Purpose Defined: Developing a Market Mission

A 2012 webinar that I did for FMC on mission statement development. As we move into deeper design of the Farmers Market Metrics Program, having markets that have their mission written and shared is extremely helpful when embarking on any in-depth evaluation system. Thought it might be helpful to repost.

Farming oysters and clams

Recently, I heard an absorbing edition of Louisiana Eats (food and culture maven Poppy Tooker’s radio show full of “edible content”)  about seafood, and specifically about oysters and clam production along the Gulf Coast of the U.S. Poppy visits a new “off-bottom” oyster farm that is producing bigger and cleaner oysters than ever before and talks to our pal Rusty Gaude, marine biologist and seafood extension agent who has been working on increasing varieties of clams and oysters for many years.  I wrote a short piece about the oyster project a while back and now with Poppy’s show, could actually visualize and understand what they are doing down there.

As for Rusty’s excellent work, I wrote a bit about it recently here.

I know Poppy knows a great deal about oysters as she and I (with funding from Kellogg for our market organization to make teaching videos) had interviewed innovative oystermen in Puget Sound among others, a few years back. The amount of time that she volunteered for ours and other projects confirms how committed Poppy is to improving the lot for Gulf Coast fishing families while also educating folks on the need for reducing the erosion that is likely to sink New Orleans within the next 75 or so years.

To me, the link to all of this is the market organization that first introduced Poppy and Rusty (and me) and allows all kinds of leaders in the community to ask for feedback or space to test out ideas: this is the type of work that farmers markets can curate and encourage even if they are not the main recipient of those new goods-after all, more regional sustainable goods available helps everyone.

Read about another innovative project to reduce the erosion using artificial reefs that encourage oysters to grow and protect the coast.




From 0 to 35 in MS

I have worked with markets and farmers in Mississippi for a dozen years and have found more barriers to getting regional food accepted than in most other areas of the US, yet also have met some of the most optimistic and capable people who are continuously working on it.
What’s interesting is that in going from a deeply (still) entrenched commodity/plantation culture of farming directly to a new economy of small family farming for markets and restaurants means some of the middle steps can be skipped, which is beneficial to innovative growers.

In other words, the situations is similar to what has happened in many non-industrialized or colonized countries in regards to technology; having skipped the landline era, the new users adapt much more quickly to the technology of mobility*.
I can see this leapfrogging in play for sustainable farming in the Gulf States with new farmers pushing the envelope with pesticide-free and heirloom varieties at markets and in CSAs as the starting point, rather than having been influenced by the less inspiring midcentury distribution system that hardened experience in growing the hardiest and tasteless products to ship.
The area around Oxford MS is one that is ready for takeoff. The small farmer markets offer organic products at a higher rate than the New Orleans farmers markets, and the average age of the vendors seems markedly less than the US average, to my unscientific eye. The chef quoted in the article below is a pal of mine and had been the Board President of the New Orleans-based Market Umbrella before Katrina, and now is a leader in the regional food movement in Oxford. He offers his knowledge to the markets and farmers around the area as well supporting the leading agricultural advocates, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network (MSAN), which was founded with Wallace Center support a few years back. Corbin and MSAN are good example of the quiet revolution happening up there.

Additionally, the folks in Hernando MS (north of Oxford, closer to Memphis TN) are leading the state in innovative healthy living strategies and thinking deeply about how to expand regional farming to support those strategies. Their weekly market is large enough to attract serious attention from regional funders and even policy makers, and I have hopes that they might soon attempt to create a year round market.

Continue reading

Baker shutting the door on markets


I had written about this baker giving up the weekday market almost exactly 2 years ago and now via his wonderfully written email newsletter excerpted and linked at the bottom of this post, I see that he is about to give up the remaining farmers market that he attends.

I have certainly heard a wide range of reasons given by producers about why markets no longer work for them, and thanks to my long ago human resources training, I learned to ask myself and my market peers what I used to ask of my staff about departing or failing employees:

Did we do all that we could do to help this person succeed? Did we offer the same resources and attention that we could offer or do offer to others? What else should we offer (if anything) to help situations like this not happen as often in the future? Or are there just circumstances out of anyone’s control that made this inevitable?

When I post this news on my personal FB page, I guarantee you I’ll hear  responses from market shopping friends as well as non-market shopping friends telling me their opinion of his products and his stall, both good and bad, a few who will blame the market and still others who will shrug and say it goes with the territory.

I also guarantee you that when I go and talk to him directly about this email, he will be fair (he always is) to the market management but also specifically critical about markets. He will suggest marketing ideas to me, some of which might very well work for this market and some that have been tried and not worked in the past, all of which may or may not have helped his business. I expect that we will find ourselves in somewhat of a standoff, although I will agree with him that markets should be reactive to the needs of their anchor and to their specialty vendors. I’m not saying that this market was not – I cannot know what the recent relationship is-  but wearing my hat of a market strategist for a minute, any and all markets should constantly fine tune their management and marketing based on their measurement of positive and negative impacts, and that does include measuring a spectrum of individual stall activity across the market.

