Farmer finds opportunity in local markets

Whitney Allen

Over the past five years, Bowling Green and other cities around the world have experienced a boom in farmers markets. Now that WKU students are back for fall, those local markets are feeling the boom as well.

Currently, there are three farmers markets in Bowling Green and 147 markets in Kentucky. In addition to these, there are countless roadside stands. 

Joe O’Daniel, a local farmer, sells his produce at Southern Kentucky Farmers Market (SKY) in Bowling Green. O’Daniel grows produce and raises livestock on his 116-acre farm in Warren County. 

Although O’Daniel always knew he wanted to be a farmer, that isn’t where his career began. O’Daniel helped tend his family garden as a child, which sprouted into a passion for farming.

“All my uncles on my dad’s side farmed,” O’Daniel said. “I grew up in the farming community and everybody was farming around me.”

Now instead of being surrounded by farming family members, O’Daniel sells his produce alongside local farmers at the SKY Farmers Market, located at the Medical Center.

Like some of his customers, O’Daniel was once a student at WKU, where he earned horticulture and business degrees. O’Daniel purchased his farm in 1987, but he continued working at a local factory and eventually made the transition to full-time farming in 2000. 

As O’Daniel’s experience as a full-time farmer has developed, so has the local food scene. Martin Stone, an associate professor of agriculture at WKU and a founder of Community Farmers Market, said the type of consumers in the market have changed in recent years.

“What we see at our market is a bunch of university students and young couples,” Stone said. “It never used to be that way. It used to only be people with expendable income.”

O’Daniel and other farmers in the area are gearing up for fall crops and markets

In terms of produce, there will be no shortage in selection this fall, said Community Farmers Market vendor, Gary Robbins.

“You can get anything you want,” Robbins said.