POP your market in 2016

Last year, the Farmers Market Coalition teamed up with Chipotle Mexican Grill to give 30 farmers markets across the country the opportunity to meet their educational missions through the POP Club: Power of Produce! FMC is excited to announce that POP will continue at those markets for an additional year, AND will expand the program to include 20 MORE FMC member markets for the 2016 season!

POP Club began in 2011 at the Oregon City Farmers Market. The program’s success attracted the attention of, and quickly spread to, markets across the country. POP Club empowers children to make healthy food choices by engaging them in educational activities at the farmers market and putting buying power directly into their hands. The program gives children $5 in market currency (vouchers) to spend on fresh produce when they participate in a POP Club activity. POP Club provides a fun opportunity for children to participate in the local food system through conversations directly with farmers, educational games and demonstrations, and exposure to new fruits and vegetables. You can learn more about the POP Club here.

The Chipotle Mexican Grill sponsorship will provide 50 FMC members with activity supplies and promotional materials needed to run the program, and $2,000 in farmers market vouchers for POP Club participants! While the Chipotle sponsorship opportunity is open to a limited number of markets, the POP Club tools, guides, templates and promotional materials are available for download by all FMC members.
Sponsored markets will receive:

  • $2,000 in farmers market vouchers
  • A POP Club Banner
  • Grow Pots (flower pots with seeds and info on growing your own veggies)
  • Activity Books (Games and activities that also teach kids about growing food and eating healthy)
  • Farmers Market Scavenger Hunt cards
  • Salsa recipe cards
  • Temporary Tattoos
  • Templates for social media graphics, fliers, and POP Club Passports

The sponsored markets will be required to offer POP Club programming on 4 market days, between June and August.  However, markets are free to offer POP Club more often if desired.  Sponsored markets will be required to submit two brief progress reports on their POP Club activities. The POP Club events and final report must be completed by August 15th.

Does this sound like a great program for your market? Apply today! The online application takes about 15 minutes, and is due by Friday April 29th at 11:59 EST.  If you have any questions about the program, please contact Liz Comiskey atliz@farmersmarketcoalition.org.

Apply Today!
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Up next: New Orleans, Vermont, Massachusetts

Over the last ten years, my travel schedule has remained pretty constant in the late winter and spring: a.k.a. farmers market/agricultural conference season. Sometimes it means that I am leaving New Orleans during Carnival season, (or my fav festival event) the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival or just at the loveliest time of year. Still, I am honored to be invited to participate in so many market development workshops and say yes to as many as I can manage.

This year my conference travel has taken me to North Carolina, Atlanta and Illinois and next up are three meetings, two in places I know and love, and one new to me:

New Orleans: AFRI-funded “Indicators for Impact” project team/market pilot sites meeting.

Vermont: NOFA-VT Farmers Market meeting

Massachusetts: Mass Farmers Markets meeting

• In New Orleans, I will serve as the host team member and support the FMC team in presentations, facilitating open discussion among participating markets and in absorbing those markets feedback on their first year of gathering and compiling data. This University of Wisconsin-led research is informing the development of Farmers Market Metrics.

• In Vermont, I return for the 5th or 6th year to support my colleague Erin Buckwalter in her work at NOFA-VT to build capacity for direct marketing outlets and to support VFMA. I’ll be presenting some retail anthropology techniques for markets to consider when refreshing their markets. Sounds like I’ll also be called on to facilitate a open session on EBT issues, which should be helpful to the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at the Vermont Law School (CAFS). The students are leading the design of a Legal Market Toolkit along with project partners NOFA-VT and FMC. Exciting stuff coming out of this project, I promise.

