Farmers Market Metrics Vendor Metrics Released

Farmers Market Impact Metrics Released for First Season of Testing
Research project addresses the need for consistent measurement of farmers market impacts nationwide.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the national nonprofit, the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) released metrics this week that will allow markets and their partners to gather data on vendor and customer activities. The data will assist market organizers in constructing targeted marketing and advocacy plans and will offer farmers and other producers specific information on building their business goals.
The project is funded by the USDA’s Agriculture, Food, and Research Initiative (AFRI) and will allow nine markets across the U.S. to test data collection and reporting techniques in 2015 and 2016. The project team gathered known metrics used over the last decade in farmers markets and food system research and prioritized those that could be easily gathered by the market community itself. The metrics were grouped into one or more of four types of benefit they provide:
economic (i.e. sales or job creation), ecological (land stewardship), social (new relationships) and human (skills gained or knowledge transferred).
The research project’s principal investigator Alfonso Morales, Assistant Professor at University of Wisconsin-Madison said, “We believe that it is vital that grassroots markets have the tools and embedded skills to gather data on behavior for their own needs, not only on shopper activity but also on the small businesses that depend on these markets for their family’s income.”
From the list of 90 metrics identified, the team focused its initial efforts into refining 38 of those metrics for immediate use by the nine pilot markets chosen for the project. Participating markets selected those metrics that are most useful to their current work and will begin to gather data in late spring 2015. The data will be analyzed by the project team and final reports shared with the markets later in the year. The team will conduct another round of data collection at the same pilot
markets in 2016.
The first round of metrics sent to the markets focus on collecting vendor data through questions embedded into vendor applications or through direct surveys or observation at market of vendors. Later rounds of metrics will allow visitor data to be collected using the same methods, while future metrics are likely to focus on the “placemaking” skills of the market and the internal workings of the organization running the market.
Vendor metrics for this project include acres in production for markets, distance traveled from production to market, sales data, and the number of women-owned businesses. Jen Cheek, Executive Director of Farmers Market Coalition affirmed, “Many markets are not sure what to collect and when; others already collect some of this data but are unsure of how to use it once collected. These measurement projects that FMC is taking on with the University of Wisconsin will offer shared language and common-sense guidelines for reporting, while allowing markets and
their vendors the freedom to define what success means to their market and community.”
Find the vendor metrics here and a template letter for vendors here and a glossary of terms and vendor tree here.
The Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to strengthening farmers markets for the benefit of farmers, consumers, and communities. For more information about the Farmers Market Coalition, including Farmers Market Metrics please visit their website at

Recognizing Workers in the Food System panel at #FoodTankSummit

Moderator: Diane Brady, Bloomberg, @dianebrady, @Bloomberg

Baldemar Velasquez, Farm Labor Organizing Committee, @SupportFLOC

Jose Oliva, Food Chain Workers Alliance, @foodandlabor, @foodchainworker

Melissa Perry, The George Washington University (GWU), @GWTweets

Mia Dell, United Food and Commercial Workers, @UFCW

Jeremiah Lowery, ROC United DC, @jeremiahlowery1, @ROCDC

Patty Lovera, Food & Water Watch, @foodandwater

Great panel at The Food Tank Summit held in DC and via live stream. The day started with Saru Jayaraman, Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United (“Is it corporations or is it people?), and then Liz Shuler, National AFL-CIO (there should be “no separation between good food and good jobs) both who gave great 10-minute speeches on the need for food system organizers to join with the worker rights movements in the food industry. Notes below

Berry pickers story to begin the panel from Baldemar Velasquez:
6 am without breakfast mosquitos everywhere, swamp-like conditions and within 15 minutes, you are soaked up to your knees with bites everywhere. Being told “faster faster” by crew leaders constantly.
That berry you have in your hand (or fridge) connects you to that worker.

Jose Oliva:
Grow more of of our own food-great. But we can’t grow it all, the global food system is not going to go away by wishing it away. We do need to build a system to grow more of our own food, but we need to address the corporations that are making the exploitation of human beings and destroying the environment. Food system is addressing the issues of health and environment, but what about the labor? That is why Food Chain Workers Alliance was begun.
They have a certification initiative: HEAL Health Environment Agriculture And Labor

Melissa Perry:
Many years studying the effects of pesticides on farm labor, started with Vermont farmers. Data exists mostly on small family farms, since farmworkers are not studied very often. Meatpacking can be changed to much safer; it just needs the will, attention and funding.

Mia Dell
Represent 1.3 million workers
Had been a bit cynical about how rarely meat production worker safety is on the minds of local food advocates or farm advocates. Has since seen advocates rising up for worker safety around line speed waiver for poultry inspection.

