Interview with Kathleen Burns of the Moscow Farmers Market

Kathleen Burns is the arts director for the City of Moscow, overseeing the Moscow Arts Commission as well as the Moscow Farmers Market Commission.  As arts director, she oversees the Third Street Gallery in Moscow City Hall, public art planning for Moscow and directs the annual Moscow Artwalk. She also oversees the Thursday Entertainment in the Park series at East City Park and several community art classes.

As the lead for the Moscow Farmers Market, Kathleen works with several other city departments to oversee the planning and facilitation of the market. The market team includes Barry McGarrah, on-site manager, Amanda Argona, AmeriCorps volunteer, Mat Hardin, lead laborer, Heather Munson, sound technician, and DJ Scallorn, who manages paperwork and records along with press and social media promotion.

With market season upon us, we asked Kathleen to answer a few questions about the Moscow Farmers Market and the impact it’s had on the larger community.

What are some of the changes you’ve noticed with the Moscow Farmers Market from the time you started until now?

Markets across the United States are growing rapidly. This has affected the Moscow Farmers Market because more individuals are interested in participating in the market.

We are also growing new customers with the larger footprint on Main Street. The market has moved several times in its 38-year history. We started out in the Moscow City Hall parking lot, moved to Friendship Square, the Jackson Street Parking Lot and now Main Street. With each move, the footprint of the market has increased in size.

With the expansion of the market, we have seen several changes. The Moscow Farmers Market was the first market in Idaho to accept EBT/SNAP (Food Stamps). This has been a very successful partnership with Backyard Harvest.

As a produce-first market, we have encouraged many small farmers in developing their business in the market. Several new growers have graduated from the WSU Organic Farm program and this has been a benefit to the Moscow Farmers Market.

What benefits do you think the Farmers Market brings to the town of Moscow and to the broader region?

The market has become a place for friends to meet and has created a place for social equity between different parts of our society. The Moscow Farmers Market is a real community builder and it’s a place that guarantees public activity. It is a great space for interaction in a social and economic way.

The Moscow Market is one of the few markets that accept walk-on vendors. This is a great opportunity for individuals to “try out” their product and see if it is a viable option for a potential business.

By incubating small business, I think the market helps build new enterprises. Several businesses have been developed through the market: Joseph’s Grainery, Panhandle Artisan Bread Co., Sisters Cookie Company, Sticky Fingers Farm, Moscow Urban Farm/Victory Farm, Fosbiz Farm, Patty’s Kitchen and many others.

The Moscow Market offers a destination for tourists coming to the Palouse. We see many customers coming from out-of-area and they consistently comment on how much they enjoy the market and love taking home memory gifts from the market.

Is there anything new to expect for the coming season?

We will be in our second year with our High Five/HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Grant from Regence Blue Shield of Idaho. This has been a great opportunity for young children to do tasting and cooking at the market, as well as tryout new physical activities at the market.

We have a kid’s corner for young vendors who want to try selling various craft products at the market.

This year we will be in our second year of facilitating the sale of craft beer and wine at the market.

New this summer will be a demonstration on the last Saturday of the month by the University of Idaho Extension, Latah County. Everything from container gardening to the importance of pollinators will be discussed.

Several cooking demonstrations have been scheduled in the market with local chefs from restaurants in Moscow, the WSU Culinary Program and local caterers.

Several commissions have been scheduled to coordinate outreach activities in the market. Bike for Life is planning a bike event on May 16 and the Palouse Prize Ride from the Moscow Parks & Recreation Department is going to be on October 3. Fourth of July lands on a Saturday this year, and we will be hosting the annual “mutt strut” in Friendship Square at 11 a.m.

What would you say is your favorite thing about the market?

People. I love watching the variety of customers and vendors interact in the market. It is a wonderful thing to observe.

I learn a lot from customers and vendors. They are the drivers of the market. The shopper is the boss and they are so important to the success of the market.

The Moscow community supports its market, and without the citizen support, we would not have such a successful market.

We have been voted the best farmers market in the State of Idaho for three consecutive years. This is through an organization called American Farmland Trust. It is the citizens that vote for the market. It is with pride that we have accepted this award three consecutive years in a row.

-This interview originally appeared in the May, 2015 issue of The Latah Eagle.  www.thelataheagle.com.

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