2019 data collection strategies-South Champlain Islands and Capital City Farmers Markets – Part 1

Checking out different ways that markets collect and use data is one of my chief duties in developing evaluation tools over the past 20 years. And since part-time at FMC, I have also contracted directly with some markets and networks, mostly on data collection strategies, which also informs my FMC duties.
One of those delightful synergies can be illustrated through my long time relationship with Northeast Organic Farming Association- Vermont (NOFA-VT). For the last few years, I have worked on an FMPP-funded project under the supervision of NOFA-VT’s Direct Marketing Coordinator, Erin Buckwalter. This project will aid in building a culture of data collection at Vermont’s farmers markets and has included resource development, evaluation strategies for all market types, and direct technical assistance and training. Because of this, I added a second annual trip besides my usual winter conference attendance.  And luckily for me, it was scheduled for the mid-summer rather than the usual winter trip, which, although very lovely, is somewhat limiting for this Southerner and has meant few market visits.

Erin suggested that we create a team of market managers, agency leaders, and market volunteers to gather data for markets in August. The goals were multiple:
1. model good data collection habits
2. network markets interested in data collection
3. test out some methods for different types of markets
4. look for opportunities for needed resource development on evaluation
5. see more markets and make a direct connection with market leaders
6. collect some data!

She sent out an email to a few markets to nominate themselves. Obviously we needed to be able to do them in a short span of days, the successful applicants needed to have a use for the data, and they would have to have some capacity to assist the team.

We ended up with 2 excellent choices: Champlain Islands Farmers Market – South Hero, held Wednesday afternoons 3-6 pm, and Capitol City Farmers Market (Montpelier) held 9-1 pm Saturdays.

They were wonderful choices because they were so very different, and because they have enthusiastic leadership that are very interested in the data and learning more about collecting it.

Champlain Islands Farmers Market – South Hero
is one of those organizations that operate markets 2 days a week in 2 different locations. As such, it means the two are actually quite different in terms of vendors, products, programs, and visitors.
The Wednesday market is held behind a church and its location was partly chosen to take advantage of the visitors who are on that part of the island before they turn to the ferry. It has around 16 vendors, offering a wide variety of what is needed by seasonal visitors who will be cooking in their vacation kitchens and what permanent residents need for their table. Because the site is offered by a third party, sharing data on the positive impacts of this location is always helpful, as is analyzing the functionality of the site. Cindy Walcott, Market Chair/Treasurer and Julia Small (market manager) were gracious hosts, giving a lot of assistance to our team.

The team:
Erin
me
Dave Kaczynski , Montpelier FM board member, VTFMA board member
Sherry Maher, Brattleboro Winter mkt leader, and NOFA-VT’s lead for in-state data collection strategies on this project
Janice Baldwin also from the Brattleboro Winter Market
Alissa Matthews, VT Agency of Agriculture, Food, and Markets (VAAFM)
Anisa​ Balagam​, the new market manager of the Winooski Farmers Market​.​

This market organization has collected data previously and has devised an almost fool-proof way to count their visitors. Since the parking is routed from the main road via a narrow drive to a graveled area, they can position someone at the beginning of the drive, counting every car and the number of adults inside. Additionally, it also allows the market to collect the license plate state which is extremely important as Cindy says that the attendance for this weekday market usually about 50% Vermonters.

Using their counting sheet, two of us went to the vantage point to gather the count. Cindy has also downloaded a counting app on her smart phone, having set it up previously to capture the same detailed data, but we decided to go paper.

Cindy gives us an overview of the counting method the market uses.

The rest of us would gather surveys from the visitors, and since we had a good crew size, could team folks up and also allow them to take breaks to shop and eat.
They had a tent and tables for our use, and we decided to put it in the location where we could best capture folks on their way out. Deciding if the team will survey folks coming in or out is one of the decisions the collection supervisor needs to make before or on the day of – with input from the team.

Whether you do it on the way in or out has a lot to do with the shopping behavior

-are people frantic about missing items that quickly sell out? they will be less interested in doing the survey on the way in.

-are people loaded down with bags and have a long way to go to their parking? they may be less interested in offering data on the way out, although having tables and a tent to put their items down does help!

