By Buddy Blouin
You’d be hard-pressed to find a community event that brings people together like a farmers market. The perfect mix of helping small, local businesses, delicious food you can’t find anywhere else, specialty items, music, and fun is virtually unbeatable. From artisan soaps to fresh local produce, you can find it all. These reasons and more are just some of the driving forces behind having a farmers market on military bases.

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Farmers Market on Military Bases Build Community Relations

If you’re looking to meet people in any community, head to your local farmers market. Since ancient times, marketplaces have been social focal points as well as serving as centralized places to exchange goods and services. It’s easy to get lost in a world filled with Walmarts, Targets, Amazons, and more and forget that local purchases made face-to-face with the people responsible for the goods still exist. In many cases, you can find one-of-a-kind items or even save money by going straight to the producer. Having a farmers market on military installations is a trend that continues today to help build up communities, as local vendors and shoppers come together to mingle. But beyond the communities within military bases, they're also great for building relations with civilians. Such is the case with the troops stationed at Camp Hansen and the local community. News of the U.S. ambassador touting community ties at the Okinawa farmers market on their Marine base showcased a commitment to maintaining good relations with our allies on and off the battlefield.

U.S. Military Bases in Japan Are Coming Together With Locals

Some cuts run deeper than others, and of all of the Marine bases in Japan, Camp Hansen in Okinawa may know this to be truest after the heinous rape by U.S. Marines in the ‘90s. Nothing can ever fully heal a wound like that, and outrage in the aftermath of such events is not only expected but warranted. However, the U.S. and Japan continue to work together to maintain peace in the Pacific. Of all of the tools America uses to maintain its relationship with the local population, farmers markets are one of the most interesting. “It’s a great time for families to come together. You create a real community between the military and members of the neighborhood,” said Ambassador Rahm Emanuel while attending the market. The U.S. Ambassador to Japan mentioned how the idea for a farmers market on military bases came to him back in April 2022 while dining on the base. After collaborating with other senior military leaders, the idea is now coming to fruition. On top of it all, it appears that this won’t be the last of its kind. “I fully expect this market to foster a similar benefit between the people of Okinawa and the American men and women who are contributing to the defense of Japan. To me, this is the very definition of ‘win-win-win,’ and I look forward to establishing more farmers markets at other U.S. bases across Japan,” said Ambassador Emanuel. Relationships with the locals remain complex. Some love having the American troops for economic and safety reasons, while others note the increase in pollution and alleged crime. For now, the hope is to increase goodwill through the ongoing farmers markets in the area.

Tips for Holding a Farmers Market on Military Bases

The idea of having farmers markets on military bases is a great one, but it’s far from new. Additionally, it’s a great idea to help not only build up one’s community but also help the military community gain access to fresh, local foods. This Guide for Farmers Markets on Military Installations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been in place for many years with the goal of helping establish more events. Here are some tips to get started:
  • You’ll need to get the military installation’s leadership on board. Be sure to follow any base rules and guidelines.
  • Promoting is everything. Once approved, there are many options to keep everyone up to date, including various social media channels.
  • Always confirm vendors through a committee, and advertise which vendors will be attending ahead of time.
  • Create a plan of action and obtain the necessary resources to make your market a reality.
For some military communities, as with civilians, this will be more difficult than others; however, having a farmers market on military bases is an effort well worth it in the end.

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