• Final stop of the season is to one of the most established state associations and to work with one of the longest serving state leaders, Jeff Cole. I remember well that in the formation days of Farmers Market Coalition, our Market Umbrella E.D. always came back from those meetings with great respect for Jeff’s input. Since then, I have called on him to offer analysis in some of my projects (shout out to some of my other informal advisor mainstays: Stacy Miller, Amy Crone, Sarah Blacklin, Ben Burkett, Colleen Donovan, Copper Alvarez, Kelly Verel, Suzanne Briggs, Helena St. Jacques, Richard McCarthy, Beth Knorr, Leslie Schaller, Jean Hamilton, Paul Freedman, Devona Sherwood  along with a whole bunch of others..)   Jeff has asked me to do an overview on market measurement history (RMA, SEED, PPS audits) and recent evolutions like FM Tracks, Demonstrating Value, and of course Farmers Market Metrics.

So, keep yourself busy on other blogs while I sit in meetings, learning and sharing for the next few weeks. And if you are attending any of these meetings, please say hello and share your news or ideas with me. Maybe it’ll be the next best practice that I post on my return to these pages.

 

 

 

Atlanta

Like any market leader worth her salt, my North Carolina pal Salem told me on the first day of the Wholesome Wave Summit in Atlanta that she was going to check out two of the public market projects around town, the Dekalb Market and the Ponce City Market. Of course, I invited myself along immediately. Once done with the days sessions and networking, and with her smartphone barking directions at us, we finally found our way to the first without too many wrong turns as the twilight became evening.

The Dekalb market is actually titled “Your Dekalb Farmers Market” and is in its 39th year of operation. Still managed by the same husband and wife that started it as a produce stand, it is more than 100,000 square feet of sales space of produce, meat, seafood, herbs, cheese, beer and wine and even a recycling center. Whether farmers have much if any relationship with it is not clear, but certainly, it serves a respectable amount of diverse needs, including offering meat prepared for multiple religious and cultural requirements and a wide selection of herbs and oils for varied ethnic meals.

It’s only a few miles outside of Atlanta and easily accessible for the 7 days per week that it is open. The parking lot is large and well lit, with the lot and the market set off from the road by itself. Once inside, the signs are many and include warnings for no photography being allowed. So do note that the photos that I include here were taken inadvertently by er…someone else.

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Lots of nice tomatoes available and they do sell by box too, although the price didn’t seem like any break at that amount.

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I counted 10 varieties of sweet potatoes

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Nice signage at the Dekalb Market

We bought a few items at YDFM,  with Salem noting as we left that each staff person had which languages that they were fluent in on their nametag. Shoppers were diverse and buying large amounts.

The second market isn’t far from the first, although this one is within the city of Atlanta proper. This “market” is brand new and clearly designed as a festival marketplace and situated within a larger (fancy) retail and housing development in an old Sears headquarters building. Parking was complicated, as some of the closer spaces were marked as 30 minutes or less (with signs firmly promising that towing strictly enforced, even after 7 p.m.) and others were allowed with paid parking from the parking station. Interestingly, the development had staff positioned at each pay station to assist and even though it was near freezing outside, they were extremely helpful and polite!

Once inside, we found that the space was still under construction, with small restaurants or prepared food stalls  lined up along the perimeter. The middle of the space looks to be on its way to becoming an office tower. Pictures wouldn’t do much, as the space was large and any picture would have shown lots of still under construction areas so I took no interior shots.

Those eating in the Ponce City Market were mostly of a type: young, white and informally dressed. We perused some of the eating places quickly, but as we were hungry, we found a warm and cheerful taco place with cocktails. Good staff, food excellent.

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2nd market: the Ponce City Market in Atlanta

 

Story about the amusement park opening on the roof in 2016 inspired by the original that was replaced by Sears.

Farmers Market Metrics May Be Coming To Your Town

This is a reprint of a blog that I wrote for the Farmers Market Metrics page on Farmers Market Coalition’s site. There is a growing need for food and civic systems evaluation that is designed and implemented in partnership with the grassroots organization and uses contextual and disciplined metrics that are useful to that organization and to their partners. The new pilots and research happening at FMC and their partners, such as University of Wisconsin-Madison, are hoping to address that need.
ecocities emerging

Another detractor and another clear need for better data and reporting

The article found here

For those of you who have read my “Big Data, Little Farmers Markets” blog posts linked here, and the Farmers Market Metrics pilots many of us have worked on, you know this is the kind of media that concerns me. I will fully agree that farmers markets have limits to their ability in carrying food equity on their shoulders, although I am not sure that markets ever promised that.

