This summer marks the 20th anniversary of KFB’s Certified Roadside Markets Program. The program provides collective advertising, promotional items, educational tour opportunities and other marketing and promotional benefits. This year there are 101 markets enrolled, as compared to 25 in 1996.
There are seven markets that have been involved from the beginning. One of them, Haney’s Appledale Farm, is operated by KFB President Mark Haney and his brother, Don.
Mark Haney vividly recalls the development of the roadside markets program, and logically so, because it was his idea.
“Back then we didn’t have anything to promote these markets – everything was about production,” said Haney, who at that time was in his fourth year on the KFB Board of Directors. “Farm Bureau had never embraced anything like this, but I thought if we could just get some trade moving among the Farm Bureau family it would help some people. I saw that South Carolina had a program. We sort of patterned ours after theirs.”
After a program logo was adopted, the next big step was publishing and distributing a guide to the markets. For many years the colorful brochure was available at interstate rest stops throughout the state. It is still widely distributed.
In the early years the program mainly involved farms selling fruits and vegetables. It evolved, however, to encompass a wide range of enterprises such as nurseries, greenhouses, farm wineries, custom food operations and agritourism businesses. This growth coincided with the state’s historic agricultural development initiative sparked by the availability of tobacco settlement funds.
The “original seven” market participants provide a good example of this transformation in the state’s farmscape, as they’ve expanded and/or implemented significant changes in reaction to the marketplace. Appledale Farm added an on-site bakery that, among several items, produces fried apple pies and caramel apples that are hugely popular.
“We’ve had to make a number of changes to make our market more attractive to visitors,” Haney explained. “Folks want to come here to be entertained. We added the bakery and displays of educational materials like harvesting equipment. We do a lot of school tours. Today, it’s all about providing an enjoyable experience and fresh products.”
Bray’s Market in Trimble County has cashed in on homemade ice cream after operator Carlos Pyles completed a course at Penn State University. He added an ice cream parlor at their market center off U.S. 42, a few miles west of Bedford.
Catering to kids has benefitted Imel’s Greenhouse in Greenup County. Operator Kenneth Imel added a playground, petting zoo and hay bale maze. Imel’s plays host to hundreds of school tours and is extremely busy during the fall season. Some schools visit from as far as 40 miles away.
Gallrein Farms in Shelby County has been a top operation for many years. Twenty years ago, it was strictly a spot to buy their famous sweet corn plus other fresh produce. But over the years Bill and Randi Gallrein made a series of changes to provide more for an expanding customer base in the metro Louisville area. They added greenhouse space adjacent to their market center to meet the exploding demand for plants. Inside the market area they added a bakery. Then there was the construction of a 6,500-square-foot pavilion for special events such as weddings and company functions. (KFB has used the facility on several occasions.) A petting zoo also was established, which is why Gallrein’s is a popular spot for school tours.
Haney said it’s been gratifying to watch the program evolve along with the marketplace.
“We’ve been able to enhance folks in this business,” he said. “Today we are dealing with a variety of operations that I feel benefit from the branding aspect of the program. Our program and others, like the Kentucky Proud program, has enabled Kentucky to do a great job of promoting this industry. This local foods movement is big; we’ve made changes to adapt.”
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