One thing I do each December is to think about my work year, what I wished I had accomplished and what I might do in the next year. I am sure this list is no surprise to any of the hardworking market operators and market partners that I wish I had done more for in 2022, but in these exhausting years of the COVID crisis, there has been a growing and mostly unmet need to offer organizational services such as grant writing assistance, board development and governance audits, staff Human Resources support, and product development for market vendors.
In 2023, I am determined to redouble my efforts to increase support for farmers market operators through more directed technical assistance and resource collection and creation, both in my staff role at Farmers Market Coalition and in my small role in my own time working as a consultant directly with markets across the US and with the newly emerging World Farmers Markets Coalition.
Here are some of my 2023 goals:
Continue connecting climate activists and funders to community food leaders so our work can be named, outlined, and funded in the climate mitigation work happening across the US and globe. This includes seeking funding for a disaster recovery toolkit for farmers markets;
Pick up new skills and tools including completing a course on mapping networks which I believe is an excellent tool for market leaders to know exactly where they need to deploy their limited resources for maximum effect;
I also have carried around a longer term goal to start too seek funding for an FM Anthology book; once secured, asking writers and activists to contribute pieces on the vision and history of the modern market movement that illustrate how it has contributed so much to localized health and wealth initiatives in thousands of places across the globe;
Working more on a regional effort here in New Orleans named the Pontchartrain Network to increase connections across the dozen or so Louisiana parishes and MS counties that rely on the lake watershed. That work will focus on educational efforts to all civic leaders about how to achieve increased production and consumption of food grown in the region;
At FMC, we will be seeking a new Executive Director in 2023, as Ben Feldman plans to step down after a successful run the last 3 + years (although I certainly hope he will remain as our policy person);
I expect to help the authors of the Anti Racist Farmers Market Toolkit with their goal of implementation of its strategies in markets by helping them secure funding for that work. If we get those efforts well underway, we can begin to seek leaders in the indigenous community to add their own content towards similar strategies so the modern market system can also be a more useful tool for tribal nations that are prioritizing culturally meaningful production and healthy options for their residents; to that same end, our work with USDA supporting a pilot of 1890 land-grant universities to add farmers markets to their campuses has already taught our team a great deal about how to help their efforts and we would hope to add more sites and 1994 land-grant universities and Hispanic-serving universities in future rounds of that work;
We will also be working on the new Regional Food Business Centers that USDA has added as a new level of support to regional food systems, and expecting to play a large role in the work with farmers markets across all of the centers;
Our food access team will seek to expand its funding to assist market organizations and states that are branching out past GusNIP funding for permanent incentive and benefit program support, as well as continue to support the large pool of GusNIP grantees whose work often becomes the realpolitik for food access decisions at USDA.
And with my decades of work on finding appropriate and relevant evaluation systems for community food system leaders to use (rather than funder or academic versions of what they think evaluation should mean), we will continue to create and support software and analog tools to conduct low-intensity evaluation of the many many impacts that markets have on their community, and in helping those with data turn them into infographics and analysis they can use to increase funding and awareness.
One other priority will remain: the development of FMC into serving a permanent role as the dynamic, stable, and effective go-to entity for the estimated 9,000 market communities in the US, as well as supporting our partners in similar sectors such as CSAs, farm stands, agritourism, and community gardening to be able to do the same. I am happy to report that that internal work is being ably managed by our Deputy Director Willa Sheikh and enthusiastically aided by our entire stellar FMC team which I am deeply proud to work alongside. Learn more about them here: https://farmersmarketcoalition.org/joinus/team/
So that’s my plan. I’d love to hear some of your plans around farmers market work and maybe even build a support network for those of us who do this work. If so, leave a comment.
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