The USDA Regional Food Business Centers funding opportunity opens today

The USDA offered the first glimpse of their new Regional Food Business Centers approach via Zoom. Listed below is a recording link from today’s session for those who want to see if firsthand:

https://www.zoomgov.com/rec/share/ZEI35DwUboT5gXC8VsJbclyoYPdZ5-iHUGECGGyUyk_5Zv7JlzNQecCCsDae3-BF.JbVo_MaclpKQ4HzN

From the press release:

“USDA will fund at least six regional centers, to include a national tribal center and at least one center serving each of three targeted areas: Colonias (counties on the US/Mexico border), persistent poverty or other communities of high need/limited resources areas of the Delta and the Southeast, and high need areas of Appalachia as well as centers in other regions of the country.

The USDA Regional Food Business Centers will support a more resilient, diverse, and competitive food system.  These Regional Food Centers will support producers by providing localized assistance to access local and regional supply chains, including linking producers to wholesalers and distributors. They will provide technical assistance needed to access new markets, access to federal, state, and local resources, and will assist small- and mid-sized producers in overcoming barriers to market access, with a focus on underserved farmers, ranchers, and food businesses.  No match is required. (The minimum request is at 15 million to a maximum of 50 million for each proposal and are due by November 22, 2022.)

2022 Proclamation for National Farmers Market Week

Summer Dive into Data II

Understanding Consumer Interest in Product and Process-Based Attributes  for Fresh Produce (2008) Authors Bond/Thilmany/Bond

Abstract

The choices consumers make about fresh produce, such as where it is purchased and what they are willing to pay, are likely influenced by a range of private and public attributes. This study uses factor and cluster analysis techniques to explore the preferences of consumers who responded to a 2006 national survey to determine the dimensions over which consumers make purchasing decisions and to identify key market segments. Analysis is based on a variety of survey questions relating to preferences for various fresh produce traits and process attributes, as well as willingness to pay for a subset of these attributes. We find that although there is only a small degree of correlation between tested variables, four consumer clusters can be identified as market segments: Urban, Assurance Seekers, Price Conscious Consumers, Quality and Safety Consumers, and Personal Value Buyers. Each cluster values both private and public attributes, though with differing intensities and focus.

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This is the type of data that is so very helpful in refining messaging. Each of these clusters has a potential connection to farmers market shopping and by using their defined values, a market might just attract a new cluster of shoppers.

The paper covers 4 clusters:

Personal Value Buyers (PVB) 27.9%

Quality and Safety Consumers (QSC) 26.3%

Urban Assurance Seekers (UAS) 23.3%

Price Conscious Consumers (PCC) 22.4%

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PVB

•Older, above-average educational attainment, relatively high incomes

•They value consistent availability and variety

•Do not value organic production, traceability, or relationship with producers as high as other groups

Potential Message: “The farmers market has x varieties of apples this month, including hard-to-find xx variety

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QSC

•Lower to middle income, lower educational attainment, more concentrated in urban areas in South Atlantic and Pacific regions of U.S.

•They rank the importance of local production higher than the other clusters but choose indirect sales (grocery rather than farmers market or stands) for that local production

•Perceived safety is highly valued

Potential Message 1: “Fewer hands touching your food

Potential Message 2: “The farmers picked fresh this morning.”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

UAS

•Relatively young, wealthy, more likely to live in urban South Atlantic and Pacific regions of U.S.

•Largest expenditures on produce

•Greater willingness to pay for organic, country of origin labeling

•Interested in potential public benefits

Potential Message 1: “Markets increase civic participation”

Potential Message 2: “Our market offers a children’s program that rewards kids for learning and participation.”

Potential Message 3: “More than half of our farmers offer certified organic products”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

PCC

•Lower-income less education, young, evenly distributed across the U.S.

•Greater willingness to pay for higher nutrients (enhanced Vit C) and locally produced 

Potential Message 1: “Local is our primary purpose.”

Potential Message 2: ” Fresher is more nutritious”

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Summer Dive into Data

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am on my way to Oregon to join the FSLN National Gathering Monday – Thursday this week. While there, I’ll be meeting up with inspiring leaders who can share ideas for how I can better serve the front-line direct marketing producers, market and CSA organizers, and my own FMC team.

On the first leg of this many-phased trip, I read two recent research papers, 1 on farmers markets and 1 on consumer interest in local food, and immediately found some very interesting information I can use in various projects. I’ll share some here in the hope it is also helpful to others.

The first was a research paper by John Metz and Sarah Scherer published in 2021 titled “The Rise and Decline of Farmers Markets in Cincinnati.” This is a great, well-researched paper for anyone wanting to understand the history of that region’s markets, and also for those interested in data on market closure factors in the area.

