October Newsletter from Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS)

I am a huge fan of the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems at the Vermont Law School. This activist center has already added a great deal of thoughtful research to the field of community food and their impact continues to grow exponentially. It is my honor to be working on one of their projects, a legal toolkit for farmers markets, along with the good folks at NOFA-VT.

OCTOBER 2015

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GREETINGS
As I write this, the harvest is in and the farmers markets are in their final weeks. At CAFS, we have also had a bountiful season, presenting at conferences on each coast (the University of Oregon and Harvard University), teaching a wonderful class of food and agriculture law and policy students, and continuing our project work for food and agriculture producers and entrepreneurs. We are thrilled to report the award of additional funds through the National Agriculture Library, expanding that partnership through our innovative collaboration with William Mitchell Public Health Law Center and the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut. We are also pleased to announce the expansion of our staff with one of our own graduates, Sarah Danly, who is spearheading our leading-edge use of design, technology and the law to produce relevant and powerful legal tools. These are just a few highlights of what you will read below.
I hope you enjoy the fall issue.
Eat well, be well,
Laurie Ristino
Director, Center for Agriculture and Food Systems
Banner image courtesy of Brooklyn Grange

PROJECTS & RESOURCES
USDA National Agricultural Library
Awards CAFS $728,273 Grant
In September, CAFS received a $728,273 grant from the USDA National Agricultural Library. The grant will support three new projects; the largest — the Community FoodWorks project — is a collaboration with the Public Health Law Center at William Mitchell College of Law and the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut. The two additional projects, How to Use a Lawyer and Farmland Access Lease Assistant, will be designed to help farmers find and utilize legal resources.

STAFF SPOTLIGHT
Sarah Danly
Program Officer for Legal Design
Sarah recently earned her MELP (Master of Environmental Law and Policy) from Vermont Law School. She also holds a BA in Architectural Studies and Community Health from Tufts University, as well as a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, where she focused on sculpture, drawing, design, and digital skills.
   Sarah will work with students in the Food & Agriculture Clinic on designing accessible online legal tools and information, which include the animated clip, “What Does the Food and Ag Clinic Do?” Prior to coming to CAFS, Sarah conducted outreach for Next Step Living, a Boston-based home energy efficiency company, and worked at farmers markets as a vendor and assistant manager.

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT

CAFS Welcomes Practicing
Faculty Members Beth Boepple
and Amy Manzelli
Beth Boepple (right) is developing the fourth food and agriculture distance-learning course for CAFS, drawing on her rich experience practicing food and farm law. A VLS alum, Beth is a shareholder and attorney with Lambert Coffin in Portland, Maine, specializing in corporate, commercial and banking law; farm and food production law; and real-estate and land-use law.
    In addition, Beth will be co-teaching Agriculture and Food Entrepreneur Lawyering Skills with Amy Manzelli (left) in the spring. Amy currently collaborates with CAFS on two USDA-funded projects. She is a partner at BCM Environmental & Land Law, PLLC in Concord, New Hampshire, specializing in environmental, conservation, and land law.

NEWS & EVENTS
Director Laurie Ristino Presents at Harvard Law and the University of Oregon School of Law
On September 25, 2015, Ristino gave the presentation “Food, Agriculture, and Drought: Implications of Water Supply Scarcity on Food Production and Policy Solutions at the Federal, State, and Local Levels” at the Drought in the American West Symposium at the University of Oregon School of Law in Eugene. On October 3, she also gave a seminar at Harvard’s Food Law Student Leadership Summit entitled “No Food Without Nature.”
Associate Director Laurie Beyranevand Contributes to Recently Published Books
Beyranevand wrote the chapters “Breaking Down Barriers to Local Food Distribution in Urban Centers” from Urban Agriculture: Policy, Law, Strategy, and Implementation, and “Agricultural Biotechnology and NAFTA: Analyzing the Impacts of U.S. and Canadian Policies on Mexico’s Environment and Agriculture,” from NAFTA and Sustainable Development: The History, Experience, and Prospects for Reform.
People at CAFS
* Associate Director Laurie Beyranevand was interviewed October 1, 2015 on Heritage Radio Network’s Eating Matters podcast about food labels and CAFS’ food labeling site Labels Unwrapped. She was also quoted in Mother Jones‘ article, “Chipotle Says it Dropped GMOs. Now a Court Will Decide if That’s Bulls-t;” in ClimateWire‘s “Businesses learn there are tax incentives and laws to help them recycle mountains of food;” in the Valley News‘ article “Food Notes: A Modern Take on an Old-Time Product;” and in the Health Affairs Blog article “The FDA’s Determination on Artificial Trans Fat: A Long Time Coming.”
* Director Laurie Ristino was quoted in the Law360 article “9th Circ. Pesticide Ruling Holds EPA to High Standards,” commenting on the 9th Circuit Court’s decision to vacate several EPA registrations of bee-killing pesticides.

* Research Fellow Amber Leasure-Earnhardt(right) attended the Closing the Hunger Gap: Cultivating Food Justice conference in Portland, Oregon, in September. She met with food bank representatives, farmers, and advocates to discuss the role of CAFS’ gleaning research in furthering food justice.
* LLM Fellow Carrie Scrufari will be presenting her paper “Generally Recognized as Safe-Until They’re Not: Why the FDA Never Subtracts Food Additive From GRAS” at the Yale Food Systems Symposiumon October 30-31, 2015. She workshopped the paper in September at Pace Law School’s 2nd Annual Future Environmental Law Professors Workshop.
 

Farmers Market Metrics site updated

We are pleased to present an updated version of Farmers Market Coalition’s Farmers Market Metrics (FMM) website. We have streamlined and organized information about the current efforts, and will use this site to offer background information and project updates on all of the components of FMM that are underway. The final set of resources and tools will be available on a separate portal in development, expected in 2016.
Some highlights include:
Unique pages for current and past projects
Information on our project partnerships and funding sources
Examples of some of the resources being developed (currently in draft phase)
We hope you will take some time visiting and exploring our new pages. Please contact me with any questions.
Thank you for your ongoing support and enthusiasm for Farmers Market Metrics and the Indicators for Impact project.
Sara

Sara Padilla, FMC Project Manager

2015 Farmers Market SNAP Support Grantees

Some very exciting projects in here. Congratulations to all of the successful organizations.

