Farm Update and Support for the Downtown Farmers Market

Greeting Coyote Run Farm customers,

Here’s a quick farm update followed by our reaction to the inaccurate coverage of the Downtown Farmers Market by Des Moines Register columnist Lee Rood.

Here again is our schedule for August:
Plymouth Church every Wednesday night.
Downtown Farmers Market—August 2 and 16
Kitchen Collage—August 8, 22, 29

And don’t forget Farm Crawl on October 5.

Garlic harvest is the latest it’s ever been but the garlic looks great.  Potatoes look pretty good.  Onions are the best we’ve ever had.  Tomatoes are really late.  We’ve got tons of the best basil we’ve ever had.  We still have some “old girls” that need to make the transition to stewing hens.  We’re not planning a party, but if anyone would like to schedule a time to come butcher some to take home, let us know.  We’ll try to make that work.  Cows are fat and pastures are in really good shape.  The hay crop is in pretty good shape although we did have 15 acres of cut hay that received 7.5 inches of rain on it before we got it baled.  Pat’s knee continues to heal and he is fully engaged in all aspects of the farm again.  He is even planning on being at the Downtown Farmers Market on August 2nd.

Which leads into why you all are getting this update tonight.  We have dedicated nearly a decade of our summer Saturdays to being a part of the Downtown Farmers Market.  The market has been very good to us but we’ve also felt like we’ve given a lot back and are proud to be a part of this great public institution.  The Des Moines Register’s Lee Rood is dragging through the mud the farmers market and all of us who have worked so hard to make it one of the very best farmers markets in the country in her ongoing columns (July 19 and 22).  The farmers market is a crown jewel for Greater Des Moines.  We are thankful for the leadership and investment the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the Downtown Community Alliance have made to this market.  Kelly Foss, the market manager, has dedicated almost 15 years of her professional life to growing this market from a few dozen vendors and a couple thousand customers to a weekly event with over 200 small business owners and tens of thousands of shoppers.  This is a remarkable feat.  It could not have happened without this level of dedication and the support from the Partnership and the DCA.  For nearly 15 years, Foss has managed conflicts, fought to support farms, developed corporate and community relationships, fostered fantastic media coverage, and managed growth that is ongoing.  She has also had to deal with very disappointed and sometimes hostile vendors and businesses who want to be vendors.  Obviously, far more businesses want to be part of this one of a kind market than can be allowed to participate.  Also, existing vendors often have personal interests and things they’d like to do that cannot be accommodated.  During this time Foss has had to deal with disappointed and even angry people.  Sometimes these situations turn into personal attacks and are even aired in public, and it appears that has happened again.  However, after needing to explain the half truths, poor journalism, and misrepresentation of market vendor sentiment for the sixth time to some of our farm customers yesterday, we feel like the damage being done is on an unprecedented scale.  This round of attack, fully embraced and delivered by Rood, has the potential to harm the Downtown Farmers Market in very serious and lasting ways.  Those who have pitched this story and continue to be driving it in an inaccurate and motivated direction are having some success with creating an untrue narrative that the market director and her assistant are doing a poor job of directing the market, that vendors don’t like them, that vendors are scared of them, and that vendors would like to manage the market ourselves and believe we could do a better job.  All of this is simply not true.  If Rood was actually investigating this situation, she would have figured this out.  She appears to be uninterested in any factual details that might distort a really “good” story.

And here are the details we’ve pieced together about the July 5 farmers market that was the catalyst for these Watch Dog columns by Rood.  We were not there on July 5.  It was not one of the 10 dates we were scheduled for this year.  However, in our opinion and in the opinion of most of the vendors who Matt spoke with and who were there on the 5th, the farmers market director and staff made the right decision.  Those who had products highly vulnerable to the rain were allowed to leave.  Those who stayed reported great sales from 10 to noon.  The vendors Matt spoke with said there was a lot of lightning, some strong but not super high winds, and very heavy rains.  One vendor who left ran into very high winds on their way home.  Fortunately those didn’t show up downtown, but certainly could have.  The market was postponed until 10 and the weather cleared up shortly before then.  Matt has been told consistently by other vendors that the two vendors who were suspended were not suspended for selling when they shouldn’t have been but for directly and vagrantly disregarding specific directions from the market staff in the middle of a public safety situation.  This is not a family picnic.  This is a major public event with tens of thousands of people and hundreds of vendors every week.  The reporting done by Rood seems to entirely miss the reality that in order for an event of this magnitude to go off as well as it does every Saturday, positioning our farmers market as one of the best in the country, it requires a set of rules and order that have to be followed.  And in the event of an emergency or potential threat to public safety there are no warnings or second chances to defiantly disregarding directions from those in charge.  It clearly states in the contract we all signed that failure to follow direction in these kinds of cases will result in immediate suspension.  Those vendors who followed the rules either went home and saved their products from the rain or stayed and had a great although shortened market day.  Rood also suggests that the DCA has something to hide because they wouldn’t talk to her about the disciplinary situation.  She must think it’s standard practice for an entity like the DCA to fully air disciplinary proceedings in public.  Contrary to this, vendors actually appreciate the professional position of the DCA in protecting the privacy of vendors and vendor information.  This includes surveying vendors to help further develop the market but maintaining confidentiality regarding that data.

Rood appears to be talking to a select group of disgruntled vendors and letting them write the story.  It does not appear Rood has contacted any vendors other than those who have reached out to her with a grudge or a complaint.  Of the more than a dozen vendors Matt has spoken with, none of them have reported being contacted by Rood.  Matt sent her an e-mail Thursday night and offered his telephone number.  He has not heard from her.  There is another column apparently being published today, Saturday.  If Matt is quoted it’s because Rood cut and pasted his comments from his e-mail to her but didn’t actually have a conversation with him.  Roods two columns so far have relied on cutting and pasting instead of investigating and reporting.  She is reporting a story that’s inconsistent with reality.  This is a poor example of journalism with serious consequences for our community.  We have decided to become very active in sharing our disappointment with how the Des Moines Register is handling this story and to become very vocal about our support for the farmers market.  Too many people have worked too hard for too long to allow a few individuals to use the media to tear down such a valued public institution.

We are excited to both be back at the farmers market on August 2nd and look forward to celebrating the community ritual of Saturday mornings on Court Avenue enjoying the best food Iowa farmers can grow.

If you’d no longer like to receive e-mails, please let us know and we’ll remove you from our list.  You are welcome to pass this information on to others who might be interested in buying food from Coyote Run Farm.

Thanks for supporting our farm.

Matt Russell and Patrick Standley
Coyote Run Farm
1841 20th PL
Lacona, IA 50139