producer with passion
BY: ZOE RASTEGAR
The Journey from Media to Market
Our journey through jobs and careers is often unpredictable and not what one dreamed about. People are motivated by different values, goals and ambitions from an idealistic view of “making a difference” to a pragmatic purpose of “making money” or simply by chance that one may land in a career outside of their intentions and enthusiasm.
For those who find the right path and become successful in what they do, there is always an inner fire, an inherent craving, frequently called passion, that arms one with power, resilience and purpose to perform. Passion is a true desire that cannot be learned but is inherently within all people, a force that enables one to perform their best with confidence.
There are also times where passion is ignored for a shortcut to fame and fortune, or when one has yet to discover their true gusto, but after going a whole circle, that inner flame will guide them to their true path.
Janet Terry is a woman whose career is a great example of how her passion has always been the guiding light for choosing her path. Her desire to serve the community stretches from her previous successful career in media journalism, connecting with people all the way to her current business serving and socializing with the community as the owner of the Olney Farmers Market.
When the time came for Terry to transition into a new beginning, she followed her inner instincts. Terry was eager to find happiness and success within her community again by providing healthy produce and a meaningful medium for fun, food and an opportunity for the local small businesses to shine and profit.
Olney Farmers and Artists Market is that new beginning. This market is an environment for the community to share common experiences and enjoy the area’s beautiful Sundays together. Terry graciously shared her busy time with Redux Extra to give us a tour of the market and her journey from media production to farmers’ produce.
RE: Let us start with your background in media and your passion for journalism.
Janet: I started out as French teacher, before earning a master’s degree in foreign languages and journalism. Then, journalism became my new passion. I worked as a reporter on Capitol Hill covering members of Congress and the White House, before taking a producer/writer job at WUSA- TV (then known as WDVM). In addition to writing and field producing, I was also the primary guest booker for all newscasts for decades.
RE: How did the idea of a farmer’s market come about, and what motivated you to take the initiative for this business?
Janet: I started the Olney Farmers and Artists Market in 2007, purely by accident. Our daughter attended the College of Charleston in South Carolina. My husband and I fell in love with the city and the Farmers Market in Charleston. One day, I told a friend in Olney, who insisted I should think about the idea of a Market in Olney. Ten people raised their hands to be part of my committee. When the county said it would be almost impossible for me to start a market, we showed we could do it.
RE: What is the concept behind Olney Farmers and Artists Market?
Janet: The concept is to bring fresh, local, healthy, fabulous produce to our community and also provide a central gathering place for families. We have chef demos, live music and a kids’ tent every Sunday (pre-pandemic).
RE: Is this market an individually owned organized business?
Janet: We are a 501(c)(3). The Olney Farmers and Artists Market is individually owned by me. I’m the president. Sandy Tucker is our vice president. Frank Mullen is our treasurer. Angie Ryder, a volunteer, runs our Facebook page, and Kathy Smith is our webmaster. We are year round and located on Medstar Montgomery hospital grounds. I would love to host you, if you get a chance to come out.
RE: What are the logistics of this business from the farmers to you and to the public?
Janet: Farmers, food vendors and artists (and crafters) pay us a small fee to operate. I meet with every new vendor personally to make sure it’s a good fit. To get accepted to the market, a farmer must fill out an application from our website, olneyfarmersmarket.com. The next step is a personal visit to the farm. I make sure hygiene on the farm is up to the Agriculture Department’s standards. For instance, one red flag would be a dog roaming around the crops being grown. That would be unacceptable. I also make sure the farmer is growing everything they plan to sell at the market. We are a producer-only market, which means a farmer must grow what they sell and provide us with proof.
RE: Is your market multi-ethnic as far as the produce and other food items? Do you have a presence in DC, MD and VA?
Janet: Yes, we have a wide variety of ethnic groups represented, including Mexican, Indonesian, Latvian, Asian and more. We have farmers from MD, VA and PA. Our produce and food offerings, ranging from Vietnamese to Indonesian to Mexican are quite delicious!
RE: What challenges did you overcome to establish yourself as a business?
Janet: It took about four years for us to get known in the community. We started with about eight producer-only farmers, juried artists and a primarily healthy group of food vendors in a small parking lot. Now, we have about 75 vendors and feature live music, chef demos, a children’s tent and much more.
