I had the great pleasure to become acquainted in 2012 with this innovative program that is closely linked to the North Carolina farmers markets and individual farmers to get food flowing to more people- but this model made sure that it was NOT at the expense of farmers businesses. Their Donation Stations allows customers to buy an extra share to donate to those in need and also allowed farmers credit for any donations that they made. Their wholesale work to get more agencies to buy regional food is also extremely important.
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 http://www.farmersmarketcoalition.org.
Early bird registration for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group is still open for a little bit longer (2 more days) through December 21st. Register online, or download a registration form and get it postmarked no later than Dec 21st for the lowest conference rates. They accept, via mail, checks made payable to Southern SAWG. They accept, via mail and online, VISA, Master Card, American Express and Discover credit cards. Pre-registration continues through midnight on January 7th. After that, registration will be on location in Mobile.
I will be leading two workshops and also moderating an open discussion (information exchange) this year. Find me here:
Friday, 10:45 a.m. – Noon
Using EBT, “Double Coupon” and Other Programs at Farmers Markets – Does your market employ the EBT, FMNP, Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive Program (FINIP) or WIC programs? Do you have a double coupon incentive program for SNAP, WIC or SFNMP? Discuss technology issues and share best practices for implementing these programs at markets.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 noon
Why Farmers Markets? Learn to Communicate Their Value to Your Community – Making the case for farmers markets to farmers, shoppers and community leaders is crucial for continued community support, yet most markets struggle with this task. Learn how to capture and communicate meaningful measures of your market’s success. Using exercises and worksheets from the Farmers Market Metrics project, this session will give you practical examples of simple and effective data collection techniques that you can use for your market. Darlene Wolnik, Helping Public Markets Grow (LA) and Sarah Blacklin, NC Choices (NC).
Saturday 3:30-5:00 pm
Farmers Markets as Business Incubators: How Market Managers Can Help Improve Their Vendors’ Businesses – Increasingly competitive market outlets for local food means that the top farmers often jump from market to market. This session will offer practical strategies for market managers and board members on identifying and understanding their anchor vendors and their needs, as well as addressing the challenges of retaining new vendors. Darlene Wolnik, Helping Public Markets Grow (LA) and Sarah Blacklin, NC Choices (NC).
Reddit is often called “the front page of the internet” as it allows multiple groups of people to chat about breaking news or specific areas of interest. Today, one post on the front page is about NPR’s story on the FINIP and its role in incentivizing healthy food changes. The thread contains some interesting tidbits of how the “other 96%-98%” think about farmers markets and incentives. It may help markets to better understand the barriers that remain for these programs, from markets promoters to detractors in these comments like this:
Assuming that people eat less junk because of it. Someone getting $100 in benefits that was spending $30 on healthy foods, and $70 on junk, may end up now spending $30 on health, and $85 on junk, or $60 on healthy foods, but still spend $70 on junk. Also, just because you bought food at a farmers market, doesn’t mean it was healthy. You can still buy a lot of junk at a farmers market. And now that there is an incentive for buying at “farmers markets”, I have a feeling that the big companies will find a way to get their foods sold at farmers markets. The intentions are good, hopefully things work out and people make better choices, but I am skeptical over any results.
I believe this is a good idea and SNAP should have been promoting healthier choices a long time ago.
For one thing, buying locally helps local farmers, which helps the rural economy which hasn’t seen economic gains in a long time.
For another, buying fruits and vegetables will lead to more people eating healthier meals instead of processed foods. As a grocery store clerk I often saw people buying crappy food with their SNAP cards. Many people would purchase candy bars and soda rather than nutritional food. This isn’t to say that people shouldn’t treat themselves from time to time, but it doesn’t make sense for the government to subsidize companies making unhealthy food and people who make choices that cause health problems in the long-term.
What would be best is if the SNAP program included cooking classes. It’s so much easier to save money and stay healthy if you cook for yourself. I’ve been a chef at a hostel where we cook healthy meals for guests and staff and I can make a decent meal (chicken and pasta with sides of corn and green beans) for just $2-$3 for a big filling serving. A similar meal at a restaurant would be at least $10, and it’s a lot healthier than whatever you could get from the dollar menu at McDonald’s.
An excellent webinar today from Farmers Market Coalition on one of California’s farm audit programs. Impressive how much our low-capacity markets are doing to safeguard their mission and values and to protect producers.
The linked article below tells of Whole Foods’ campaign to let America know of their “cheaper” prices and is interesting news on a few fronts.
One, that the world’s leading natural and organic food store is sharing price comparisons and acknowledging the need to identify costs to their shoppers. Co-CEO Mackay says, “For a long time Whole Foods had the field to ourselves, pretty much. That was nice, but we don’t any longer,” he said on an earnings call with investors. “So we’re adapting to the reality of the marketplace.”
Secondly this: the chain is lowering its prices, particularly on produce.
This may be an indicator of the strength of the farmers market movement that has led WF to become more competitive on fresh produce. That may seem a far jump for some of my readers, but since it was not an issue when they competed only with other grocery stores, I am inclined to partly credit the energy of the increased number of farmers market outlets for fresh produce for one of the reasons for this.
Or, it may be that the chain feels that they can reduce their costs by reducing their waste in produce (reducing spoilage is an area that stores should always be working on to increase profits) or (sigh) maybe the chain feels it can ask for lower prices from farmers/producers more easily than companies from whom they buy value-added products.
I’d love to hear others thoughts on this news and how they think it affects farmers markets and other direct marketing outlets.
Scrolling down through the list of FMPP successful proposals shows the ingenious and unique approaches that farmers markets and farmer advocates are employing across the U.S. to further community food systems.
Congratulations to everyone.
list of 2014 FMPP awardees