This is the second piece I have read in as many days about the role of local food to support newly arrived residents. A few years back, I wrote a presentation about trends in farmers markets and what may be coming in the next era: one such possible trend was an increase in attracting immigrant population attendance to markets both as vendors and as shoppers. (Another was the role of planning departments and city officials to use markets to build social cohesion in public space; based on the number of calls and emails from those departments and from municipalities on building or renovating public markets or asking how to work with existing open-air market organizations to create a permanent, public presence for local food, that may be happening in your corner of the world.)
In truth, it is vital that markets start to reach out to a multiplicity of resident demographics, moving away from only using the passive media that attracted the early adopters in the first few decades and moving to targeted outreach and the use of multi-language, graphically-strong materials. When I go to a town that has hired me to help increase their shopping base, one of the first questions I ask is who are the new residents and how many of them are ESL shoppers. I am surprised by how few market organizations know the answer and are unsure of where to find information about the cultural goods and habits of that demographic. In contrast, those markets that are aware and adding materials for those new shoppers are finding more loyal and savvy shoppers of their markets, and ultimately building great farmers too. If you are aware of who is moving to your area, use the FMC listserve to ask other markets with that same population if they have materials or what they used to get their attention. Reach out to government program managers and to centers and settlement houses* to see if there are any in your area.
I did an article for Growing For Markets in the November 2012 issue (“Growers offer immigrants familiar vegetables”) about one such project being conducted in Toronto (which has an incredibly dynamic immigrant population) called the World Crops Project which had all of the main components for successful entry for growers into the local markets. It was a very thoughtful approach to newly arrived residents being seen as both producers and as shoppers. Here is the link but you will need a subscription to Growing For Markets to access it. If you don’t have a subscription, maybe now is the time to get one. They have a great archive of articles for growers that can be shared with vendors.
So build those partnerships and ask for the research to help your market find its next wave of community members.
Quote from the first article:
Unlike other ubiquitous institutions like hospitals or government, a person can operate in a market without knowledge of the local language, provided they speak marketese, the international language of farmer’s markets.
The other piece on immigrants and food systems comes out of the excellent work being done in Buffalo NY. This was a qualitative case study of two ethnic food retailers and how they could advance the grower-retailer relationship.
Ethnic retail food outlets can not only improve public health by stocking and selling healthy foods to urban consumers; they can also provide a market for produce grown locally and regionally. Typically, ethnic growers must travel long distances to acquire produce. Local governments can facilitate networking among local and regional growers and ethnic wholesalers/distributors/retailers to evaluate possibilities for growing (at least some) ethnic crops within their region. One of the store owners interviewed for this study reported that she occasionally visits produce markets in Buffalo, and she expressed interest in working with local farmers more systematically to grow high-demand ethnic vegetables, to allow her to stock this produce more consistently.
• “Since World War II, the number of settlements has fluctuated. Today, it is estimated that there are more than 900 settlement houses in the United States, according to UNCA, an association of 156 of them.”