RE: Do you think your farmer’s market contributes to the success of small businesses in the community? What is your ultimate goal when it comes to helping small businesses?
Janet: Yes, I think it does. Our goal is to help struggling Mom and Pop type businesses gain a foothold and also help farmers sell their produce. We give thousands of pounds of fresh produce every year to Manna, the Montgomery County food bank and also offer vouchers for customers who’ve lost their jobs. So, I hope that we are contributing to small businesses in our community.
We have a wide variety of ethnic groups represented, including Mexican, Indonesian, Latvian, Asian and more. We have farmers from MD, VA and PA. Our produce and food offfferings, ranging from Vietnamese to Indonesian to Mexican are quite delicious!
RE: Did the pandemic hinder the business considering a year of limited public interactions and gatherings in general?
Janet: During the pandemic, we are spacing vendors more than six feet apart. We require masks, have many social distancing signs, monitors and two hand sanitizing stations. We do not allow crowds. However, even during the pandemic, we have about 70 vendors. Our farmers sell seasonal produce including locally grown rice, and hydroponic lettuce and mushrooms.
RE: How pleased are you with your success? Tell us about the community participation, awards and recognitions.
Janet: We are thrilled with our success after 14 years. Pre- pandemic, we had thousands of customers every Sunday. Customers tell us they feel comfortable since we’re outdoors. Some say it’s their only social event of the week, and they look forward to it every week.
RE: What are your days and hours of operation?
Janet: We are operating all year around. Customers get to know our farmers, so they know how and where the produce was grown. Some farmers arrive as early as 6 am for a 9 am start.
RE: Does this organization have events and activities for fundraising with members of the community?
Janet: We have had several Farm to Table Dinners but not during the pandemic. This season, we’re going to sell Olney Farmers Market tote bags. One goal is to eliminate plastic. We don’t solicit donations but have had several Farm to Table Dinners to help raise money for Friends. Any funds we raise go to helping our neediest customers. We offer vouchers to those in need, so they can double the amount of produce they can afford to buy.
RE: When is the most busy/active season or month for your business?
Janet: Mother’s Day and the Holiday Market in December are our busiest days.
RE: Tell us about your philanthropy efforts and programs assisting families or helping charity organizations.
Janet: We offer free tents to groups like the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts but don’t have sponsors. We work with both Manna and Olney Help to assist local families in need. We’ve had a partnership with Manna for 14 years.
RE: Looking back, tell us how far you have come since you started? How do you measure your success?
Janet: We are proud of our success. Realtors in the Olney area use the market as a selling point. Some have included mentions and photos of the market in their newsletters, which go to thousands of people. Some realtors also have asked for a booth at the market. Under our business policy, they pay a $200 donation to Friends, our non-profit. In exchange, they can have a booth three times during the high season, that is Mother’s Day through the first Sunday in November.
RE: Do you have any memories, stories or even funny incidents regarding this business or interacting with people?
Janet: Yes, one comes to mind. Years ago, I bought a very old Channel 9 van for storage of our tents and tables. One early morning, I discovered someone had moved into the van. Since the driver’s side window wouldn’t close all the way, he had an easy time getting in. He ordered Papa John’s Pizza and Slurpee and made himself quite at home. He also scared me nearly to death.
RE: What gives you strength and stamina to do what you do every day.
Janet: I love our community, and the market is a passion. It has changed my family’s life since | grew up on canned everything in NY. Now, we eat healthy!
RE: How do you see the expansion of farmer’s markets in general? Do you think this is the way of the future to get our produce?
Janet: Healthy food and good nutrition contributes to our overall health and wellness. As communities become more aware and committed to consume healthy and locally grown produce, the future of farmers’ markets is clearly positive. We at Olney’s market are expanding slightly, but really don’t have any more property to put more vendors. I have opened several other markets in previous years, but Olney is the most successful.
RE: We know you and your business have been awarded by the state and county. Please elaborate.
Janet: We’ve received numerous awards, from the Maryland state legislature, the Maryland Comptroller and the Montgomery County Executive. I also won the Citizen of the Year award from the Greater Olney Civic Association, when I founded the Market in 2007.
RE: What message does your organization have for the community?
Janet: My sincere thanks to our community for helping our farmers and struggling food vendors and artists. We have become an extended family.
As communities become more aware and committed to consume healthy and locally grown produce, the future of farmers’ markets is clearly positive.