As approved by Congress in the President’s FY 2014 budget request for FNS (The Food and Nutrition Service: 2014, Explanatory Notes), these funds are intended to support “the participation of farmers’ markets in SNAP by providing equipment and support grants to new markets and those currently participating in the program.” The goals of the FMSSG program are to increase SNAP accessibility and participation at farmers’ markets, and support the establishment, expansion, and promotion of SNAP/Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services at farmers’ markets. This is a new program, which may continue in subsequent years.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Link to original RFA

Last Published: 10/02/2015
  1. Plant Chicago, NFP – Ensuring SNAP Success at Plant Chicago’s Farmers Market
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $15,379
    Plant Chicago’s Ensuring SNAP Success project, will improve SNAP programming in the urban center of Chicago, IL by increasing SNAP-customers at the organization’s farmers market through community, bi-lingual outreach and a local marketing campaign.  Through this project the SNAP program at the market will expand to include a volunteer program for weekdays and weekends.  Plant Chicago intends to increase SNAP participation at their market by over 25% for 2017.
  2. Trust for Conservation Innovation – Making Farmers Market Purchases a SNAP in Northern California
    San Francisco, CA
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $123,068
    The Making Farmers Market Purchases a SNAP in Northern California project will support staffing for the SNAP at eight small-scale farmers markets in Northern California that currently struggle to provide SNAP on a regular basis. Through this project, these markets will receive EBT technical training and assistance.  Additionally, the project will increase SNAP redemptions at farmers markets through community outreach and promotion and develop best practices to ensure growth and sustainability.
  3. Morgantown Farmers’ Market Growers Association – Expanding a Targeted SNAP Program to Demographically-Diverse Member Markets
    Morgantown, WV
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $36,599
    Through the FMSSG, the Morgantown Farmers’ Market Growers Association will hire an EBT coordinator to manage the growing SNAP at two farmers markets and increase redemptions by engaging in outreach specifically targeted to SNAP-participants in urban food-desert of West Virginia.  The Association will also identify best practices that can be incorporated into a long-term plan for the SNAP at other markets throughout West Virginia.
  4. Growing Places Indy, Inc. – Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) “Good Eating Is a SNAP, All Winter Long”
    Indianapolis, IN
    Promise Zone
    Estimated Federal Funding: $58,740
    The Indy Winter Farmers Market (IWFM) “Good Eating Is a SNAP, All Winter Long” program will increase access to SNAP by hiring a dedicated EBT manager that will also coordinate educational demonstrations and outreach materials.  This staff member will provide farmer vendors with needed training and technical support. These activities will help to increase the consumption of farmers market products by SNAP customers and give farmers the tools they need to increase SNAP redemptions and build their businesses.
  5. Homefull – Growing SNAP Success with Southwest Ohio Farmers’ Markets
    Montgomery, OH
    Estimated Federal Funding: $113,258
    Through Growing SNAP Success with Southwest Ohio Farmers’ Markets, Homefull will reach a three-county area to bolster and increase SNAP at over fifteen local farmers markets and promote SNAP availability at the participating markets.  Homefull will achieve this through EBT training and technical assistance, outreach, EBT staffing, and market ambassadors.  The project plans to double the number and dollar value of SNAP transactions at southwest Ohio farmers markets.
  6. The Experimental Station-6100 Blackstone –  EBT Support and Outreach For Illinois Farmers Markets and SNAP Clientele
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Over a two-year project, the Experimental Station will provide EBT support to Illinois farmers markets accepting SNAP through EBT/SNAP consulting, technical support and establishing an online community of EBT support to Illinois farmers markets.  This project will also create and disseminate outreach materials and television advertisements, to create greater awareness of the availability of SNAP at Illinois farmers markets. The Experimental Station aims to double SNAP sales at markets throughout Illinois during the life of this project.
  7. Houston Department of Health and Human Services – Expanding Opportunity for Use of SNAP at Houston Farmers Markets
    Houston, TX
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    The Houston Department of Health and Human Services through the Expanding Opportunity for Use of SNAP at Houston Farmers’ Markets project will provide staff and EBT technical support and promotional activities related to the expansion of SNAP acceptance at Houston farmers markets.  Outreach and promotional activities will be implemented in partnership with local community organizations to increase the number of farmers markets accepting SNAP to six.  The project aims to increase the number of SNAP transactions at farmers markets within the City of Houston to 8,980 by 2018.
  8. Missouri Farmers Market Association – Growing SNAP at Farmers Markets in Missouri
    Webb City, Missouri
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $73,160
    The Missouri Farmers Market Association will expand the SNAP at ten farmers markets throughout Missouri. SNAP-expansion will occur through a variety of marketing tools tailored to the individual market and its SNAP-customers.  The marketing tools range from radio advertising to cooking demonstrations, to banners, and brochures, all designed to best reach local SNAP-participants.
  9. Hamakua Harvest, Inc. – Hamakua Harvest Farmers’ Market SNAP/EBT Expansion Program
    Honokaa, HI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $137,174
    The Hamakua Harvest Farmers’ Market SNAP/EBT Expansion Program will support the newly-authorized farmers market in Honokaa, HI gain the support it needs to thrive. The funds will be used to promote and expand the SNAP through staffing an EBT manager, purchasing SNAP supplies, training for EBT market vendors, and outreach to SNAP-recipients.  Hamakua Harvest anticipates the impact of the project to include 36 vendors to be trained to accept SNAP.
  10. North Union Farmers Market – Increasing SNAP Benefit Use at North Union’s Cleveland Markets through Educational Outreach and Targeted Marketing
    Cleveland, OH
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $59,302
    North Union Farmers Market will strengthen their SNAP by hiring a part-time educational coordinator who will be responsible for expanding the market’s outreach programs and build relationships with community partners that work with SNAP-clients. The expanded outreach programs will include cooking demonstrations, family-friendly educational activities and workshops on food preservation.  The North Union Farmers Market will also implement a marketing program using print and digital media and radio advertisements.  The anticipated impact of the project is an increase in redemptions by 10%.
  11. Broad Street Events, INC. – Spotlight on Snap, Raising SNAP Awareness in Rural Michigan
    Chesaning, Michigan
    Estimated Federal Funding: $17,480
    The project Spotlight on SNAP will effectively market the SNAP to surrounding SNAP-residents and increase the amount of SNAP users at the Downtown Chesaning Market.  Funding will provide the needs to expand outreach and effectively promote SNAP through market activities, newspaper articles, television commercials, and outreach events.  Broad Street Events will partners with many local organizations and schools with high populations of SNAP-recipients.
  12. Village of Park Forest – Park Forest Farmers’ Market EBT Program
    Park Forest, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $16,975
    The Park Forest Farmers’ Market EBT Program will increase SNAP benefit redemption at the Park Forest Farmers Market by hiring an EBT manager who will administer the program, plan and implement outreach strategies for informing SNAP participants of their ability to use benefits at the farmers market, and conduct trainings for farmer-producers new to the market on participation in the EBT program.  By expanding the EBT program, the market can continue to involve more vendors and offer greater varieties of products available to SNAP customers.
  13. Harvest Home Farmer’s Market – Farm Fresh for Every Body
    New York, NY
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Through 19 different farmers markets in food-deserts around New York, Harvest Home will increase the number of SNAP transactions processed at their farmers markets, increase the number of farmers and vendors who serve SNAP recipients, and broaden their reach into the surrounding communities. Harvest Hands will achieve these goals by creating culturally and linguistically appropriate promotional materials to reach SNAP-recipients, improve the technology needed to process SNAP transactions on-site and in real time, and conduct ongoing vendor SNAP recruitment for farmer producers.
  14. Everyone’s Harvest – Monterey County SNAP Initiative
    Marina, CA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $109,716
    Everyone’s Harvest will double its annual SNAP redemptions and grow its SNAP customer base by 70% by using a customer relationship management database and outreach to SNAP market shoppers.  The organization will achieve this by engaging Spanish-speaking community members in producing a Spanish-language promotional video focused on SNAP and creating a mailing and email outreach campaign.