-and if you are asking intent on learning about their purchases that day, it may be better to wait until the end of the shopping trip. – However, if you have a small market with a lot of regular weekly shoppers, it may be okay to do it as they come in as the amount spent may not vary as much week to week for those shoppers.

We began the day with a group logistical meeting: introductions, and discussing who would be where and how to get breaks when needed. Depending on the group, a quick round of role plays with the survey sheet may also helpful. Cindy gave us the likely attendance number (which decides how many surveys to collect), and the type of shoppers this market usually experiences. My responsibility as the Data Collection Coordinator was simple for this market (and was a very different job for our Saturday market visit at Capital City – more on that in Part 2) but even when it is simple, the Coordinator should be constantly rotating, collecting completed sheets to make sure things look right, re-assigning folks when necessary, and generally seeing what else can be done (and if possible, doing data collection too.)
The crew was eager and because it was a group of market leaders was great at problem-solving, very willing to engage with shoppers, and able to gracefully steer “I don’t know” answers to a specific amount or answer.

market map

The market had originally had us next to the Land Trust info booth, but after a short discussion, the team decided that moving our tent to a spot closer to where we estimated the path to leaving the market would be was better for us. Dave also suggested that we move the picnic table into our tent for folks to sit or to place their bags, and since the day began rainy,  Julia thought it fine to do just that.
The survey collection went great as everyone was very willing to stop and answer questions. I find that the majority of people (90-95%) are always very open to this, especially if the opening line is something like “Can you spare a minute to help the market?”  It has almost always been true on the farmers market data collection teams that I have worked that surveyors constantly exceed the collection goals set for them because they find it easier and more fun than they originally expected. Sometimes it is harder to get them to slow down, which can be necessary to make sure that a comparable number of surveys are collected in each hour.Making it fun for the surveyor and not taxing to the respondent are other reasons that the survey should be well designed and as short as possible!

I must say for this experience of having every person we asked say yes AND people making a beeline for us to take the survey before we approached them was delightful, and is a credit to the excellent pre-market communication that the market had with this community and also makes it clear that the community understands that this is a data-driven market.
Well done Champlain Island Farmers Markets!

More later on the data that was collected, once it has been cleaned and organized by the market organization and NOFA-VT. We did exceed our goal for the number of surveys that the team and the market agreed it wanted to collect. For most markets, collecting 10-15% of the usual attendees will be a good number, but there are ways to calculate that further.

Anissa uses the tent

Erin does the first survey

Data collection and time for sharing and general conversations too

 

Part 2

Salud America: Why Your Town Needs a Farmers Market

Why Your Town Needs a Farmers Market

I love this call-to-action piece for Latinx to use markets to organize across multiple impacts. The newest trend in markets is the use of this nimble mechanism by equity and justice organizers to create new outcomes for both sides of the market table.

I must point out though that if 44% match those type of census tracts (see below), then 56% do not; any chance we can highlight THAT fact? Or that it does not mean that markets on the edge of multiple neighborhoods are not welcoming to a cross-section of shoppers from all census tracts. I’d also like to see if there will ever be research on whether there are mitigating factors to total gentrification and if some types of markets are a factor in that anti-gentrification.

But many of these markets are not accessible to Latinos. In fact, a San Diego State University report indicates that 44% of the city’s farmers markets are in census tracts with high levels of gentrification.

Reckoning versus Tokenism: How can markets help?

Anyone who works on farmers markets (hopefully!) understands that one major area that is constantly hampering our effectiveness in creating this new world of community food systems is the lack of reckoning with the institutional racism within the systems that make up our material world.
Or, as Raj Patel said at Slow Food Nations 2018:
“You don’t fix the past with a certain type of tokenism; you fix it with a reckoning. And that reckoning is something the food movement has yet to have.”
To me, the argument among some growers and organizers that there are “too many farmers markets” indicates that the field is in dire need of growing its reach and thinking through re-positioning its outcomes. It seems clear to me that we need to turn back to prioritizing the production side of the equation, supporting growers and other producers more directly and more widely, and increasing purchasers at our thousands of markets by redefining the language of shopping at markets as transformative for the community and nourishing for ones own family even as we continue to make them truly welcoming to all types of people.

