Wildwood Growers’ Market – Starting a Local Food System

Final Report for CS09-072

Project Type: Sustainable Community Innovation
Funds awarded in 2009: $7,910.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Susan Kelly
UF/IFAS Sumter Co. Extension
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Project Information

Abstract:

The Wildwood Growers’ Market was developed as a result of a partnership between the City of Wildwood and UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension. The market provided an opportunity for small farmers and artisans to sell directly to the public on a weekly basis for the past three years. The funds from the grant were used in promoting the market, and providing the market management with supplies, equipment and travel to visit other markets.

Introduction

Sumter County, Florida is home to an old agricultural community as well as a new, large development for active adults. As large farms and ranches have made way for development, there has been an increase in people interested in small or part time farming.
The Sumter County Extension office has been developing a network of these new farmers, called the Square One Farm Network. Participants have attended a series of classes including vegetable production, business planning, marketing and growing for a farmers’ market. Through a comparative analysis of the Sumter county communities, Wildwood was selected as an ideal location for a weekly growers’ market.
The local food system has not been developed yet in Sumter County, beyond a few grocery stores and restaurants. There is no access to local food in the community, other than one small roadside farm market. This market will not only provide economic opportunity for local farmers, it will promote a sustainable community through a reduction in environmental impact in the food distribution and also through connecting various social groups.
The City of Wildwood and the University of Florida/IFAS Sumter County Extension have formed a partnership to produce a growers’ market in Wildwood. Officials with the city were very interested in producing a community event that brings together the residents of Wildwood, which are comprised of two very different socioeconomic groups. A large retirement community being built on the boundaries of Wildwood also influences this decision, as more than 90,000 new Florida residents are located within 5 miles of the market.

In Florida, most farmers’ markets do not have rules that require produce vendors to be actual farmers as this one does. Through the development of this market, beginning farmers have an outlet for their produce; local residents from the low income neighborhood to the upscale retirement community will have much needed access to local food and a new understanding of the agricultural industry. Community members have a place to gather, to entertain, and to raise money for charitable organizations.

Project Objectives:

1) Small farmers and beginning farmers will be identified and given assistance in developing their business through the partnership of UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension in the Wildwood Growers’ Market.
2) Farmers will have an opportunity to sell produce to many customers through the marketing efforts of the Wildwood Growers’ Market, greatly enhancing their farm viability.
3) Two community charitable organizations each week will be able to profit from food and drink sales at the Wildwood Growers’ Market.
4) Citizens will be able to benefit economically from selling their homemade or homegrown items, creating new small businesses.

Cooperators

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  • Bill Ed Cannon
  • Susan Kelly

Research

Materials and methods:

1 – A partnership was formed between the City of Wildwood and UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension. Support for the project was received through the City Council and updates provided during City Council meetings.

2 – Small farmers were identified through research, extension class rolls, Florida Organic Growers lists, and visiting other farmers markets.

3 – A market board was formed and met regularly to establish the rules, review market manager applications and provide oversight of the market business.

4 – Grant funds were used to purchase a sound system and supplies for the market. Grant funds were also used to purchase newspaper and website ads to promote the market.

5 – UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension conducted a survey of the vendors to determine the financial success of the market to the small businesses.

6 – Market surveys were conducted of the shoppers to determine best advertising methods, how much the shoppers planned to spend at the market.

7 – UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension provided labor as the market manager during vacations, special promotions to increase sales such as a cash mob and a tractor show, and provided guidance in produce quality and farm verification.

Research results and discussion:

A survey was conducted of the vendors and the objective of the survey was to determine how many of the vendors started a new business as a result of the market, and how many had increased income. Educational Methods: Thirty-eight vendors were sent an online or paper survey and twenty were returned.
Results: 95% (n=20) of the vendors responding were satisfied with the number and type of customers visiting their booths. 35% (n=20) indicated that their business was created as a result of this new market.
In addition, 15% (n=20) had the business but didn’t have a venue for selling before this market was open. 20% (n=20) of the vendors also sell at other farmers markets or another location such as farm stands

Overall, 50% (n=20) of the vendors responding either started their business just for the market or have been able to expand. 84% of respondents indicated that they had gained financially from attending the market. In addition, other benefits were mentioned such as networking, getting the product out there better than on-farm or internet sales, and the “development of community unity”.

A dot survey was conducted to learn about successful marketing methods and also spending patterns. 165 people responded to the survey during a three hour period and the total amount those people planned to spend was between $1537 and $2360, with the most people planning to spend $6 – $15. The survey sample was approximately half of the people who visited the market, making an assumption that between $3,000 to $5,000 worth of goods were purchased from the vendors on that day during a 3 hour period. $3,000 per market at 50 markets per year would net $150,000 for the 25 vendors at the market per year.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

The only publications developed as a result of this project were advertisements, market rules, vendor applications and other forms used for the administration of the market.

Several educational events were held at the market, including a biofuel workshop and demonstration by Piedmont Biofuels, and a Women’s Health Day and 5K Race in partnership with the Sumter County Health Department.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

The major accomplishment has been to establish the market so that it has become a permanent, year round Growers’ Market. The market was started in October 2009 and the officials at the City of Wildwood gave organizers a trial period of 6 months. After that time the Wildwood City Council voted to continue to support the market as a year round weekly market. Five local growers who have attended classes through the UF/IFAS Sumter County Extension office either attended the market weekly or seasonally. Community groups have used the market as a venue to connect with the local citizens. Churches, Little League, the Health Department are a few examples of organizations who have taken part in this weekly community event. The market has continued even though summer and winter months are slow due to inclimate weather. The level of participation by vendors as remained steady with an average vendor attendance of 25 per week. The Wildwood Growers’ Market became a model in the area of a community market with more authentic farmers than other markets.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Small farmers in Sumter County have learned direct marketing skills and have had a consistent, high quality market to use as an outlet. Artisans have been able to utilize a popular market for the sales of their handmade crafts and foods.

Another small community in Sumter County has adopted the focus of the Wildwood Growers’ Market for their Saturday market, seeking out farmers and artisans rather than resellers.

Restaurants and businesses on Main Street in Wildwood have had increased business as a result of the weekly year round presence of the market with hundreds of shoppers coming to a previously vacant area on Saturday.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.