  15. Eastern Market Corporation – Eastern Market: Detroit’s SNAP Food Security Blanket
    Detroit, MI
    Strong Cities Strong Communities
    Estimated Federal Funding: $249,663
    The Eastern Market: Detroit’s SNAP Food Security Blanket program will provide resources for program support staff, consulting fees, and supplies to allow for significant program improvements through increased operational efficiencies and greater program effectiveness.  This will be achieved by discontinuing the use of a paper-based system and expanding the SNAP program to an additional market.
  16. Friends of the Rochester Public Market, Inc. – Greater Rochester Farmers’ Market SNAP Collaborative
    Rochester, NY
    Estimated Federal Funding: $178,902
    Through the Greater Rochester Farmers’ Market SNAP Collaborative project the Friends of the Rochester Public Market will implement a community-wide marketing campaign that increases awareness of SNAP use at regional farmers markets.  Additionally funds will be used to develop a new SNAP Token Center at the Public Market and staff salaries for SNAP related activities
  17. Fresh Approach – SNAP Training and Outreach for Farmers’ Markets in San Francisco Bay Area Counties
    Concord, CA
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $190,951
    Fresh Approach will use funds to perform SNAP data collection, build a network of farmers market stakeholders, create and distribute bi-lingual marketing material, produce outreach events, create a best practices manual for farmers markets to utilize setting up a SNAP program, and train farmers market staff on SNAP program implementation.
  18. Glenville State College Research Corporation – Expansion of Acceptance of SNAP at the Gilmer County Farmers’ Market: Population of low income households in a food desert
    Glenville, WV
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $42,020
    This project will use funds to design and distribute educational posters and handouts, create and execute an extensive marketing campaign including TV and radio ads, provide salary for an EBT operator and manager, and train volunteers and market staff on SNAP procedures.
  19. Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board – From the Ground Up: Expand and Sustain SNAP at Farmers Markets
    Salamanca, NY
    Estimated Federal Funding: $99,813
    From the Ground Up: Expand and Sustain SNAP at Farmers Markets project will provide research and data analysis, technical assistance, educational training, volunteer training, and capacity building strategies to farmers market managers, and perform outreach to SNAP clients, develop curriculum and training materials for the Southern Tier West Regional Farmers Market Network.
  20. City of Independence – Increasing SNAP Awareness and Utilization at Independence Farmers’ and Craft Market
    Independence, MO
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $144,976|
    The City of Independence will use FMSSG funds to design and implement a marketing plan for the Independence Farmers market through movie, billboard, local print and bus advertisements, additionally banners and other printed advertising material will be used at the farmers market and distributed throughout the community.  City staff will also perform outreach and educational events in order to increase redemptions at the farmers market due to higher community awareness of SNAP at the farmers market.
  21. Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers, Inc. –  Increasing the Capacity of Fresh Access Bucks in Florida
    Gainesville, FL
    FINI & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    The Increasing the Capacity of Fresh Access Bucks in Florida project will use FMSSG funds to pay personnel for SNAP administration, organization to provide resources, and technical assistance to farmers market managers.  The project will also develop strategic branding and promotional materials for FL farmers markets and promote SNAP at markets through regular press releases, advertising on the radio, in newspapers, on public transit, on electric bills in each county, direct mailings, and through social media.
  22. Boulder County Public Health – Building and Growing Regional Capacity for SNAP at Farmers’ Markets in Colorado’s Front Range
    Boulder, CO
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $231,460
    The Boulder County Public Health will use funds to staff a farmers market SNAP coordinator, conduct focus groups on the barriers to accessing farmers markets, develop and implement an outreach plan, train farmers and market managers on managing a SNAP program, hire bi-lingual staff for markets, and create communication tools to distribute best practices to farmers markets in the county.
  23. Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project – Increasing SNAP at NC Farmers Markets
    Asheville, NC
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $164,625
    Through the Increasing SNAP at NC Farmers Markets project, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project will conduct outreach and promotion to and collaboration with local agencies on SNAP at farmers markets, conduct trainings for market managers and farmers on how to increase SNAP redemptions at markets, evaluate community needs through research and surveys, and provide technical assistance to market managers following their initial training.
  24. The Food Trust – Making Fresh Food a SNAP: Increasing ACCESS Sales at Food Trust Farmers’ Markets
    Philadelphia, PA
    Promise Zone, FINI, Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $150,103
    The Food Trust will conduct focus groups, staff EBT operation at markets, implement promotional events around SNAP, develop marketing plan to educate SNAP-clients on EBT at farmers markets, develop bi-lingual marketing and educational materials, train market managers on SNAP program management, and collaborate with local partners.
  25. Hub City Farmers’ Market – Expanding South Carolina’s SNAP Use at Farmers Markets
    Spartanburg, SC
    Strike Force State
    Federal Funding: $247,100
    This project seeks to create a market model that can serve as an inspiration to markets across the state, alleviate market and user barriers, and help municipalities understand the importance of supporting SNAP in markets they run. Hub City Farmers’ Market of Spartanburg will work with Eat Smart Move More South Carolina and the University of South Carolina Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities to develop a set of best practices to help mentor two markets in key areas of the State.
  26. El Dorado County Trails Farm Association – Improvement and Expansion of EDC Farm Trails Association Farmers’ Market SNAP Program
    Placerville, CA
    Federal Funding: $16,057
    The project’s main goal is to boost public awareness of farmers’ market accepting SNAP benefits.  Applicant plans to partner with the Health and Human Services Department and El Dorado CNAP to conduct outreach along with media blitz and raise awareness about the program.
  27. Feed the Hunger Foundation – SNAP at Honolulu Farmers Market
    San Francisco, CA/Honolulu, HI
    Federal Funding: $243,450
    The plan for this project includes outreach to the following communities: 1) news outlets engaging communities whose first language is not English: Samoan, Tongan, Chuukese, Tagalog, Ilocano, Korean, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Thai, Lao, Cambodian, Japanese; 2) Military news at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam; 3) University of Hawaii system (including community and adult education outreach colleges). 4) Coordinating with other SNAP –accessible farmers markets to collaborate on promotion.
  28. Ecology Center – California Farmers’ Market EBT Program
    Alameda, CA
    Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2)
    Federal Funding: $242,828
    The project’s aims to support the Ecology Center’s CA Farmers Market EBT program and will: (1) reach out to the 350 CA farmers’ markets that do not yet offer SNAP access with a compelling Case Statement on the benefits of accepting SNAP; (2) provide comprehensive technical assistance, training, shopper outreach materials, scrip, and systems to help a minimum of 120 of those markets add SNAP access; (3) update, improve, and maintain FMfinder.org, the Ecology Center’s website and mobile site designed to helps SNAP shoppers easily find up-to-the-minute information on CA farmers’ markets where they can use their benefits; (4) work with the Departments of Social Services in Los Angeles and Alameda Counties to mail over 1.3M inserts to 632,205 SNAP in order to educate them about the availability of SNAP programs at local farmers’ markets and direct the shoppers to FMfinder.org to find locations and hours of operation; and (5) through these combined efforts, increase SNAP sales at CA Farmers’ Markets by $1.23M (a 33% increase over 2014) by the end of the grant term.
  29. Kokomo Farmers Market Corp – SNAP To Kokomo Farmers’ Market: a targeted marketing, outreach and expansion project to increase SNAP user participation and benefits use at the KDFM
    Kokomo, IN
    Federal Funding: $248,770
    The project goals are to (1) increase SNAP client accessibility and participation at the Kokomo Downtown Farmers Market (KDFM) through extended hours, targeted outreach and expanded marketing, to (2) improve systems for SNAP transactions, recording, and reporting, and to (3) support SNAP recipients with cooking and preserving demonstrations at various outreach locations.
  30. Sustainable Farms & Communities, Inc. – Expanding SNAP Participation in Boone County, Missouri
    Columbia, MO
    Estimated Federal Funding:  $146,983
    Expanding SNAP Participation in Boone County, Missouri project will provide staff for EBT market management, including record keeping, token management and educational activities.  Also, the project will develop a comprehensive marketing and community outreach plan, and healthy cooking and living demonstrations.