Jeremiah Lowery
Be aware: Cafeteria workers being laid off on this campus by their corporate company
Building a massive movement in DC. Anti-GMO marches are going on yet they have not contacted worker movement organizers in DC. Let’s engage across silos.

Patty Lovera
Not representing workers, but we are in that coalition of poultry inspection rule change that Mia talked about. Making a ruckus about that issue did make a difference.
Lobbyists are writing the rules-don’t give more opportunity for these big players to get bigger. Merger Monday: seemed every Monday food companies announced merger which reduces choice and they control more of the decision making.
Fight trade agreements-we can make a difference in our local and state governments-Deregulation means companies that we can’t reach, attacking US rules on workers rights and health regulations.

(Panelists) What should we do?

•Work together on supply chain agreements (tomato campaign at Campbell Soup)
•Tobacco (and other specialty crops) workers in North Carolina-40,000 workers are fighting for right to organize.FLOC website
•Collective bargaining agreements are not just about conditions and wages; its an opening for all of us to have better food.
•Work on procurement policies everywhere. Los Angeles using HEAL metrics. Chicago and NYC are working on that, other cities are talking about this idea.
•Fund public health research along with worker health and safety research.
•Make it less convenient for consumers to ignore chemicals in food and gaps in worker safety.
•Know about products that are produced by prisoners and child slave labor: asian shrimp, cashews are two examples of use of slaves and prisoners for production- we know what products are produced this way, let’s share that.
•Cities need funding for more food policy councils which then need a component on labor, homeless, women’s rights etc.
•Diners Guides-ROC has one (print or app) to let consumers know which restaurants treat their workers well.
•We’re doing it wrong at the government level-The effects of the food companies are not being studied and laws on the books enforced well or at all. Telling the Walmarts of the world-“You’re too damn big”
Consumers cannot be the enforcer of the laws- we’re lied to too often.
Q&A piece (these are some of the answers from panel, questions not recorded)
•Lots of reports that show that higher wages will not result in higher food prices. Check out one: Dime a Day-Food service study on minimum wage and others.
•Protein consumption reports show that protein consumption has leveled out. So can we start to make changes to make that protein safer?
•We can find other ways to get protein besides meat (as it is not the best way for humans to get protein)
•Pesticides may be sprayed at lower levels on GMO crops which may protect farmworkers- but the pesticide is inserted into the seed itself which means comparable issues in eater’s health and the environment.
•Regulatory framework is controlled by the GMO companies that sell the product. Remember, biotech companies started as pesticide companies-the regulatory world is not equipped to handle current or rising scientific claims.
EFI Equitable Food Initiative-migrant workers and consumer protection joining to certify labor intensive products. Costco is signing on to this certification, still in pilot stage.

Farm Shares | Grow Dat Youth Farm

A recent success story in New Orleans for urban farming and school-aged youth, Grow Dat has sold their produce through at their City Park farmstand, at farmers markets, through online ordering/home delivery services and now with this CSA method. GDYF is a well-regarded project that has produced very real outcomes in a challenging funding and food environment. The success of Grow Dat’s project work along with their constant advocacy for urban farmers has truly risen all boats.

Farm Shares | Grow Dat Youth Farm.

Big data and little farmers markets, Part 1

    Introduction/Social Media

Recently, I have been reading a few books and articles on the new world looming over the next bend. This new world is called many things and includes shiny named ideas and tools to make it so. Here are some of those titles in case anyone needs some bedside reading:

•Collaborative Commons (Rifkin, (The Zero Marginal Costs Society)
•Disruption (Next City 2012, Fortune 2014 “Next up for disruption: The grocery business”, Urbanophile 2014, Disrupting the Disruptors )
•Flattened economy (Friedman The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century 2005)
•Spiky Economy (Florida, “The World Is Spiky” 2005)
•Alternative Economics, Community-Supported Industry (Anderberg 2012, Schumacher Center for New Economics)
•Social impact bonds (Jacobin Magazine Issue 15-16 “Friendly Fire”)
•Placemaking/Livable Places (PPS, Tactical Urbanism, CityLab)
•Human-Centered Design (LUMA, Ideo)

and then bunches on how to measure this stuff:
•Measuring Urban Design: Metrics for Livable Places (Ewing, Clemente 2013)
•3 Keys To Better Data-Driven Decisions (Technology Evaluation Centers)
•Five Borough Farm II: Growing the Benefits of Urban Agriculture in NYC (Design Trust for Public Space 2014)
•Data Infoactive (Chiasson, Gregory 2013)
•Disruption Index (Next City 2012)
•Livability Index ( 2014)

and so on. (and please send me any that you find useful)

