowledge that it didn’t have to travel far to reach you; you know it either has been picked fresh today or yesterday. But I feel its more important to buy local produce to support and get to know the farmers making your food than just buying organic.
Kunze: What was the funniest moment you ever had working this event?
Penn: Oh gosh…the funniest moment ever? (eyes wander as she taps her fingers on her Starbucks cup) There was one day when the skies looked bad and all of sudden, it started raining hail for 15 minutes. Everyone ran under cover for protection and then we started laughing about it. I mean, because how do you plan for hail?
Kunze: Where do you see the future of this market in 10 years?
Penn: Becoming hugely successful but not in this location. Ideally, I love to have a street farmers market where 3 blocks of Glassell would be closed off for farmers, vendors, and visitors. I’d love to see hot food options being served where some guests could come to the market and buy something ready made to enjoy while looking around. And have more education ideas and opportunities happening around the booths. I only see positive things for this market.
Kunze: Do you have any advice for those attempting to start up their own business or a community event such as a farmers market?
Penn: Do lots of research. And create a business plan – that’s something that we should have done but we sort of just jumped right into it. And its very important to get to know your local politicians as this will make it easier to have things move along more smoothly.