  31. Health Education Council – Sacramento Region CalFresh Market Expansion: Connecting Families to Farmers
    West Sacramento, CA
    Promise Zone & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $240,429
    This project will provide technical training and support to SNAP market managers, the funds will also provide EBT staffing for markets, outreach to SNAP customers at markets, marketing material, and regional meetings and trainings.
  32. Washington State University – Skagit Farmers Market Flash
    Pullman, WA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Washington State University will implement the Skagit Farmers Market Flash project through organizing and producing market outreach events, increase access to farmers markets for seniors, develop and roll-out a marketing campaign, and provide EBT training and technical assistance for farmers market managers.
  33. Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets – Massachusetts SNAP Support Project
    Waltham, MA
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Massachusetts SNAP Support Project will provide SNAP operating support to farmers market managers across Massachusetts; awarding sub-grants for time spent operating SNAP/EBT machines at market, SNAP accounting, vendor payments, reporting, and performing outreach to SNAP participants, as well as purchasing scrip and accounting software necessary for SNAP/EBT.
  34. Dianne’s Call – Optimizing Peoples’ Everyday Nutritional (OPEN) Path to Healthier Lifestyles
    Sumter, SC
    Strike Force State & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $229,589
    Dianne’s call with expand the SNAP program at local farmers markets through training, conducting hands-on cooking classes, provide educational material for SNAP at farmers markets and implement health and behavior promotional events.
  35. Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership, Inc. – Reaching Diverse Populations through SNAP at the Farmers Market
    Fond du Lac, WI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $28,471
    This project will provide market managers and farmer EBT trainings, SNAP community outreach, extensive marketing campaign to SNAP-clients, creation of promotional videos, language translation for marketing materials, market and SNAP tours for clients, educational and cooking demonstrations, and additional SNAP signage.
  36. Village of Farwell – Farwell Farmer’s Market SNAP Project|
    Farwell, MI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $89,160
    The Farwell Farmer’s Market SNAP Project will provide staff for the farmers market, train vendors on EBT use, create marketing materials, implement marketing plan, and a social media campaign.
  37. Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets – Building a SNAP Support System for Maine Farmers’ Markets
    Pittsfield, ME
    Estimated Federal Funding: $249,677
    The Main Federation of Farmers’ Markets will use funds to provide training for market managers and farmers on EBT, provide support and technical assistance for local farmers markets, produce and utilize SNAP-Farmers Market communication tools, update EBT training manual, implement a branding campaign in conjunction with FINI, and develop and train market liaisons.
  38. Sankofa Safe Child Initiative – Sankofa Seniors Farmer’s Market Project
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $28,616
    The Sankofa Seniors Farmer’s Market Project will use funds to do community outreach, cooking demonstrations and other educational sessions targeted toward seniors, and increase access to farmers market for seniors.
  39. Farm Fresh Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Farmers Market SNAP Network
    Pawtucket, RI
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    Farm Fresh Rhode Island will develop and implement extensive marketing plan focusing on SNAP at farmers markets and provide financial support to local farmers markets to maintain their EBT programs.
  40. Billings Forge Community Works, Inc. – More SNAP: Local Vegetables and Fruit for Hartford Tables
    Hartford, CT
    Promise Zone
    Estimated Federal Funding: $198,776
    The More SNAP: Local Vegetables and Fruit for Hartford Tables project will involve rolling-out promotional plan for SNAP at farmers markets, which includes various advertisements, produce a farmers market toolkit, and train market managers and farmers on EBT.
  41. CEN-TEX Certified Development Corporation – Supporting SNAP redemption at Mercado O’liva Farmer’s Markets in San Antonio
    Austin, TX
    Strike Force State, Promise Zone & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $88,662
    This project will provide EBT staffing and administration for the Mercado O’liva Farmers Markets. Additionally the project will implement social media promotion and an advertisement campaign consisting of print, radio and TV and CEN-TEX will hold cooking demonstrations targeted to SNAP-clients at markets.
  42. Ajo Center for Sustainable Agriculture – Good Food For All – Introducing SNAP at Authentically Ajo Farmers Market
    Ajo, AZ
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $223,530
    The Good Food for All project will expand and support the SNAP/EBT program at the Ajo Farmers Market, design and implement standard practices, provide training on EBT for market vendors and volunteers meeting the needs of SNAP-clients in a poor rural area.
  43. Council on the Environment, Inc. (GrowNYC) – Branding and Advertising to Boost SNAP Sales at Greenmarket
    New York, NY
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $186,335
    GrowNYC will create a branding and advertising campaign that promotes SNAP acceptance at Greenmarkets throughout the city and purchase marketing materials, such as banners, flyers, canopies, etc., based on the campaign.
  44. The Gleaning Network of Texas (GROW North Texas) – Expanding SNAP at Farmers Markets in Dallas
    Dallas, TX
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $230,230
    The Gleaning Network of Texas will use FMSSG funds to hire market staff for four seasonal markets to run SNAP programs, provide technical EBT assistance to farmers, purchase SNAP tokens, and implement and outreach plan.
  45. Corporation for Findlay Market – Get Fresh With Us
    Cincinnati, OH
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $37,932
    Get Fresh With Us will use funds to train interns to help manage EBT operations at farmers markets, provide community outreach for SNAP at farmers markets, give market tours for SNAP-clients, develop and distribute SNAP outreach materials, and hold cooking demonstrations at markets in the area.
  46. Gloria Tu Gilbert – Westford Farmers Market SNAP 2015-2017: Sustainable Incentive
    Westford, MA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $27,709
    The Westford Farmers Market Project will provide staff for operating the SNAP program at the farmers market, training for EBT staff, and marketing SNAP at the farmers market and throughout the community, and supplies needed to operate a SNAP program.
  47. Main Street Monroe, Inc. – Enhancement of SNAP Accessibility and Participation at Main Street Monroe Farmers Market
    Monroe, WI
    Estimated Federal Funding: $179,051
    This project will collaborate with community partners to implement community outreach promoting SNAP acceptance at the Main Street Monroe Farmers Market, develop a transportation plan to distribute to SNAP-clients helping them overcome transportation barriers, establish procedures for operating EBT at the market, and provide training to vendors to operate EBT.
  48. Sustainable Food Center – Central Texas Farmers’ Market SNAP Expansion
    Austin, TX
    Strike Force State & Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $147,210
    This project will hire staff for running EBT at markets, develop a Neighborhood Farm Market Startup Guide and training materials, train market managers and vendors on EBT management, provide technical assistance to farmers markets, and provide community outreach.
  49. Fuller Park Community Development Corporation – Eden Place Farmers’ Markets SNAP Outreach
    Chicago, IL
    Choice Neighborhood
    Estimated Federal Funding: $111,418
    The Eden’s Place Project will develop outreach and marketing materials, targeted outreach to seniors on SNAP, on-site educational demonstrations at the market, host informational and training workshops on managing EBT at markets, and provide technical assistance to market managers and farmers on EBT.
  50. Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont (NOFA-VT) – Growing EBT Access and Capacity at Vermont’s Farmers Markets
    Richmond, VT
    Estimated Federal Funding: $247,048
    This project will implement a marketing campaign using direct mailings, financial and technical support for area farmers markets, provide outreach and education to community partners on SNAP acceptance at farmers markets, and provide supplies to markets for successful EBT programs.
  51. The CSU, Chico Research Foundation – Increased EBT Participation in North Valley Farmers’ Markets
    Chico, CA
    Estimated Federal Funding: $250,000
    The Chico Research Foundation will use funds to develop and implement a SNAP outreach and marketing campaign, purchase SNAP signage and other supplies, farmers market staff will be trained on SNAP operations and program strategies, host market tours to promote EBT use at the market, and cooking demonstrations will be held to encourage eating more fruits and vegetables.
  52. North Carolina State University – More In My Basket at the Market
    Wake, NC
    Strike Force State
    Estimated Federal Funding: $248,530
    This project will provide outreach and information to community SNAP-clients, marketing materials published and distributed to SNAP-clients, provide market tours to SNAP-recipients, and cooking demonstrations.

