The Livingston Farmers Market is now in its ninth
year under the direction of Western Sustainability
Exchange. The market has grown into a significant
community and economic development force.
This market has a relaxed, festival feel to it, according
to Annie Conley, Program Director for WSE.
“Located in Sacajawea Park at the bandshell, it is
framed by the Absaroka Mountains and bordered by
the Yellowstone River,” Conley said. Families and
friends enjoy prepared food and live music while
shopping for fresh local produce, meat and art.
When WSE took over the Livingston Farmers
Market, the record high for vendor participation
was around 30. On busier days they consistently see
70 vendors or more. That has led to an increase in
shoppers. Last year the market generated $174,000
for vendors, Conley said.
“WSE focuses primarily on agriculture and sustainable
management as a way of conserving our unique
landscapes and resources—economically, environmentally,
and socially,” said Conley, “Two-thirds
of Montana’s land base is in the care of agricultural
producers. Sustainable practices on those lands will
protect what is so special about this region.”
In the Young Entrepreneurs Stewardship program,
WSE jointly holds a camp with Links for Learning,
Junior Achievement and 4-H Biz Kids. WSE teaches
sustainable business practices and helps kids come
up with ideas for the Livingston Farmers Market
“Youth Booths.” The kids fill out their own registration
form, pay their weekly $2.50 vendor fee and
take charge of promoting and selling at their booths.
The vendor fees from “Youth Booths” are collected
at the end of the year; the kids choose a local nonprofit
and then present the organization with those
fees at WSE’s Holiday Farmers Market on the first
Saturday in December.
WSE works on the infrastructure of the local food
system through not only the Livingston Farmers
Market, but also with programs such as the Market
Connection Program, The Montana Farm to Restaurant
Connection and Local Foods Commerce
Days – training, connecting, and promoting buyers,
sellers, processors and distributors. This 17-year old
non-profit also helped the Bozeman Winter Farmers
Market get off its feet. “We bring together players
in the local food system and help them hash out
their problems,” Conley said.