Methodology

They did site visits, interviewed managers, and recorded data on products sold, businesses location and gathered other information from informal conversations with vendors. They also consulted another unpublished local survey. (Twiss. Green Umbrella 2016)

Market organization

For this study, the researchers defined farmers markets as having 2 or more farmers selling their own goods (using the USDA’s loose definition) and added the stipulations that farmers at these markets must have ¼ acre or more in production for local sale. They also excluded sites that were the actual production site, defining those as farm stands. They defined Saturday markets as different markets than those that had weekday markets operating at the same site, resulting in 37 sites operating 42 different markets.

Numbers

The Greater Cincinnati market grew from 21 in 2004 to 41 in 2012 with a “25 increase in 2005 and a 35% jump between 2009-2010.” The number peaked in 2012 and then fell 17% (n34) by 2018.

From 2005-2018, 42 new markets opened but 25 closed in same period for a 60% reduction.

During the 2005-2018 era, 71% of the closed markets operated 3 or fewer years. In contrast, 1975-1989 era, 32% (n7) of the 22 closed in the first 3 years.

Vendor-Led and Community-Led

The authors classify markets by its decision-makers, with “Farmer-Focused” and “Consumer-Focused” (or, in the language of a report they cite by Gantla/Lev from 2015, Vendor-Led (VL) and Community-Led (CL)*. I prefer the Gantla/Lev language so I’ll use that here).

Metz and Scherer concluded that the founders’ vision for the market created and continued the market’s decision-making structure. That is in line with the Market Eras Research that I have shared and continue to refine.

Among the Vendor Led markets, 11 of 13 were begun by farmers or Extension. The authors define this type as existing to primarily provide farmers with venues to sell produce. The VL markets had fewer vendors than CL markets (a mean of 6.8 vs 19.4) and the only items that were not produce tended to be jams, jellies, relishes, and baked goods prepared by the farmer vendors. Market managers had fewer responsibilities since these markets tended to offer fewer activities and rarely to conduct data collection (sales, visitor counts, or shopper surveys.) None of the VL markets had a website during the period studied.

12 of the 13 were managed by volunteers, often running more than one. So of the 13 markets, there were only 7 managers. Most were over 60.

Among the Community-Led markets, only 2 of the 24 were started by farmers. These markets had slightly varying goals for their existence including providing healthy food to neighbors, helping farmers make a better living, but also included community development goals as well.

These markets had many types of prepared foods and usually had music, and other activities. Half of these markets also had crafts but allowing crafts is also definitely a subcategory among CL markets as the other half did not allow them at all.

Many of these markets did collect sales (7), shopper counts (12), and shoppers surveys (10) at some point in the time period studied although few did it consistently: only 3-5 of the 37 did consistent data collection in the period studied. And only 3 managers reported collecting daily sales data with another 4 estimating sales annually.

13 of 24 of the CL markets were managed by volunteers although 2 of these volunteers did receive a (small) stipend or the market waived the manager’s vendor fee. Of the 11 that received some sort of serious compensation, only 4 were full-time and had other responsibilities besides managing the market. The researchers analyzed that 6 of those 11 received between $17-$23 hour.

20 of the 24 managers were under 60.

All managers for both types identified as white and 31 of 37 as female.

This research’s conclusions as to why the Cincinnati markets closed:

  1. Farmers markets exceeded current consumer demand
  2. The unexamined assumptions and unconscious biases of market operators who were white reduced the markets appeal to Black, Indigenous/Native people, and communities of Color.
  3. New technology in food retailing that encouraged payment options and online shopping was (is) still difficult in farmers markets
  4. Shortage of farmers
  5. Poor management of market

One thing they did NOT find as a cause for closures among this area’s markets was internal competition from other markets. Their analysis suggests that of the markets that they studied, few of those that closed were within the competition range of other markets. They also note that the number of “Tailgate Markets” closing from 1985-2004 was matched by the number of “Non-Tailgate” new markets opening.

Such a valuable report! I appreciate how it was organized and the core data it offers. They cite our Pittsburgh market report from 2019 which is not surprising as the analysis is presented in a similar fashion. Their conclusions also reflect many reports that rely on historic data from farmers market eras and the characteristics of market types –  including the VT report from my colleague Jean Hamilton that they also cite.

Essentially: markets struggle if they are not organized collectively, if they do not fight for farmers to remain at their center, if they cannot keep a consistent, paid management team, and if they do not employ realistic methods to analyze the external and internal factors that impact their existence.

All of that shows the type of deep support we need funders to start to offer market organizations – which means beyond program $$. The program partnerships are extremely welcome but they come with the expectation of a lot of added work that is not always supported. We need funders and policymakers to understand the underlying mission and operations of each organization and form long term partnerships to maintain and expand those. To make that happen, market operators need to share these reports, collect their own and stop hiding the hard work they and their vendors do.