Visitor counts

Over the last few months (and years really), I have spent a great deal of time asking people for input into valid ways to count market visitors, and in researching how other sectors (festivals, fairs and city planning for example) conduct these counts. Most researchers working with markets recognize that asking them to do what is commonly called a full count is unlikely to happen at most markets. So they employ some version of a sample counting system where, for one time span everyone is counted and that is used as a representative total for the entire day.

The research team at University of Wisconsin-Madison led by Dr. Morales working with Farmers Market Coalition in their combined AFRI-funded Indicators for Impact three year project, is piloting a method of 20-minute intervals counts at entrances every hour for the 9 markets in the pilot. That method certainly has the potential for a more precise estimate than the method currently used by many markets of counting everyone within the market for one time slot each hour. By the way, here is an update on that project.

In all cases of market counts however, the labor required taxes the market leadership and the methods used have not been found to be entirely accurate or appropriate for the many types and layouts of markets that exist across the US.

Still, we keep trying and know that sooner or later, the technology will be available to make this easier for markets and other food system projects. Seems like it is closer than ever, based on the article I found recently about a study to analyze pedestrian and transportation uses in one city which mentions one company that provides counting tools and analyzes those counts, often using existing cameras. The cost is still uncomfortably high for markets, but when technology adapts, products often become more suitable to our odd little world of pop up tents and milling groups of people.

Stay tuned in other words; the possibility is very close for precise counts of visitors for markets, which in turn will allow for better data use and more support for our hard-working markets.

Seating at Markets

Qualitative Data

in case you think data collection is dreary, check out what this market did for National Farmers Market Week. These kinds of quotes can liven up reports to your funders, impress municipalities and rejuvenate vendors.
Think of how you might ask a specific question about a product (“what do you do with your creole tomatoes?”) or have visitors describe if and how they have ever brought market food to someone else (“I bring bread once a month to my neighbor who loves it”) as other ways you can use this method.
Visible collection and use of visual data can make the market seem proactive and engaged with their community.

Why do you love #comofarmersmarket? #moretomarket #farmmktwk

A photo posted by Columbia Farmer’s Market (@columbiafarmersmarket) on Aug 11, 2015 at 9:40am PDT

Responsive Web Design for Non-Profits’ Customers

The average person worldwide has five social media accounts and spends an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day on any number of devices. Therefore using what is termed “responsive web design” is vital. It means that the information is optimized for whatever device it is being seen on with a minimum of scrolling or resizing.
The site Non-Profit Tech picked three sites offered by non-profits that they think are especially good at this and I think additionally that one of the three, Pittsburghkids.org, is just a very useful site for markets to view. Simply designed and easily navigated, it offers a lot for those new to the site and yet has easy-to-find shortcuts to get into the site if you are a return visitor.
Nice to hear in the original story that non-profits were the pioneers of the use of social media, adding content and varied ways for their community to see and reach them long before businesses bought into the idea.

