What Is Competition?
In the last month, I’ve sat in on countless meetings. I mean, seriously, I cannot begin to list all the meetings I’ve attended since mid-March. I’ve officially stopped booking them for the next two months in fact. I digress.
In the last month, I can count several important conversations with other farmers markets. Some of these meetings I sought, others came looking for me. I took them all, however, because I think it is vital to communicate with others in the business.
Success breeds competitors, it breeds copycats, it breeds innovators. We are in the midst of our 10th season of markets, I am going to venture we are doing something right. It only makes sense that others are going to follow suit. So, a couple of years ago Cowpens established a market. Grain Loft opened and has been doing great work in the western part of the county. Last year, Woodruff rolled out a farmers market. In Travelers Rest, a force of nature blew through and completely changed that market into something big and wonderful (hi Adrienne!). We know the markets in Columbus, Tryon, and Saluda are trying to grow. Yesterday, I heard from someone in Inman about a farmers market being launched there. Later this year, Hub City Co-op launches a downtown grocery store in Spartanburg. We share Northside Harvest Park with the Monarch Cafe and Fresh Food Store. We are far from alone in the local food business, and that’s ok with me. Competition and choice are the lifeblood of a healthy business.
We have a simple rule in the office when we discuss the markets. We are all required to ask “Are things good for our customers now? Are they good for our customers 5 years from now?” If we answer yes, we can expect we are on the right track. If we answer no, we have to work to get to yes. When our customers have more choice, when they have competition, it is good for them, now and in the future. It’s also good for our farmers and vendors. It’s especially great for us.
A wide range of choices for our customers, whether we call it competition or not, forces us to think. It makes us examine what we do, why we do it, and what we can do better. It makes us work harder for our customers and vendors, too. It puts you at the head of the line, which is where you should be, right? We have to remember that constantly if we want to continue to set the standard for the local food market scene. So, we happily work with other markets, we share our knowledge, we help get them on the SNAP bandwagon. We advocate for them and their farmers. It is all part of our mission of increasing the supply, demand, and access to healthy, local food.
In truth, we need to embrace competition and choice. It reflects on the good work we have done, and points the way to great work we all can do in the future. Competition will make us better. More choice means we are getting closer to fulfilling that mission. It’s good for you now, and good for all 5 years from now.
See you at the market ~