So to see the recent strong emergence of the food justice movement, led by people of color, focusing on collaborative production and on innovative messaging on why choosing healthy food is activism at its purest form has been inspiring and humbling at the same time for many white allies. Inspiring to see how the work is imbued with innovation and collaboration at every level (see Dara Cooper’s quote and interview at the end as an example), and humbling because there is so much history around these injustices that many of us still don’t fully comprehend. With the emergence of this chapter, we will gain access to a new set of tools and pilots to learn how to better organize on systemic issues that depress our markets’ and food systems potential. Which means that when market leaders get to the “unconscious competence” level of their market work and build systems, their seasoned staff can join housing boards, mobilize on public transportation systems, work on greenways and environmental degradation hot spots, become a voice on county level policies to incentivize using productive land for food and so on to really grow our market communities.

Another massive contribution that black, native and other writers and organizers of disenfranchised communities are bringing to the food and farming table is a demand for context and disciplined language as seen in the rejection of the “food desert” label. I have long rejected that language, as it implies scarcity rather than the truth: a systemic denial of resources to that community. And often there IS food – sometimes it’s a lot of bad food which is hard to combat when using food desert language to organize, or the structure of food procurement is so informal that it is missed by those defining it (supermarkets are the main indicator of food security which is a pretty weak indicator) or the lines of the supposed desert are drawn in such a way as to not encapsulate actual neighborhoods or assets. This piece is  very helpful to keep in the front of ones mind when discussing this with fellow staff and with the larger community.

The great Karen Washington has said a lot on this subject:
What I would rather say instead of “food desert” is “food apartheid,” because “food apartheid” looks at the whole food system, along with race, geography, faith, and economics. You say “food apartheid” and you get to the root cause of some of the problems around the food system. It brings in hunger and poverty. It brings us to the more important question: What are some of the social inequalities that you see, and what are you doing to erase some of the injustices?

Also vital to think about the language of the “decolonization of food” as Sean Sherman, a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux nation from Pine Ridge, South Dakota, and founder and CEO of The Sioux Chef  is working towards:

We’re trying to raise awareness of the history of the land and on how to live sustainability on what’s around us,”  Sherman notes that much of his work centers on recovering the cuisine that existed among American Indians prior to the arrival of European settlers. On reservations, American Indians were restricted in their rights to hunt, fish, or forage, and thus forced to make do with US Army rations of flour, lard, and salt—which were later replaced by the commodity food program.

Dara Cooper: “We need the ability to feed and nourish our communities, and the repair of the systematic harm that has and continues to be done to Black people,” Cooper says emphatically. To that end, NBFJA is working on a broad campaign in coalition and community with Black-led “Free the Land” focused organizations. We need to shift away from the ways in which capitalism teaches us to have private control over land. We have to move away from extraction of land for a very few, and shift toward land reform that addresses indigenous right to sovereignty and Black people’s right to self-determination in our communities in a collective way.”

Leah Penniman of Soul Fire Farm / Farming While Black: “Food sovereignty is about who’s in charge … and ultimately what gets to our plates.”

She, The People: Dara Cooper On Food Redlining, Reparations, And Freeing The Land

Listen and understand. Value a grassroots approach. Recognize that movements transcend single issues.

 

great tips for all funders of movement-based work which includes food and farming. Also helpful for all NGOs working in the movement; share widely.

 

 