National Farmers Market Week: August 2-8, 2015

Isn’t it great that the best way to celebrate this is to visit a farmers market?
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Vending for a day

My regular Saturday market stop two weeks ago ended with my pal and one of my favorite vendors, Norma Jean of Norma Jean’s Cuisine asking me to assist her the next week by managing her table while she handled a demo nearby.
So, this week I packed my bag for a 3-5 hour market trip which meant adding a gallon of water, bandanna, Florida water and my watch.
Since leaving Market Umbrella in 2011, I haven’t spent more than 2 hours behind a table as a manager or a vendor; I do help my pals Rob and Susie sell their baked goods when the line backs up since I often sit behind their table with them anyway, chatting about a million subjects, so stepping up to take the money or to bag items is the least I can do.

When I do consulting work with a market, I am there for a full day sometimes, but it is definitely a different vibe than managing or vending.This day, I was responsible for all of the sales at Norma’s table; no wandering off when I saw something to eat or see. Knowing the products well enough to answer questions easily and not in a rushed manner, keeping money straight, all had to be managed on my own.
I think every market manager and board member should step in and run a vendor table for an hour or two. It is important to watch the traffic, gauge the body language, note the questions of visitors and to get the vibe from that point of view.

Some thoughts from today:

1. It’s fascinating to me how many people were thrown by not seeing Norma.  The products by themselves are not always enough to signal the same vendor. I think that is a great thing- the relationships between the shoppers and the vendors are meaningful and so the person-to-person connections are as important as we assert they are.

2. The number of new people, always: I think vendors and managers forget how many people are at the market for the first time. When I sensed someone new to the market by what they asked or how they moved through the market, I would ask them if they were a regular shopper and so heard from many first-timers. It shows how a market and its vendors need must be prepared to introduce their items and the system over and over and over again and not to assume that everyone knows their stuff or about the market. And this is a rural/suburban market and not an urban market and still has lots of newcomers.

3. Body language: Norma had left me a chair to sit in (I don’t think I’ve ever seen her sit in it actually) but I didn’t dare, having been trained at Market Umbrella that sitting at market for staff or volunteers was a no-no. It’s not that sometimes it isn’t okay; if the market is a tailgate market and right up against the table it can work (and look) well for a moment or two. However, those deep camp chairs that allow someone to sink down, I say no.  But standing in place for so long was difficult for me; as a market manager, I had rarely stood in place for more than 5 minutes at a time and even had a rule to not engage in any conversation for more than 10 minutes. If needed,I would ask that person if I could call them to finish talking on Monday. Today, I found because I had to stand still so long, I had my hands on my hips regularly and so began to put them on the table or in my pockets or add busy work to stop doing it.

4. Even though many shoppers and all of the vendors know me and I am well acquainted with Norma’s products, I am even more of a true believer that employees are never going to equal with having the producer or their family standing there. The confidence in the products and the awareness of every step of the process is not at the same level. Add to that, how unlikely it is that any small feedback offered by shoppers or visitors will translate into action if it is given to an employee. Or, if slow sales of any one item is due to the lack of interest from shoppers or lack of sales technique of the employee. So even if markets allow employees to sell (which is quite necessary for most), I recommend that they add a rule that the producer has to sell at least once every month or two.

5. I love watching and being part of the barter of the market. As many of us know, many vendors barter their goods rather than exchange currency and to see the regular versions of that; Norma gets gluten-free bread for the vegan pesto samples in exchange for her items, and to be “paid” in those goods too helps remind me that we still are not measuring the true number of transactions at a market. Norma also has a barter system with one customer who has a credit slip at her booth-no one else is afforded that system, but I certainly have seen other vendors do that with some of their skilled neighbors as well.

6. How necessary it is for market staff or volunteers to roam the market regularly. So often, vendors get too busy to take a bathroom break or get change or need something and are stuck until someone happens by to assist. Lucky for me, Norma was within eyeshot as needed, and the sister managers Jan and Ann rolled by and connected with me once or twice. Checking in with your vendors can elevate the trust and raise the spirits of a market struggling in other ways.

7. When Norma finished her demo and sales earlier than expected, she cleaned up there and took over at her table, sending me on my way with warm thanks and gifts of food. As I got in my truck, I thought of how I get to finish my day there and then and not continue to sell, to then have to pack up/clean up, count the money to see if any profit has been made, and to make decisions for next week, next month etc. That long day and the added worry when the day is mediocre or bad has to be frightening and/or demoralizing to even the most confident producer. For many of our vendors, they have work for mid-week markets to start by mid-afternoon after market or the next morning or for some, to get a little rest for their other full-time job come Monday morning. My hat is off to those who believe enough in artisanal food or products to spend their life producing them for us.

8. What an enjoyable day.

Vendors walking their items in

Vendors walking their items in

Vendors getting tents up

Vendors getting tents up

The seating before the market opens

The seating before the market opens

Norma Jean's cold area

Norma Jean’s cold area

Norma Jean is all set up and ready for me to sell for her

Norma Jean is all set up and ready for me to sell for her

This is what she was demoing and selling at the other booth. Really nice version of Salad Nicoise, without the tuna.

This is what she was demoing and selling at the other booth. Really nice version of Salad Nicoise, without the tuna.

What the market looks like when the musicians are playing midday

What the market looks like when the musicians are playing midday

The Edible South-Book Review

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While checking out the local/regional shelves at Lemuria Books in Jackson MS (yes you need to stop in there if you are a booklover. And if you live around Jackson, I might even suggest a nice trip one hot weekend to spend a half day in the bookstore, some time in the Fondren co-op and maybe a stroll through Eudora Welty’s garden), I spotted this large book facing out, published last year but one that I had not heard of previously. The title was underwhelming, but the subtitle did intrigue me, as did the identification of it being the same author as Matzoh Ball Gumbo, which I had read and appreciated.

The book is broken into 3 sections: antebellum and post antebellum Southern food (“Plantation South”), late 19th c/ early 20th c (“New South”) and post 1950 (“modern South”), which is a very useful way to think about food and folkways in any American region actually. Each section has fascinating information about growing food or cuisine and uses scads of citations from prior research and popular books to showcase each.

The author, Marcie Cohen Ferris is a professor of American studies at UNC Chapel Hill and is well known among local food activists across the South. She has taken a wide view of Southern food since Jamestown days, using a great many of our most respected scholars work to weave a compelling and absorbing narrative. What is tricky about the long history here is the need to address earlier inaccuracies and overt racism embedded in some of that scholarship. The author does a deft job addressing those shortcomings without deleting what is useful from her predecessors’ work.

The Plantation South section was less comprehensive than I had hoped, especially knowing the beginnings of my own region around New Orleans as a tobacco company for the French, which has led to a commodity and export agricultural system that extends to this day. I had hoped for more about that era and more details of the enslaved and forced labor system of the Southern agriculture system, but it is quite likely that the scholarship was just not there to use.

