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Making Local Work in Louisville

When Louisville, KY-based Rainbow Blossom Natural Foods Markets assessed the demand for a farmers’ market in 2006, they depended on early farmer input. This farmer perspective helped Rainbow Blossom create an authentic, old-fashioned feel and offered insight on the shortcomings of other Louisville farmers’ markets, said Summer Auerbach, COO for the five-store chain. The feedback showed Rainbow Blossom managers they needed to host their markets on a new day that farmers would support, but that would also attract new customers.

They decided on Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. The timeframe caters to a formerly unserved population—the after-church crowd and young shoppers who sleep late on weekends.

Open from May through October, the market features a total of about 35 vendors participating with fruits, vegetables and other local products such as meats, jams, baked goods and pottery. The market is one of the few in Louisville that doesn’t charge farmers a fee, and it also accepts credit cards and food stamps.

A cooperative, no-compete approach serves the market well. For example, Rainbow Blossom initially helped the entire Louisville farmers’ market community by forming an umbrella organization in collaboration with the city of Louisville, which applied for a $20,000 advertising grant from the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.

The market’s success prompted Rainbow Blossom to further pursue its support of local foods. It started by donating a store parking lot as a pickup location for a distributor with a multi-farm, community-supported agriculture organization. “Ultimately, people want local food, and they are going to find it, regardless of whether we help them,” Auerbach said. “It is our responsibility as a retailer to figure out how we can be a part of that.”

Rainbow Blossom Market
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