Carving Out a Living at the Haile Farmers Market
Locals turn to ingenuity, discover freedom and profitability
So many people dream of owning their own business. A brave few with a bold idea actually do strike out on their own, but few remain in business past their first anniversary. Entrepreneurism has its risks but for those with and itch to start their own business the ultimate reward is realized when the change in mindset happens. Going from being someone’s employee to becoming your own boss is worth it in the end.
The Haile Farmers Market has been providing a venue for entrepreneurs to sell their wares and meet and interact with customers since 1999. Patrons of the market can find locally sourced fruits and vegetables, meats, cheese, eggs bread, soap, as well as other hand crafted, one-of-a-kind treasures.
The Haile Farmers Market welcomes buyers and vendors every Saturday from 8:30 to noon, rain or shine. Buyers at the market get access to fresh, local food and enjoy interacting with the farmers who oftentimes plant and harvest the food themselves. By cutting out the middleman, organic food grown with sustainable practices can be profitable for vendors and affordable for consumers.
Vendor Cody Galligan of Siembra Farms says, “Farmers markets keep local small farmers in business. Without them, we couldn’t compete with large grocery chains.” Galligan says it is rewarding to able to make a living without having to deal with corporate bureaucracy and to be able to deal directly with his customers. Galligan, along with many others, have found owning their own business and leveraging the Haile Village Farmers’ Marketing to be both financially fruitful and intrinsically rewarding.
Kuma’s Playpen Ranch
Ruth Macheski had a full and rewarding career as a nurse in the health care industry. Throughout her career, Macheski learned that good nutrition is the foundation of health. This sparked a strong interest in growing organic food, which further lead to the purchase of a 40-acre farm near Williston, which she named Kuma’s Playpen Ranch. Macheski says she loves the farm because it allows her to experiment with organic vegetables and raise swine, cattle, horses, goats and chickens. Before the Haile Farmers Market was founded, Macheski says she enjoyed working the farm in her spare time, but only sold her goods to a few friends and neighbors. “They were thankful for what they could get from me, but complained there were no markets for fresh, home grown food in the Southern Alachua County area. There was definitely an unfulfilled niche,” says Macheski. It wasn’t long before she and few other farmers approached Haile Village Center to establish the Haile Farmers Market.
That was 18 years ago. Kuma’s Playpen Ranch is still earning new customers on a weekly basis, and over the years, the market improved the farm’s cash flow so much that Macheski decided to transition from being a fulltime professional health care provider to fulltime farmer.
Cody Galligan was raised in South Florida and made his living as a finish carpenter. After his children were born, he worried about the nutritional quality and safety of the mass- produced food available. Finding organically grown local food was challenging, so Galligan decided to experiment with large gardens to supplement his family’s consumption. He later worked on a fully operational farm for a season and eventually bought his own land.
Galligan has now transitioned completely to farming as his primary source of income. Siembra Farm is certified organic by the Florida Organic Growers and currently employs five workers. Galligan oversees the operation, which includes planning the annual crop, preparing and tilling the land, seeding, irrigation, crop maintenance, harvesting, sales and marketing, accounting duties and ensuring government compliance.
Galligan says he prefers working directly with consumers and explained the benefits. First, he gets a much better understanding of his customers’ desires. Secondly, by cutting out the middleman, Siembra Farm can be competitive with corporate grocery chains. And lastly, selling directly provides him the opportunity to market the organic foods concept by word of mouth without incurring additional costs.
Shalini Rao was born and raised in India. She earned her degree in accounting before immigrating to the United States. Rao enjoyed her career in the accounting field, but found that balancing her responsibilities between family and work to be a challenge.
With the full support of her husband, a professor at the University of Florida, and their two children, Rao decided to start her own business in 2006. Always an advocate for nutrition, she says, “I never liked cooking with manufactured seasonings or using food with artificial additives.” Years of experience working with only natural seasonings led her to leave her accounting job and establish Sara’s Seasonings.
In 2009, Rao opened her booth at the Haile Farmers Market. Like many of the vendors at the market, Rao enjoys having direct access to her clientele. In the past, Rao says she tried marketing her seasonings to cafeterias, restaurants and even the local school lunch programs. “But,” she says, “I found much more success when I could speak directly to the end consumer.” Rao interacts with her customers, establishing relationships with them and listening to their needs. These conversations recently lead her to offering cooking classes. All of Rao’s classes incorporate her organic spice mixes, allowing current and potential customers to fully experience her hand-crafted spices.
Fehrenbacher Artisan Sausage
Adam and Tatania Fehrenbacher specialize in making gourmet sausages. Over the past 20 years Adam has worked and studied the culinary arts in the United States, London, Vienna, Paris and Munich. Tatania, whom he met while they were both were working on the island of St. Thomas, assists him with most other aspects of the business.
Until recently, Adam was a fulltime Chef de Cuisine at Mildred’s Big City Foods and the New Deal Café. His sausage company, Fehrenbacher Artisan Sausage sprang up from customers’ requests wanting to buy his unique links in flavors like ginger and sage breakfast sausage, Mexican chorizo and hot garlic in bulk to take home. Adam rose to the occasion, and at his boss’ prompting, opened a booth at the Farmers Market.
Adam recently resigned as a chef and has set out on his own, vastly expanding his product line and establishing a presence at other area markets. The couple aspires to open a hand made gourmet sausage store in downtown Gainesville later this year.