The Melon Problem
(Please, feel free to insert any produce/flower/harvestable commodity of your choice in place of melon throughout this blog. The lesson is the same. I just happen to like melons, and I thought this to be a catchier title than “When your beans are strung.”)
You planted a lot of melons because, well, people like melons. Your neighbor planted melons because he knows that people like melons too. The local farm stands can’t handle all of the melons; the grocery stores only want melons from suppliers that can supply melons all year long; and the local restaurants can only use so many of the melons. So there your melons sit. Stacked against the wall. Or maybe even rotting in the field – because, why incur the labor expense to pick them if you have no where to sell them? If only there were a market place for your melons…
WELCOME to Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction! Your wholesale local melon.and.all things.you.can.grow market place.
Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction, which I’ll call “SVPA” for short, began operating in 2005 in order to provide a wholesale market place for commercial producers to sell their harvest, whatever the harvest may be, at market prices, whatever those may be. Here’s the scoop – but first, my disclaimer: I don’t always get everything right (my husband totally disagrees with that statement *wink*wink*), so if you’re reading this solely for the factual content, consider the source. It’d be best if you verified these possibly.true.alternative.facts with the fine folks at SVPA. But here’s how I see it, or heard it, and/or understood it. (I’m totally losing my credibility here – I digress.)
A Problem & A Solution
Local farmers in the Shenandoah Valley realized that there was a dwindling market for their produce. Farm stands could only take so much, grocery stores only wanted so much, and restaurants could only use so much produce at one time. The farmers needed a better market for their produce. #theproblem
What do really smart and motivated folks do with a problem? They create a solution, of course! #Thesolution was to organize and build a wholesale produce auction where farmers could sell their goods in an open and free market. It works like this: Farmers bring their harvest to SVPA for consignment, a superb open air facility. Wholesale buyers and the occasional retail purchaser (for a premium) bid on the produce/flowers/whathaveyou that are available that day and the highest bidder on each lot drives away with fresh, local and in-season produce, flowers, and the whathaveyous (think compost, shrubs, gourds, etc.). SVPA takes a percentage of the sale price for its costs and the farmer gets a check for his/her harvest. It’s a fairly simple concept. Producers need to sell, buyers want to buy, and they need a competitive market to transact. Insert SVPA. SVPA arose from a common vision, unwaivering gumption, and some pretty gnarly leadership. SVPA began as an idea and a plat of dirt. Today, it is a thriving, bustling, community stapple that serves more than one purpose. By improving the market available to local producers and buyers, SVPA improved its community and the lives of local farmers. It’s a sight to see and I encourage you to do just that! #takesomechangeforpie #andicecream
The Melon Moral
Next time your melons are against the wall (figuratively, or not), remember this tale of the melons who couldn’t be moved and the community leaders who moved melons and so much more (figuratively and literally). Solutions begin with us. Better communities begin with us. Agriculture, at its best, begins with us.
Thank you to Shenandoah Valley Produce Auction and Jeff Heatwole for graciously hosting the VALOR Fellows and mentoring us and countless other leaders in agriculture along your path.