The findings extracted for this article lack necessary context and since the original academic article is behind a paywall, many are left to wonder how closely this piece extrapolated the best ideas from the study. However, I won’t be surprised if this small study did say exactly what has been used here, but I’d hope it made allowances for the small scope of the research and the lack of comparable metrics between community food systems and the industrial retail sector.

Farmers’ markets offered 26.4 fewer fresh produce items, on average, than stores.
Compared to stores, items sold at farmers’ markets were more expensive on average, “even for more commonplace and ‘conventional’ produce.”
Fully 32.8 percent of what farmers’ markets offered was not fresh produce at all, but refined or processed products such as jams, pies, cakes, and cookies.

As those of us know that are working constantly to expand the reach of good food, there has never been a belief among those that run markets that our role was to replace stores, especially the small stores and bodegas likely to be present in many of the boroughs of NYC. Instead, the lever of markets is meant to offer alternatives AND to influence traditional retail by changing everyone’s goals to include health and wealth measures that benefit regional producers, all eaters and the natural world around us.
As far as being more expensive, one might wonder if that the study did not compare the same quality of goods; these price comparisons often compare older produce with less shelf life to just-picked and carefully raised regional goods. I have bought much lettuce this year from a few of my neighboring markets that lasted 3-4 weeks in my refrigerator, which I have never been able to match with the conventional trucked-in produce seen in my lovely little stores that I frequent for many of the staples I need. Additionally, the price comparisons I have conducted or have seen have shown most market goods to be competitively priced or cheaper in season, so this study may need a larger data set or maybe a longer study period.
Generally speaking, refined or processed foods available from cottage producers at a market are markedly different from what is seen in the list of ingredients in most items on a grocery store shelf. Using fruit or vegetable seconds for fresh fruit spread or salsa is common among market vendors and extends the use of regional goods. And of course, balancing one’s diet means allowing for a treat on the table after that good dinner and may actually lead to less junk food later.

And finally, the article does not even consider the positive impacts found in markets for regional producers or neighborhood entrepreneurs; that omission in these type of articles is always a warning to me that we are reading an author who has spent little or no time quantifying the needs of the entire community being served in the market. If you require proof of the need to show the multiple impacts of farmers markets, the author’s curt conclusion should make that need clear:

Sure, they’re a great place to mingle. But as to whether they are a net nutritional plus for the neighborhood, the answer appears to be: Not so much.

(someone needs to introduce this guy to the idea of social determinants of health.)

Even so, as mentioned in those Big Data and FMM posts (a new Big Data post is coming soon), even these weak arguments are still based on data and analysis which means WE need to do a better job as well. It’s high time that we started to publish regular reports from the front lines of farmers markets, CSAs and other food and civic projects that use our own good data to show the impact that we are making everywhere rather than just keep rebutting these viral pieces that offer incomplete or inaccurate snapshots.

Farmers Market Metrics Vendor Metrics Released

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.
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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.

Hall of Fame Market Leaders start their “farewell tour” year

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Back when I began working at Market Umbrella, our founder, Richard McCarthy gave me the names of a few people that he held in high esteem on market issues that I might check in with regularly. Interestingly, many of these folks led the “town square” phase of markets that Market Umbrella belongs with as well (eras that some of you have heard me talk about over the years.) Some of those names include:
Donita Anderson North Union Farmers Market, Cleveland OH
Chris Curtis, Seattle Neighborhood Farmers Markets, Seattle WA
Pam Roy (Farm to Table New Mexico)
Greenmarket NYC (many, many staff on that list. back then, Gabrielle Langholtz and Kelly Verel nee Williams, now of PPS, come to mind.)
NY leaders Diane Eggert and Bob Lewis
Massachusetts leader Jeff Cole
and two he always spoke of with great affection: Bernie Prince and Ann Yonkers at Fresh Farm in DC. I met Ann first at a Dallas TX farmers market meeting where we were both invited to speak. Ann was (and is) a woman of great style and well-formed opinions and those qualities along with her belief in markets and food systems led the energy in that room and, I am sure many others. Every time I came to DC, she and Bernie took the time out of their incredibly busy schedules to sit and talk with me. I remember once driving around MD and DC with Ann as she generously showed me her markets and we talked of mobile markets, organic farming and market logistics for most of the afternoon. In many ways, she always reminded me of Richard-both lead with their charisma and their strength of character but can also discourse on dozens of subjects easily. You leave their presence with clarity of purpose and gratitude to have leaders like this around.