The trick is to measure within the context of each business’ set of goals and true interest in being at markets long-term.

As a specialty item vendor (he’d  disagree with that description I am guessing, but his breads are unique enough for purchase that they have to be seen as specialty rather than staple goods still), finding his customers can be slightly more tricky than it is for the market to find the anchor vendors customers. And to further confuse matters, in some markets, once in a while the specialty vendors ARE the anchor vendors.

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Farmers market ‘reconnects’ with campus 

This is a project I have assisted whenever called on to do so. This university attracts a great many rural and suburban from a diverse set of backgrounds and yet has almost no attention paid to environmental sustainability or food policy in its coursework, outside of a very few entrepreneurial and committed professors.

A selected student runs the 2-3 times per semester market, and is in charge of adding vendors, running the actual market day and doing on-campus marketing. From my vantage point, this simple project has taught quite a few young adults about farming and about healthy food at a point when they are willing to take in new information. It has also opened an ongoing discussion of why the campus outlets don’t offer better and local food whenever possible.
This market is also an example of the expanded typology that we need to categorize and share so that organizers or partners don’t only expect a 30 + member heavy-on-raw-goods Saturday morning market as the only appropriate intervention. The goals of this market are closely tied to their unique structure and strategy or, what we used to call the 4Ms at Market Umbrella (well, I still call them that)-the market’s mission, management, marketing and measurement. Those first two Ms are the framework for the internal systems created and are linked (the mission should tell you what type of management/governance is required) and the following two are designed once the system of management has been created.

(By the way, this is also a framework we used for evaluating any new project at MU for many years: we first decided if any project suggested was clearly within our mission; then we discussed the type of supervision (management) that would be required and decided if we had the skills and hours to do it well; any marketing and outreach also meant ensuring that our vendors and present shoppers understood the project and of course measurement was based on the external benefits of the project but the impact on the market itself was also measured. Even if the project was successful by external measures, if the present market community felt the project had negative impacts that outweighed the positive ones, then it was not repeated or made into a actual program past pilot stage.)

Many vendors found having a farmers market on campus was beneficial towards the students. It offered students a way to buy local food. Ory explained that Locally Preserved products could easily be incorporated into easy meals for college students. One option is adding their apple pie butter to a bowl of oatmeal for flavor.

Source: Farmers’ market ‘reconnects’ with campus | lionsroarnews


Some background from the professor and the founder…

Big data doesn’t have to be Big Brother

This article easily says what I attempted to do in my 3-part Big Data, Little Farmers Markets posts earlier in the year.

The same data and algorithms that wreak havoc on workers’ lives could just as easily be repurposed to improve them. Worker cooperatives or strong, radical unions could use the same algorithms to maximize workers’ well being…

…Big data, like all technology, is imbued within social relations. Despite the rhetoric of its boosters and detractors, there is nothing inherently progressive or draconian about big data. Like all technology, its uses reflect the values of the society we live in.

Under our present system, the military and government use big data to suppress populations and spy on civilians. Corporations use it to boost profits, increase productivity, and extend the process of commodification ever deeper into our lives. But data and statistical algorithms don’t produce these outcomes — capitalism does. To realize the potentially amazing benefits of big data, we must fight against the undemocratic forces that seek to turn it into a tool of commodification and oppression.

Big Data article

WW 2016 Early Bird Special closes Friday

Transforming Food Access
The Early Bird Special for the 2016 Transforming Food Access Summit closes in two days, this Friday, November 20th. If you’ve already signed up, we look forward to seeing you there. Otherwise, don’t miss out. Register before the 20th with the code EARLYBIRD2016, to receive a $75 discount on registration costs!

We are pleased to share an outstanding array of speakers, panelists, and contributors for this year’s summit, including featured speaker, Kevin Concannon, the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services at USDA.

Join a host of speakers from respected organizations in the field: Ecology Center, Fair Food Network, Farm Fresh Rhode Island, Fresh Approach, Common Market, DC Central Kitchen, DC Greens, Eat SF, The Food Trust, Hartford Food System, Health Care Without Harm, Maine Farmland Trust, Union of Concerned Scientists, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, and many more. To see the comprehensive agenda, click here.

We are also happy to announce that on the evening of Monday, January 11, Wholesome Wave Founder & CEO, Chef Michel Nischan, and his local Atlanta friends, Hugh Acheson, Linton Hopkins, and Anne Quatrano, will host a “Chefs’ Potluck” welcome reception at the Floataway Cafe. We are thrilled to have these award-winning chefs who are dedicated to local, sustainable food join us that evening. There’s limited availability and tickets will be available on a first come first serve basis for Summit attendees.

Michel       Hugh Acheson.png       Linton Hopkins.png       Anne Quatrano.png

We would like to extend a thank you to our sponsors, Fresh Sound Foundation and Farm Credit Council, for their generous support of this year’s summit.

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And finally, a special thank you to Wholesome Wave Georgia for their hospitality and advice.

Please contact programs@wholesomewave.org with any questions. For periodic updates, sign up for Summit emails on our website.