The New South section should be required reading for any researcher or embedded activist working in the South. The founding of the Extension Service, of the home economics and demonstration movement and the research into healthy foods to reduce diet-based illnesses across the impoverished South are examples of the rich tapestry Cohen Ferris does explore and, for my money, is the best part of the book. Many times, I found myself referring to the notes and bibliography to record the name of the book she refers to in the section. Additionally, I much appreciated the section on Old Southern Tearooms and the account of the deliberate development at the turn of the 20th c of the myth of the genteel South, where a “southern narrative of abundance, skilled black cooks, loyal servants and generous hospitality of gracious planters and their wives” was displayed at places like Colonial Williamsburg, Charleston and of course New Orleans and as a result was completely accepted as the true story of a much more complicated and less romantic time. I certainly hope that her detailed work here separating fact from fiction may help put these embellished or completely fabricated stories of the “old South” in their proper place.

The Modern South section adds history on civil rights (how does it relate to food you say? lunch counter sit-ins, men’s-only lunch rooms anyone?), and history on federal programs like national school lunch program which are thoughtfully offered. The pieces on organizing natural food coops and buying clubs were so very welcome as little is available in popular research about how important these efforts were to the beginnings of the current local food/farmers markets) movement happening today. That leads to my main disappointment with the book – the scarce information on the farmers market/community garden movement of the 1970s-1990s, much less over the last 25 years which has been a dizzying and somewhat gratifying time for food sovereignty work. I can understand how the author was able to extract more from the researchers and writers of the Southern food system who focused on home cooking rather than to the (largely) nameless and transient activists and ideas of those same systems, but still, much has been written in the last 45 years not covered here. I can only hope for another book from this author that has the same level of detail, covering the last era from a grassroots or even a policy point of view. In any case, as I told a market leader in one of those vibrant places of local food in the South, this book is definitely a keeper and one destined to be used extensively among researchers, activists and policy makers.
View all my reviews

FMC’s SNAP EBT Equipment Program is Open

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has partnered with the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) to provide eligible farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with electronic benefit transfer (EBT) equipment necessary to process Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

WHAT


FMC will cover the costs of purchasing or renting SNAP EBT equipment and services (set-up costs, monthly service fees, and wireless fees) for up to three years. After their application has been approved, eligible farmers and farmers markets will choose their own SNAP EBT service provider from a list of participating companies. Transaction fees (for SNAP EBT, credit, and debit payments) will not be covered.

WHEN

The application is now open. This is a first-come, first-serve opportunity, which will be over when all the funds have been allocated.

WHO

SNAP-authorized farmers markets and direct marketing farmers (who sell at one or more farmers markets) are eligible for funding if they became authorized before Nov. 18, 2011, AND fall into one of the following categories:

They do not currently possess functioning EBT equipment;
OR They currently possess functioning EBT equipment, but received that equipment before May 2, 2012.
Wondering what qualifies as ‘not currently possessing functioning EBT equipment?’ Markets and farmers do not currently possess functioning EBT equipment if:

They currently rely on manual/paper vouchers to accept SNAP,
They do not currently accept SNAP and have never possessed functioning SNAP EBT equipment,
-OR-

They do not currently accept SNAP because their EBT equipment is
:

Damaged beyond repair.
Non-operational because their SNAP EBT service provider no longer offers SNAP EBT processing in their state.
Stolen or lost.
For more information on the program, including frequently asked questions, an eligibility chart, background information and application instructions, visit HERE.

Make It, Grow It, Sell It – Whole Green Heart

FYI: this program is being offered by someone who has experience vending at farmers markets

A Home-Study Program for Building a Rewarding, Successful and Profitable Business Selling at Farmers Markets
For vendors, one of the key messages that we have found helps them grow their businesses is that it takes a combination of production expertise and business expertise to really be successful in the farmers’ market sector. I ran an organic herb farm, selling at farmers’ markets, for 18 years. I also managed a farmers’ market for 6 years, and because I come from an adult education background, I’ve been training other vendors and managers in our province since 2011 as the Director of Training for Farmers’ Markets of Nova Scotia. I speak at farmers’ market and organic agriculture conferences around North America and have learned even more from this rich interaction with so many other passionate, thoughtful people in various roles across our sector. For vendors, one of the key messages that we have found helps them grow their businesses is that it takes a combination of production expertise and business expertise to really be successful in the farmers’ market sector. I am launching a new home-study program for farmers’ market vendors.”

check it out here

Big Data and Little Farmers Markets, Part 3

I used these examples in Part 2 of this series, but wanted to use them again for this post. To review:

Market A (which runs on Saturday morning downtown) is asked by its city to participate in a traffic planning project that will offer recommendations for car-free weekend days in the city center. The city will also review the requirement for parking lots in every new downtown development and possibly recalibrate where parking meters are located. To do this, the city will add driving strips to the areas around the market to count the cars and will monitor the meters and parking lot uses over the weekend. The market is being asked for its farmers to track their driving for all trips to the city and ask shoppers to do Dot Surveys on their driving experiences to the market on the weekend. Public transportation use will be gathered by university students.

Market B is partnering with an agricultural organization and other environmental organizations to measure the level of knowledge and awareness about farming in the greater metropolitan area. For one summer month, the market and other organizations will ask their supporters and farmers to use the hashtag #Junefarminfo on social media to share any news about markets, farm visits, gardening data or any other seasonal agricultural news.

Market C is working with its Main Street stores to understand shopping patterns by gathering data on average sales for credit and debit users. The Chamber of Commerce will also set up observation stations at key intersections to monitor Main Street shopper behavior such as where they congregate.

Market D has a grant with a health care corporation to offer incentives and will ask those voucher users to track their personal health care stats and their purchase and consumption of fresh foods. The users will get digital tools such as cameras to record their meals, voice recorders to record their children’s opinions about the menus (to upload on an online log) with their health stats such as BP, exercise regimen. That data will be compared to the larger Census population.

So all those ideas show how markets and their partners might be able to begin to use the world of Big Data. In those examples, one can see how the market benefits from having data that is (mostly) collected without a lot of work on the market’s part and yet is useful for them and for the larger community that the market also serves.

However, one of the best ways that markets can benefit from Big Data is slightly closer to home and even more useful to the stability and growth of the market itself. That is: to analyze and map the networks that markets foster and maintain, which is also known as network theory.
Network theory is a relatively new science that rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s and is about exploring and defining the relationships that a person or a community has and how, through their influence, their behavior is altered. What’s especially exciting about this work is that it combines many disciplines from mathematics to economics to social sciences.