On to Bernie…I didn’t know her as well in those early days, but then I began to talk more with her when she joined the Farmers Market Coalition board (and ultimately led it as its President) during its transition from its founding board and then the transition from its founding Executive Director through its present days of more staff and more advocacy. Slowly, I realized that she was a indefatigable worker and a champion strategist who would always take the time to share what she knew with her peers when asked. Whenever I visited her markets, she was picking up trash or chalking a kids game on the ground or most of the time, introducing people to a vendor through a very detailed and empathetic outline of their business history, both in and out of the market. Then, we’d often have a chat about plans she and Ann had to add markets or to raise funds or to build capacity and I’d leave sort of stunned by what they had and would continue to accomplish. I have had the privilege of hearing Bernie present more than a few times over the years and have always enjoyed basking in her energy and passion during the talk and then watching her afterwards with the newer market leaders who crowd around her, soaking up her advice and support. Her warmth and her great joy are so part of her regular personality that as soon as I just hear her voice, my mood is elevated.
As for FMC, I know how much she has personally given in time and talent and I always appreciated her constant support of the staff and the board. In my estimation, FMC owes its survival to two people more than any other: Stacy Miller and Bernie Prince, and their deep affection and respect for each other made that survival possible and set the tone for FMC as a whole. The story linked below promises that Bernie may very well stay on at FMC, which I fervently hope happens. (FYI-Sharon Yeago, Liz Comiskey and Jen O’Brien Cheek are sitting very close behind those two in credit due at FMC….)

Ann and Bernie have done so much with the food system and farmers markets in DC, Maryland and Virginia that (as I wrote on FMC’s Facebook page) it cannot be properly calculated. I will leave it to their peers at Fresh Farm and I assume civic and food leaders across the area who will take the time to honor them. I hope all of you will have the chance to meet these two giants before they hand over their market bell(s) and to thank them for all that they have given to us and will give to us in their next leadership role in our food and farming system.

WP story

Still time to register for the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group meeting in Mobile AL, January 14 – 17 2015

unnamedEarly 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:

Information Exchange:
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.

Workshops:

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).

2015 Conference Program — Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) | Farmers Market Coalition

Some extremely important advocacy has been done by NSAC and FMC on the need for more edits to the FSMA in order for family farms and small business producers to be able to survive and thrive. Their recommendations include needed edits to the rules for farmers markets to be able to manage risk and yet to be allowed to encourage innovation to happen. Please read their updates and analysis on the FSMA and get your comments in by December 15.
Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) | Farmers Market Coalition.

Food Systems for Healthy Places

Great post by Dr. Morales on some of his current project work, including his perspective on the Indicators for Impacts AFRI-funded project that we both are working on through 2016.
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Food Systems for Healthy Places | BEPHC | Georgia Institute of Technology | Atlanta, GA.

Employment with Farmers Market Coalition

Two great 40-hour/wk job postings with Farmers Market Coalition are being offered: an EBT Program Associate and an Education Program Associate. The programs for these positions have enormous potential to become pillars of FMC’s national work for many years to come, so please spread the word to as many corners of the community food system to allow them the opportunity to get the best staff possible. I can personally vouch that this organization has an excellent work environment staffed with dedicated and delightful folks.
Link to FMC website

Truth & Transparency: Farm Audits for Producer-Only Integrity | Farmers Market Coalition

Farmers Market Coalition member webinar on October 29th at 1 pm eastern, 12 pm central, and 10 am pacific.

Truth & Transparency: Farm Audits for Producer-Only Integrity | Farmers Market Coalition.