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Senior Correspondent

Our little town has the most wonderful farmers market. Mom and I enjoy a bit of girl time nearly every Saturday morning by checking out the produce, schmoozing the growers and other fun vendors, and loading the car up with fresh goodies for the week.

We look forward to visiting with vendors and customers, and it is fun to remember a time when this was the way folks shopped. My great-grandma, Belle, owned a single cow and raised chickens. She milked, churned butter, collected eggs and took her products to the local MFA to "trade" for the rest of her staples. My Dad loved produce of all kinds, and in his second career he made wonderful fruit and vegetables available to the entire community year round. He often sold produce right off the back of his truck and folks would come from miles around. The farmers market helps us reconnect with our roots and we tend to plan around those weekly visits.  

What I did not appreciate until this past month, however, is the powerful networking that can take place at the local farmers market. For years we have helped our clients build and leverage their professional networks. And yet, it had not occurred to me that a simple activity like going to the market could be a professional networking adventure.

It all started a couple of years ago when my mom discovered a lovely new vendor who had just returned to Washington, Missouri to be near her family after many years on the East Coast. Mom struck up a fast friendship with Cara, the card lady, and we both just loved her line of hand made greeting cards.

Mom and I looked forward to weekly visits with Cara and doing a little card shopping, along with our produce shopping. Like many vendors at the market, this was a part-time venture for Cara. It turns out that her day job involved a good amount of traveling to manage a virtual team of professionals for a large international company. I often wondered how she managed to create such beautiful cards and get them to the market each week with all that was on her plate. She assured me that this creative outlet really helped.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when we learned that our niece, Jackie, who has been working in Germany for the past few years, was ready to move back to the U.S. and was in job search mode. Wondering how to help, it occurred to me that perhaps Cara would be willing to network a bit with our niece. Her answer was yes. And thanks to the wonders of the internet, I introduced Cara and Jackie electronically. Cara was kind enough to talk to Jackie by phone and to orient Jackie to her company. Lo and behold, there happened to be multiple opportunities in Cara's company that were a good match for Jackie's professional experience and talents. This was a very pleasant surprise, indeed.

After five interviews, the last being in Frankfort, Germany, Jackie was offered a wonderful position in Washington, DC, near her family. Jackie is very excited to begin a new professional adventure and she fully credits Cara for giving her the edge by helping her understand the hiring process and the organization.  

With the huge number of talented professionals in the job market today, this is an extraordinary story of the power of networking and it all started at the farmers market. In a recent conversation with my brother, Jackie's Dad, he shared that having Jackie near home after nearly a decade was an answer to their prayers.

It struck me that this "old fashioned" way of doing business is not that much different than the way business was conducted when my great-grandma Belle traded eggs and butter or when my Dad sold produce off the back of his truck.

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