A social network perspective can mean that data about relationships between the individuals can be as useful as the data about individuals themselves. Some people talk about this work in terms of strong ties and weak ties. Strong ties are the close relationships that we use with greater frequency and offer support and weak ties are those acquaintances who offer new information and connect us to other networks. The key is that in order to really understand a network, it is important to analyze the behavior of any member of the network in relation to other members action. This has a lot to do with incentives, which is obviously something markets have a lot of interest in.

From the book Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning about a Highly Connected World. By David Easley and Jon Kleinberg. Cambridge University Press, 2010. Complete preprint on-line at http://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/kleinber/networks-book/

From the book Networks, Crowds, and Markets: Reasoning about a Highly Connected World.
By David Easley and Jon Kleinberg. Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Complete preprint on-line at http://www.cs.cornell.edu/home/kleinber/networks-book/

From the foodsystemsnetwork.org website

From the foodsystemsnetwork.org website

network analysis

network analysis

I could go on and on about different theories and updates and critiques on these ideas, but the point to make here is this is science that is so very useful to the type of networks that food systems are propagating. Almost all of the work that farmers markets do rely on network theory without directly ascribing to it.

Think about a typical market day: a market could map each vendors booth to understand what people come to each table, using Dot Surveys or intercept surveys. That data could assist the vendor and the market. The market will benefit in knowing which are the anchor vendors of the market, which vendors constantly attract new shoppers, which vendors share shoppers etc. The market could also find out who among their shoppers bring information and ideas into the market and who carrries them out to the larger world from the market. All of this data would be mapped visually and would allow the market to be strategic with its efforts, connecting the appropriate type of shoppers to the vendors, expanding the product list for the shoppers likely to purchase new goods and so on.

Network theory would be quite beneficial to markets in their work to expand the reach to benefit program users and in the use of incentives. Since these market pilots began around 2005/2006, it has been a struggle to understand how to create a regular, return user of markets among those who have many barriers to adding this style of health and civic engagement. Those early markets created campaigns designed to offer the multiple and unique benefits of markets as a reason for benefit program shoppers to spend their few dollars there. Those markets also worked to reduce the barriers whenever possible by working with agencies on providing shuttles, offering activities for children while shopping, and adding non-traditional hours and locations for markets. Those efforts in New York, Arizona, California, Maryland, Massachusetts and Louisiana (among others) were positive but the early results were very small, attracting only a few of the shoppers desired. When the outcomes were analyzed by those organizations, it seemed that a few issues were cropping up again and again:
1. The agency that distributed the news of these market programs didn’t understand markets or did not have a relationship of trust with their clients that encouraged introduction of new ideas or acceptance of advice in changing their habits.
2. The market itself was not ready to welcome new benefit program shoppers- too few items were available or the market was not always welcoming to new shoppers who required extra steps and new payment systems.
3. Targeting the right group of “early adopters” among the large benefit program shopping base was impossible to decipher.
4. Some barriers remained and were too large for markets alone to address (lack of transportation or distance for example).
4. Finding the time for staff to do all of that work.

Over time, markets did their best to address these concerns, which has led to the expansion of these systems into every state and a combined impact in the millions for SNAP purchases at markets alone. The cash incentives assisted a great deal, especially with #2 and #4. However, this work would be made so much easier and the impact so much larger if network theory was applied.
Consider:
Market A is going to add a centralized card processing system and has funds to offer a cash incentive. But how to spend it? And how to prepare the market for the program?

If the market joined forces with a public health agency and a social science research team from a nearby university, it might begin by mapping the networks in that market to understand the strong and weak ties it contains as well as the structural holes in its network. It might find out that its vendors attract few new shoppers regularly or that the market’s staff is not connected to many outside actors in the larger network, thereby reducing the chance for information to flow.
It might also see that younger shoppers are not coming to the market and therefore conclude that focusing its efforts on attracting older benefit program shoppers (especially at first) might be a strategic move. If the market has a great many low-income shoppers using FMNP coupons already, the mapping of those shoppers may offer much data about how the market supports benefit program shoppers already and how it might expand with an audience already at market
The public health agency might do the same mapping for the agencies that are meant to offer the news of the market’s program. That mapping might find certain agencies or centers are better at introducing new ideas or have a population that is aligned already with the market’s demographic and therefore likely to feel welcomed.

As for incentives, what markets and their partners routinely tell me is more money is not always the answer. Not knowing what is expected from the use of the incentives or how to reach the best audience for that incentive is exhausting them or at least, puzzling them.
If markets knew their networks and knew where the holes were, they could use their incentive dollars much more efficiently and run their markets without burning out their staff or partners.
They might offer different incentives for their different locations, based on the barriers or offerings for each location. (They may also offer incentives to their vendors to test out new crops.)
If connectors are seen in large numbers in a market, then a “bring a friend” incentive might be offered, or if the mapping shows a large number of families entering the system in that area, then an incentive for a family level shopping experience may be useful.
One of the most important hypotheses that markets should use in their incentive strategy is how can they create a regular shopper through the use of the incentive. Of course, it is not the only hypothesis for a market; a large flagship market might identify their role as introducing new shoppers to their markets every month and use their funds to do just that. But for many markets with limited staff and small populations in and around the market, a never-ending cycle of new shoppers coming in for a few months and then not returning may not be the most efficient way to spend those dollars or their time. So this is also where network theory could be helpful.
By asking those using their EBT card to tell in detail where and how they heard about the program and by also tracking the number of visits they have after their introduction, we could begin to see which introductions work the best. Or by asking a small group of new EBT shoppers to be members of a long-term shopping focus group to track what happens during their visit (how many vendors they purchase from and how long they stay) and after (see Market D example at the top), we could learn about what EBT shoppers in that area value in their market experience. We may also find out that the market has few long-term return shoppers from the EBT population or we may find out that connectors become easy to spot and therefore they can be rewarded when sharing information on the market’s behalf.
In all of these cases, it will be easier for the staff to know what to do and when to do it if they understand their networks both in and around the market.
And of course, mapping the larger food systems around the markets’ systems would be exciting and could move policy issues to action sooner and allow funding to be increased for initiatives to fill the holes found.

However markets do it, what seems necessary is to know specifically who is using markets and how and why they decided to begin to use them and to whom those folks are connected. Network theory can be the best and widest use of the world of Big Data, especially to accomplish what Farmers Market Coalition has set as their call to action: that markets are for everyone.

Some reading, if you are interested:

http://www.foodsystemnetworks.org

The Tipping Point

Click to access networks-book-ch03.pdf

Click to access 827.full.pdf

Click to access kadushin.pdf

Reclaiming, Relocalizing, Reconnecting: The Power of Taking Back Local Food Systems

A rare Wednesday post on the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.
A new report by Friends of the Earth Europe looks at five examples of European communities successfully taking on the challenge of creating new systems that honor wise stewardship, local wealth and health and civic engagement. Its an inspiring report; share it widely.

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