Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Tucson

FoodInRoot Does a Very Old Thing in a Very New Way

Clayton Kammerer and his partner, Jon Hall

First there was one, and now there are two farmers’ markets on Sunday morning; one at St. Philip’s Plaza and one at the Rillito Park Race Track. Many people have been regular patrons of the latter and in the last few months, changes have taken place. The Heirloom Farmers’ Market, which comprises the original St. Philip’s management team with Manish Shah at the helm, has moved to Rillito. As with any change, there were questions about whether customers would be businessspotlight  able to find their favorite vendors, and so many chose to have booths at both markets. Now both markets seem to be thriving and have become a cultural habit and a community affair for Tucson residents. 

FoodInRoot is the management company that has taken over the St. Philip’s Plaza markets on both Saturday and Sunday and have added a market from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Fridays at the University of Arizona Medical Center. FoodInRoot co-founder Clayton Kammerer sees the benefit of having two Sunday markets. Even with more than 70 vendors at each market, the demand still exceeds the offerings. Plus, having two markets allows people more choice which taps into vendors being more creative and less complacent.

The name FoodInRoot conjures up images of roots of vegetables and community roots, as in food belonging in the community. Kammerer and his partner, Jon Hall, wanted a name that captured the essence of what they are all about for this bold new business adventure and build a foundation to support all they want to do—bring locally sourced natural, real food to people, support small vendors sourcing to restaurants and build relationships. They choose to set up markets where there are captive  audiences; “the low-hanging fruit,” as Kammerer says. 

Both Kammerer and Hall are 2011 graduates of the University of Arizona Eller College of Management. They wanted to contribute to the success of farmers’ markets by using a wellthought-out business model and updated business practices that are not prevalent in this industry called a venture concept in entrepreneurship. They see the vendors as their customers and do whatever they can to support them to succeed. In the traditional business model, where customers are the focus and not the vendors, a flat fee approach is used for vendor space, no matter what they sell or how much they take in.

Under the new system, payment for the space at a vendor booth is based on performance; there are no upfront fees. A vendor that brings in less than $500 per market gives 10 percent to the management and then 5 percent up to sales of $1,000 if the vendor is in only one of the three markets. No vendor will pay more than $80 per market for the space and no more than $60 if the vendor is in two or more markets, or no more than $40 if they are in three markets. Insurance is provided, vendors are highlighted in the press and customer suggestions and feedback regarding labeling and the shopping experience are coordinated in order for vendors to increase their visibility and profit.

“In this way, even people just starting out will have the opportunity to sell their wares in a high-profile venue,” says Kammerer. This partnership encourages new farmers and those with new product ideas to begin a business with less risk and lots of opportunity for growth. The market becomes a platform for small businesses to test their commercial viability and get exposure. FoodInRoot helps vendors perform better, works with them on marketing strategies, pays attention to the numbers and oversees their placement in the market. Kammerer and Hall can also pinpoint problems when vendors are not doing well and connect them with support or new opportunities because they have significant connections in the community.

Prior to launching this new enterprise, Kammerer and Hall took jobs in the industry. Hall worked at a local restaurant that sourced all local food and Kammerer mentored with Shah and other assistants at Heirloom Farmers’ Market for 18 months. There, he learned about the strengths and weaknesses of the market and credits that experience and what he learned from Shah and others with his success. 

“Farmers like to feed people; this is a business,” says Kammerer. “If we can help people be successful, they can keep doing what they love.” It is up to vendors to actually sell their product. They often offer samples, schmooze and connect with their customers, which can increase sales. Kammerer notes, “A good product can sell itself, and consistency in showing up and location are also some of the keys.” If the excitement and enthusiasm of old and new vendors is the best way to assess how this experiment with FoodInRoot is going, it certainly seems that all is very well.

For more information, visit

Sylvia Haskvitz is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine .