There are a LOT of Farmer’s Markets in the US. In fact, one statistic says that there were over 8,000 in 2014, and I’m sure that number has grown. From neighborhoods in large cities to popup markets that happen once a month and one-stop shopping experiences, you can find just about any style of market you want.
But, none of the ones I have attended are anywhere near as cool as the one that happens at The Amp in St. Augustine every Saturday and a couple of nights a month. From handmade gifts to farm-fresh food, you can get just about anything you want all while listening to local music and drinking a cup of fair trade coffee or glass of kombucha.
And, although our Farmer’s Market has always been great, I credit the sheer coolness of its current state to the woman running it and her team.
I met Katie Provow 6 years ago when I started my first business. She was a waitress at the restaurant next door to our office. She is smart, kind and funny. She has a smile that shows in her eyes as much as her mouth. And she owned roosters.
Yep, she was the rooster lady. I had only recently discovered farm-fresh eggs and was mesmerized. I couldn’t believe how much better they tasted!
Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Katie professionally and personally. She is truly dedicated to spreading the message of clean local food to her community. She is also completely non-judgy about it.
She’s a big fan of out-of-the-box thinking too and fearless. When the contract came up for the market a few years ago, she threw her hat in the ring even though she had never run anything of this magnitude, and won! She also partnered with Fresh Access Bucks to double the food-stamp dollars spent at the market, and she’s already signed on to help me spread the message of Florida for Good to the vendors and farmers she works with.
Last year they piloted a Night Market that has all the same energy of the Saturday morning market - except amplified. This brought the Farmer’s Market experience to a whole new group of people who aren’t the “Saturday morning veggie shopping crowd” and prefer to shop drinking a local beer and eating scratch food from a Food Truck. It was a huge hit!
She’s also really good at knowing what she knows and what she doesn’t and asking for help. This is one of my favorite characteristics in a person. And she does it all with her husband while they raise their adorable daughter.
Although the number of businesses owners who are following their passions and creating conscious businesses is growing steadily, it is still rare (in my experience) to find such a dedicated, passionate hyper-local business owner who truly manages to build a life she loves - in and outside of her business.
There’s a lot of talk in the Entrepreneur/Small Business world about being Fearless. I’ve often thought if you are really clear on your values and what you are here to bring to the world, fear is more easily replaced by urgency and determination. Katie is a perfect example of that.
My takeaway: If you are clear on your values and what you are here to do, fear can be more easily replaced by urgency and determination.
Website: St. Augustine Amphitheater Farmer’s Market IG/FB: @staugampmarket
Tell us about your business. What do you do? Who do you serve? How long have you been at it?
I am a private contractor in charge of running the St Augustine Amphitheatre Farmers Market. My husband and I formed our company to take over management of this long-standing community event in the fall of 2017. My primary responsibility is vendor and business management, my husband handles operations, and our long time friend Missy handles all of our community initiatives and social media.
We work the with the St. Augustine Amphitheatre to hold the weekly Farmers Market, which brings together about 100 food and craft vendors from around Florida. We have the best of the locally grown produce meat grown in North Florida, freshly made prepared foods of every variety, and wonderfully diverse arts and crafts. The venue speaks for itself. We've made it our mission to make the most of this wonderful community gathering space, and have sought to include as many educational and community-minded resources to the market as possible. We've also been working to perfect our twice-monthly Night Market, which offers more food and entertainment on the Front Porch. It's my dream job.
Why did you start your business?
In the spring of 2016, we found out I was pregnant about the same time we learned that our the lease on the land we were farming was definitely going to end. We had been running Ruffled Feathers Farm for three years, and just barely qualified for a USDA loan to buy our own place, but when our one possible deal fell through, we decided to keep our secure home in St Augustine and prepare for the baby.
We were lucky enough to sell the business to a family wanting to start their own small poultry operation, but we were at a complete loss as to what we'd do next. Shortly after the baby was born, we learned of the opportunity to bid on the Market contract, and in my post-partum haze I formed an LLC and wrote a proposal.
It came so naturally - we had been vendors and customers at the Market for years and knew the strengths and needs, and some of the logistics. We were regular Amphitheatre patrons, and saw so much potential for using the awesome space there to enhance the Market. Our few years in the local farming economy helped us build connections to local growers and made us uniquely qualified to bring the Market in line with the Amphitheatre’s vision for a true local Market.
That was that, and we've been at it for a year and a half. We feel so lucky to get to the do this job and are constantly inspired by the hard-working community that brings this all together - the farmers and vendors, the amazing Amphitheatre staff, and the shoppers who show up every single week.
What does "social good business" or "values based earning" mean to you?
Social good business/value-based earning is a prioritization in business of values alongside profitability. It's the practice of applying certain values or philosophies to various situations in business to guide a company toward long-lasting success.
I'm a big fan of Patagonia, which has disrupted it's industry and proved that, as founder Yvon Chouinard says, "doing the right thing makes for good and profitable business."
What is your favorite part about running a social good business or your favorite experience since you started?
I am constantly impressed at how people show up. I've been skeptical at times about asking people to adopt our values, but when we've instituted a values-based change in the Market, like our greening initiative which banned plastic bags, 98% of people jumped right on board. It has given me the confidence to continue looking to our values for guidance.
What is your biggest struggle in running a social good business?
Not everyone has the same values as me, haha!
We answer to 100 different businesses, to our community, to the Amphitheatre, and as I said before, they all have different values. There are even differences within our team, and two of us are married! But that just necessitates communication, which we all need to practice anyway.
What would you like most to accomplish in the next year? 5 years?
For the Market, we are hoping to continue to make the Market a successful outlet for any small farmer in North Florida who wants to join us, and to fulfill our potential as a community resource, in particular, to connect our community with the local food economy and with their potential as cooks and consumers.
Personally, within 5 years I hope to have a farm of our own again.
Who are your business icons, heroines or mentors?
Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia.
Our friends Caye and Jaxon, founders of disruptive technology company called Keyo.
Ryan Murphy and the rest of the staff at the St Augustine Amphitheatre.
So many different farmers and change-makers in the food world who we learn from and are inspired by, in particular our friends Dave and Ginger at Pastured Life Farm, who have kept us in the game by making use of our extra time and enthusiasm to sustain and build their farm.
What's your #1 tip for someone just getting started running a values-based business?
Stick with it, even in failure. That's the point.
What are your favorite conferences or retreats to attend?
Anything farm related.
What is the last book you read?
Hannah Coulter, by Wendell Berry