Footnote *Institution-Led is Gantla/Lev’s 3rd category and defined as markets run by larger orgs that do more than operate farmers markets.

Off to Oregon for FSLN retreat, then….

hello strangers! I promise I am back to writing regularly for this blog, now that the mad schedule over the last few years which includes FMC GusNIP TA facilitation structure, responding to the early COVID needs among market operators, the work to help get the World Farmers Market Coalition rolling, and also FMC’s new grants/project work underway and (excellent) staff almost all hired and onboarded.

FMC is hiring an admin position, 2 paid interns, and will likely have one more job posting in the next month.

So if you remember, I am on the road most of the summer, partly because of the hurricane trauma we live under here in New Orleans, and because since FMC is a remote workplace and I can go see and talk to market operators and farmers.

That travel really begins next week with a trip to Oregon for the Food System Leadership Network Vision and Strategy Event. I am excited to be attending this event, as I have long been associated with the Wallace Center both in my consulting for markets and in the support that Wallace Center offered FMC way back in 2006-2008. (The Resource Library and the FAQs on the FMC site were partially built by Wallace Center staff and contractors and were offered to FMC to help get the farmers market-specific website up).

If you will be at the retreat and are a farmers market operator or advocate and want to talk in person, please message me on the Whova app.

And if you are in OH, Chicago, VT, Pittsburgh, or DC and are a farmers market operator or advocate and want to talk in person message me at darwolnik at gmail.

Please add your market or organization name in the subject so I can fish it out of spam!

If I add more locations to my travel, I’ll let you know.

where ya been?

yeah I know- i’m the one who has been absent from my own blog! I have a LOT to share with my market community and will be posting regularly this summer here.

For now, I’ll share news of the TentTalk that I did with the FM Pros team; truly truly, I was honored to be asked, of course am horrified by the sound of my voice and my run-on sentences- but gotta admit- it sounds like me.

It will go live May 31st and if you are not subscribed you should be- its the best podcast in the market world.

and my extended interview (where Catt and I discussed market music licensing issues!) will run in their members monthly email the first Monday of June.

Flagship Market begins a national search for a new Executive Director

 

Today, Market Umbrella is entering a new and exciting chapter. The organization’s next Executive Director will have the opportunity to build upon Market Umbrella’s success to-date and grow the organization’s impact as a leader in farmers markets and food access. Key opportunities include deepening and expanding Market Umbrella’s community presence through focused relationship building and innovations to the market experience, as well as building Market Umbrella’s regional and national brand and stature. Leveraging the strong name recognition of the CCFM and the historical effectiveness of many of Market Umbrella’s programs, the new Executive Director will be in a position to spearhead strategic priorities that incorporate programmatic and partnership-based incubation of ideas. These strategic priorities will be grounded in and responsive to the evolving needs of the Market Umbrella community, particularly regarding racial equity and the impacts of the pandemic. Working in partnership with Market Umbrella’s dynamic Board, staff, and network of ecosystem partners, the next Executive Director will be a leading actor in promoting excellence for the CCFM and in advancing the organization’s mission of cultivating public markets for the public good.

 

https://worknola.com/job/328024/executive-director

Salvador on Plantation Economics

‘Our Food System Is Very Much Modeled on Plantation Economics’

And in the United States in particular, because of our history, not very long ago, the people that performed all of the jobs that I just listed right now, or their equivalents, those were performed by enslaved people, people whom we forced to do this for no pay, for no compensation; we appropriated their labor. And that era is not that long ago. As everyone listening knows, emancipation didn’t occur, at least officially, until 1865. But the fact is that emancipation never really came to agriculture, in the sense that we still don’t pay the full value of the labor that’s required to make the entire system work.

 

 

 

We need a food system that is fungible, that has redundancy built in. The so-called efficiencies that have been built into the highly specialized industrial model that we have right now, we are now learning, do not serve us when you have a situation where a single thing that is unpredicted takes out one pillar of the food system, and then the whole thing comes crumbling down. That’s not the kind of food system that we need. We need one that is more distributed, meaning that there are more nodes within the food system that can respond in the volumes and quantities and the formats that are necessary for where people are going to be using this food.

Now, a very good example of that is that the farmers that are doing well right now are the so-called small-scale family farmers. These are folks that produce in volumes, and who redistribute in local and regional networks, where they can respond very quickly, to where the schools are now becoming redistribution points for SNAP, for instance, or for school food that needs to be picked up by students that otherwise might not have access to that food, because they’re not coming to school every day, and so on. Or through farmers markets, another very important redistribution method which is very fungible. So we’re learning that that’s actually what works; we need to invest more in these kinds of highly distributed systems, and less in the highly concentrated systems.