Today, the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) submitted recommendations to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service regarding their collection of data about farmers markets. These recommendations were developed in response to a request for comments on proposed revisions to USDA’s National Farmers Market Manager Questionnaire. Changes proposed by USDA include the addition of on-farm markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) operations to their annual information collection.
The USDA Farmers Market Directory offers the only comprehensive census of farmers markets currently available. In the letter, FMC supports efforts to maximize its accuracy, reduce market manager burden, and systematically improve the collective understanding of farmers market characteristics as well as those of on-farm markets and farm subscription programs like CSAs. We support elimination of the lengthy Farmers Market Manager Survey (currently conducted every four years, with a two+ year analysis/publication window) in favor of a more concise, timely, efficient annual data collection process.
We invite you to read FMC’s recommendations on our website, here where you’ll find a link to the letter submitted earlier today. As FMC President Bernie Prince points out in the letter, “market manager participation is crucial to ensure accuracy, and communication to the respondent population must be clear, consistent, and offer sufficient response windows.” We support annual data collection, coupled with the Farmers Market Directory update, that focuses only on a small set of questions clustered around an annual research theme. This theme should be identified in collaboration with other agencies and organizations (like FMC) each year and actively communicated to farmers markets well in advance. FMC pledges its continued efforts to help farmers markets engage in regular measurement and communication of their impacts.
As you prepare for a stellar 2013 season, what priorities do you think USDA should focus on in their national research efforts? We urge you to make your thoughts heard before the January 4th comment deadline. Please read FMC’s recommendations and consider endorsing them on behalf of your organization or yourself as an individual. Simply visit the regulations(dot)gov online form (here). In the Comment box, type “As a member of the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC), I endorse the recommendations submitted by FMC on January 2nd.” Of course, please add any additional suggestions you have for the agency as it relates to the collection of information about farmers markets, on-farm markets, and CSA operations. The deadline to submit comments is this Friday, January 4, 2013.
Happy New Year, and thanks for your ongoing support for stronger farmers markets!
Your friends at FMC