Volunteers are The Heart of the Carmel Farmers Market
Writer // Janelle Morrison Photography // Jennifer Hersberger and CFM
The Carmel Farmers Market is produced and managed by “community-minded” volunteers and is headed up by an equally dedicated leadership team led by the market’s President Ron Carter and Vice President Deborah Schmitz.
While a market can’t function without quality vendors, the volunteers are the heart and soul. We sat down with Schmitz and two of her fellow market volunteers, Laura Clark and Susan Bock, all from Carmel, to talk more about the relationships between the Carmel Farmers Market volunteers and vendors.
“We make it a point to talk to our vendors and to get to know them personally,” Schmitz said. “We ask them what they do and why they started their producing/selling. We develop a personal family-like connection with them, especially the ones that we go out and physically visit. The farmers are small businesses that work hard. I love that commercial that says, ‘Small business is a big business.’ As a small business owner, I get that they work harder because they are the only ones responsible for their business.”
Clark added, “Getting to know our vendors on this level gives me a new appreciation for them, and they are just so passionate about what they do.”
“There is the comfort in knowing where the food is coming from and when it was picked or produced,” Bock said. “We know where the meat is coming from. When you go to the grocery store, look at where the meat is coming from. Some of it comes from China and other countries.”
Just as Schmitz, Clark and Bock are passionate about supporting the vendors, they also wish to recognize all the volunteers who work selflessly for the benefit of a first-class market and give a heartfelt thank you to those folks.
“I had been going to the market every Saturday, and I felt like I needed something else to do and wanted to get involved,” Clark explained. “So, I just signed up, and this is my sixth summer with the market. I enjoy the constant brainstorming and coming up with fun things to do. After 20 years, we’ve got to keep coming up with new ideas and keep it ‘fresh.’ I feel like the vendors are really innovative about what they are doing, and we have to keep up with them and be a market that the vendors want to be at. We feel like we have a stake in the vendors’ success. We see how hard they are working their farms and businesses, and we want them to do well and want people to appreciate what they are doing.”
Bock moved to Carmel in 2010 and became involved with the market in 2011.
“Bruce Kimball and Jennifer Hershberger enlisted me,” she said. “I was retired and needed something to do, and Jennifer said, ‘You’ll like this group of people. You will enjoy them,’ and I did. Every year, I’ve become more involved, and it’s just my passion. You just kind of get hooked. The volunteers and vendors are fun people to be involved with. We’ve been going on vendor visits for years, and you do form a personal attachment with those vendors. They’re like family. Trust me, I enjoy the two-month break between the winter and summer markets, but I miss seeing those people. You get to know them personally and want to know what’s been going on with them.”
Schmitz added, “Laura and I go around every single week and talk to every brand new vendor. We ask them how they are doing and tell them that we take a personal stake in how they are doing at the market. And if they’re not doing well, we want to be able to help them, so that they can be successful.”
“One of the important things about the market volunteers is that we are very welcoming,” Bock said. “When we get new volunteers, we bring them right into the fold, and we’re like, ‘Come on in. You’re one of us now.’ If one of our volunteers needs help in any way, we’d all be there to help.”
“We’ve got several new volunteers this summer, and they’re doing awesome,” Schmitz said. “We feel like they’re part of the family already.”
Check the Carmel Farmers Market website, carmelfarmersmarket.com, for weekly updates on what’s new and available!