Much of this discussion of the new economy and its infrastructure centers around the use of technology to allow data (usually known as Big Data) produced by every system, sensor and mobile device to be shared across sectors and users aka the Internet of Things (IoT). Big Data and IoT are representative of what is both good and bad about the new world; they pressure public entities to adopt private sector characteristics and measures, and conversely ask private entities to add public sector transparency as a mode of operating in this new world. Additionally, to participate both sectors must respond immediately to any trends or innovations. This can be good or bad.
(The intersection of public and private is what the non-profit sector is supposed to manage and increasingly, how it participates in Big Data is a measure of its ability to do just that. I’ll come back to that very idea later in this series.)
Think of how that grocery store loyalty card transmits information about what, when and where customers purchase goods. Or giving citizens the tools to measure and report pollution, or how that electronic parking card tells the city the peak parking hours, letting planners know the need for more (or less) parking facilities. Or, the sensors that are timed to go off for irrigation to start for food production.
For food system advocates, the connection to data sharing is mostly through the public health sector at this point, but the planning and design sector of governments will be wanting data from us too and then, expect the line to form from other sectors after that.

Social media is not really Big Data; it’s (mostly) networking and informal updates and chatter, constant and sometimes as cheerfully mindless as an acquaintance’s wave from across the street. Defined as the trend of creating and/or sharing information, ideas, and pictures/videos in virtual communities and networks, it can be best understood by one of its chief characteristics, its lack of permanence. Twitter is a perfect example of this ephemeral quality, with its 140 character limit and ever updating scroll.
Certainly, social media can also power revolutions, allow for professional development and offer small businesses appealingly designed, low-cost online faces for their already-developed customer base. Recently, I had the good fortune (thanks to the Farmers Market Coalition) to be invited to a Knight Foundation technology gathering of social entrepreneurs and so heard many ideas for leashing the power of Twitter and other social media platforms to better aggregate data or reorganize news feeds. No doubt as new platforms are built on top of the first tier, there will be more usability and versatility, but for now, most people use it simply as an multi-platform address book to keep track of friends, colleagues and friends of friends. This blog you are reading is part of social media and as such, is written to be ephemeral and chatty opinion with links to other information sources rather than hosting peer-reviewed reports.

The ease of using social media is what was beguiling to many at first but the gossamer veil of privacy means that if not careful, one’s identity may be stolen or become the target of a bully. At that point, that once enticing open entry can drive plenty away and is what is being argued about sites like airbnb and uber: 1) that the lack of regulation at city halls or public agencies allows for exemption of rules that their counterparts with physical outlets are not able sidestep and 2) since there is often no face to face meeting between buyer and user, the perceived opportunity for criminal activity increases. My feeling is that the regulation needed for the IoT and online sites must be a new system rather than asking for adherence to the old since the old grey mare of city hall is not suited for managing these nor is the slow as molasses federal government (which sounds like what the community food system has been saying for the last few decades!)
The European Commission has already published a report outlined some best practices for architectural, ethics and governance of the IoT; highlighting social justice, privacy and opting out concerns (“consent activities” in designer language). Their early conclusions encourage better credential exchange systems and a deeper awareness of “reliance versus trust” parameters. In short, make sure most online relationships include a requirement for sharing some sort of identification and create some active boundaries between systems.
(Maybe the U.S. community food system can jump on these ideas, thereby leaping ahead in confidence levels to be able to share useful data more rapidly than other sectors?)

Yet, even with the perception of these systems as being hackable, an increasing number of people in the Western world still participate regularly. Yet, most don’t want to discuss the theory of it and don’t want to be the test subjects of the new ideas. Technology itself has become such a loaded word that when discussing it, one has to mentally gauge where people are on the spectrum: one side has technology as a major intrusion and the other has technology as a robust solution with most people in between the two ends. I do believe that where people fall on that spectrum has less to do with their age as technology is around longer and instead has more to do with their socioeconomic level. It is also my contention that people’s point of view on technology does not change much over their lifetime.

But still, lets not forget that social media is just a part of the communication sector and only the ephemeral part of it. We still read newspapers and books, meet people face to face and still have postal carriers and grocery store corkboards with lists of apartments to rent.
Therefore, how we use social media within community food systems has to be balanced far better than we early adopters have done so far. Plenty of markets and other outlets use social media brilliantly within its limited use, but others often ignore traditional media far too often or don’t factor in that those reached with social media are only a tiny portion of the audience that might be found. Or for the Luddites among us, adapting their thinking to understand that social media has worth for a low-capacity, face-to-face entity like a Saturday morning market.
What I have noticed is that social media helps drive market sales for a single or a few products on a single day extremely well. It also does a passable to good job reminding its users that they are members of a larger community of doers and thinkers, which can extend the social and human capital of a market. It can connect producers to shoppers on non-market days (although I think less well than promised) and can do something akin to the Dot Survey method pioneered at market by Stephenson, Brewer and Lev: allow for an easy mood of the day give and take between market organizers and users. It also is that friendly wave from across the street that in our sped up world can stand in for reminder of community on a bad day and add a layer of connection. Let’s just not build our world entirely on chance meetings or depend on a small number of tools.

update This morning, I am sitting in a farmer workshop at southern SSAWG conference listening to a 5th generation farmer talk about the open source free crop planning software system, sensors and apps that he uses to run his direct marketing farm business; clearly for some, the IoT is already here.