  • Listen and understand: It’s important to acknowledge the power dynamics between funders and social movements. Funders should listen to and respectfully engage with movements to determine their needs and priorities, including the types of financial and non-financial support they want, and whether they seek external funding at all.
  • Value a grassroots approach: Strong social movements are driven and sustained by grassroots mobilization. Funders that want to engage with social movements should integrate a grant-making approach that values grassroots participation and leadership—particularly by women, youth, LGBTI people, indigenous people and other groups most affected by rights violations—in fostering social change.
  • Recognize that movements transcend single issues: While many funders’ grant-making strategies are developed around a focus on a single issue, social movements sometimes push for a broad set of rights. Funders should avoid supporting movements in ways that promote the funder’s own priorities at the risk of compromising a movement’s autonomy and ability to advance interrelated social justice aims.
  • Provide flexible, long-term funding: Movements are dynamic entities, with strategies and approaches that change as circumstances change. As our peer funder Thousand Currents pointed out in a recent Inside Philanthropy piece, movement-building is a long-term process. Funders can sometimes be quick to support new trends, but they should consider providing long-term, flexible core funding that gives movements greater independence and the means to pursue evolving priorities over time, including the ability to build resilience and swiftly respond when under attack.
  • Think beyond direct funding: While long-term, core grants to movements can support their physical and virtual infrastructure and organizing efforts, sometimes, direct funding can cause more harm than good by corrupting or dividing movements, weakening their political nature, or making them vulnerable to accusations of being foreign agents. Direct funding for core work may also not be a movement’s primary need. Consider indirect forms of support, such as funding for research that supports the movement’s agenda; engaging in advocacy aligned with movement policy priorities; funding legal defense for criminalized movement activists; supporting self-care and wellness for advocates; covering the costs of activists to attend trainings and convenings, or participate in regional and international advocacy. Funders should also be willing to support the economic sustenance of activists. Movements cannot function if activists cannot afford to feed and house themselves and their families.
  • Fund movement-support organizations: Another alternative to direct funding of movements is to make grants to in-country movement-support organizations that specialize in helping them strengthen their skills, approaches and infrastructure. These kinds of organizations often better understand the specific dynamics, needs and contexts of local movements, and can thus better provide flexible and responsive funding. In addition, they are usually registered organizations that have the ability to receive and report on donor funding, which can help insulate social movements from some of the risks related to direct funding.
  • Adapt grantmaking practices: Most funders are structured to support formal CSOs and NGOs, but they should consider funding unregistered groups. While unregistered groups often play important roles within a movement, they may not have the structures in place or meet other funder requirements to receive funding, such as a board of directors, registration certificate, audited financial reports, or staff dedicated to monitoring and reporting on progress. In fact, many informal groups within movements intentionally decide not to register as an act of resistance itself, or to avoid surveillance, oversight and criminalization by governments. While options include providing indirect support to such informal actors or channeling funding to them through movement-support organizations, funders might also consider relaxing or adjusting their funding and reporting requirements to fund these groups directly.

  • Support collective and holistic security: Funders typically provide safety and security funding to individual activists or formalized organizations. However, movements experience different sorts of threats and risks based on their collective nature. Funders can alleviate these threats and strengthen the resiliency of movements by funding more holistic and collective forms of safety and security, such as wellness and self-care for movement activists.
  • Foster solidarity and movement-building: In an increasingly challenging political environment, it’s critical for movements to have resources to build alliances across constituencies and sectors, such as indigenous, peasant and women’s groups, organized labor, journalists and independent media, and activists across national borders. Funders can support movement-building by providing resources for movement activists and allies to come together to share knowledge and develop strategies for advancing common aims.
  • Redefine impact: Human rights funders often define success by the achievement of a policy change in a certain time period. Movements, on the other hand, usually aim to create social change that transcends such measures. For instance, social movements might also work to generate public support to ensure that new policies and laws they advocate for take effect. Also, the very process of building collective action through movements creates stronger, more engaged civil societies and citizens better able to create sustained social change. Funders should rethink what “success” or “impact” means to reflect the wider aims of social movements. The success of conservative funders in supporting the rise of right-wing movements in the U.S. should also challenge us to think about measuring change in longer horizons, perhaps even 10 to 20 years.

 

https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2019/3/18/10-considerations-for-human-rights-funders-engaging-with-social-movements-in-2019

Gulf marine life in great danger from diversion of flood levels of Mississippi River

As an unprecedented amount of floodwater makes its way down the Mississippi River, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Bonnet Carre Spillway at New Orleans for the second time this year.
“The river is changing, that’s not news, and we should pay close attention to what that means for us,” said Mark Davis with the Tulane Bywater Institute.

Corps officials also try and limit spillway openings to minimize the impact of invasive freshwater species entering the Lake Pontchartrain basin. One of those impacts could be harming marine life. A number of dead dolphins have been showing up recently in coastal Louisiana and Mississippi.

St. Bernard Parish President Guy McInnis says they have documented 26 dolphin deaths in the past two months, and most of the animals had freshwater lesions. Though Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries officials have not made a direct link to the influx of fresh river water, officials in coastal Mississippi have after conducting a number of dolphin necropsies.

For oystermen, the opening of the spillway is always a cause for concern because it leads to plummeting water salinity levels as the freshwater suddenly dilutes the estuary’s brackish waters, which can kill the oysters they harvest.