Market Instability

As Gina Gavan prepares for the third season of Project Dinner Table, she’ll have one fewer enterprise on her hands: The Downtown FEED Farmers Market, which she introduced last July, will not return.

In recent years, the popularity of farmers markets has grown rapidly: Bet on the Farm! has reopened and relocated to the Springs Preserve; Henderson’s Fresh 52 has expanded to Tivoli Village; and “intuitive forager” Kerry Clasby, formerly of Bet on the Farm!, is set to open her own market on downtown’s Third Street on March 9. But Gavan feels that not enough energy has been put into supporting the small number of participating producers, who are being stretched ever thinner by the farmers-market proliferation.

“We’re doing it backward,” Gavan says. Opening market after market and assuming the farmers will just appear daily from hundreds of miles away is an unsustainable model, one Gavan thinks is bound to topple when farmers realize they don’t have the capacity to tend, transport and sell their crops without help. “It just doesn’t make any sense because we’re not creating a solution to the bigger problem: We’re not creating an agricultural system.”

Rather than contribute to the problem, Gavan has decided not to re-open FEED, and instead to redirect her own energy toward education and legislation. “Even as a state, we’re not really supporting the growth of an industry that everywhere else in the country is [supported].” In other words, Las Vegas loves the idea of farmers markets, but we’re relying on the producers to do all the work, even as they cope with state and national policies that favor big agriculture.

Using her forum at Project Dinner Table, Gavan will educate consumers about choosing farmers market produce and also explore legislation that would make it more cost-effective for small producers to participate in the increasing number of farmers markets in Las Vegas.

“Your food has a story,” Gavan says. And she knows firsthand that to successfully harvest, one must first plant a seed.