Coming Soon
Part 2 The minefield of analyzing Big Data
Part 3 Connecting farmers markets and food systems to Big Data
Part 4 Managing face to face and online communities in farmers markets

24 Diagrams To Help You Eat Healthier

These infographics should spark some ideas among vendors and among shoppers:

24 Diagrams To Help You Eat Healthier.

Hall of Fame Market Leaders start their “farewell tour” year


Back when I began working at Market Umbrella, our founder, Richard McCarthy gave me the names of a few people that he held in high esteem on market issues that I might check in with regularly. Interestingly, many of these folks led the “town square” phase of markets that Market Umbrella belongs with as well (eras that some of you have heard me talk about over the years.) Some of those names include:
Donita Anderson North Union Farmers Market, Cleveland OH
Chris Curtis, Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets, Seattle WA
Pam Roy (Farm to Table New Mexico)
Greenmarket NYC (many, many staff on that list. back then, Gabrielle Langholtz and Kelly Verel nee Williams, now of PPS, come to mind.)
NY leaders Diane Eggert and Bob Lewis
Massachusetts leader Jeff Cole
and two he always spoke of with great affection: Bernie Prince and Ann Yonkers at Fresh Farm in DC. I met Ann first at a Dallas TX farmers market meeting where we were both invited to speak. Ann was (and is) a woman of great style and well-formed opinions and those qualities along with her belief in markets and food systems led the energy in that room and, I am sure many others. Every time I came to DC, she and Bernie took the time out of their incredibly busy schedules to sit and talk with me. I remember once driving around MD and DC with Ann as she generously showed me her markets and we talked of mobile markets, organic farming and market logistics for most of the afternoon. In many ways, she always reminded me of Richard-both lead with their charisma and their strength of character but can also discourse on dozens of subjects easily. You leave their presence with clarity of purpose and gratitude to have leaders like this around.

On to Bernie…I didn’t know her as well in those early days, but then I began to talk more with her when she joined the Farmers Market Coalition board (and ultimately led it as its President) during its transition from its founding board and then the transition from its founding Executive Director through its present days of more staff and more advocacy. Slowly, I realized that she was a indefatigable worker and a champion strategist who would always take the time to share what she knew with her peers when asked. Whenever I visited her markets, she was picking up trash or chalking a kids game on the ground or most of the time, introducing people to a vendor through a very detailed and empathetic outline of their business history, both in and out of the market. Then, we’d often have a chat about plans she and Ann had to add markets or to raise funds or to build capacity and I’d leave sort of stunned by what they had and would continue to accomplish. I have had the privilege of hearing Bernie present more than a few times over the years and have always enjoyed basking in her energy and passion during the talk and then watching her afterwards with the newer market leaders who crowd around her, soaking up her advice and support. Her warmth and her great joy are so part of her regular personality that as soon as I just hear her voice, my mood is elevated.
As for FMC, I know how much she has personally given in time and talent and I always appreciated her constant support of the staff and the board. In my estimation, FMC owes its survival to two people more than any other: Stacy Miller and Bernie Prince, and their deep affection and respect for each other made that survival possible and set the tone for FMC as a whole. The story linked below promises that Bernie may very well stay on at FMC, which I fervently hope happens. (FYI-Sharon Yeago, Liz Comiskey and Jen O’Brien Cheek are sitting very close behind those two in credit due at FMC….)

Ann and Bernie have done so much with the food system and farmers markets in DC, Maryland and Virginia that (as I wrote on FMC’s Facebook page) it cannot be properly calculated. I will leave it to their peers at Fresh Farm and I assume civic and food leaders across the area who will take the time to honor them. I hope all of you will have the chance to meet these two giants before they hand over their market bell(s) and to thank them for all that they have given to us and will give to us in their next leadership role in our food and farming system.

WP story

What the Frack? Beginning Farmers’ Energy and Pollution Dilemma – Hobby Farms

An important post for markets to share with their farmers.
What the Frack? Beginning Farmers’ Energy and Pollution Dilemma – Hobby Farms.