Grow Your Farmer's Market

Final Report for ENC03-075

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2003: $54,211.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Federal Funds: $29,621.00
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $49,158.00
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Jerry Jost
Kansas Rural Center
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Project Information

Abstract:

Farmers selling commodities are vulnerable to global markets and low prices. One way to reduce this vulnerability is to focus on value-added production. But marketing value-added products to improve farm profitability requires new market skills. An excellent way for farmers to learn these skills is through farmers’ markets. These markets provide a low-cost practice field for farmers, allowing them to test products that, if successful, may enter into other markets. Farmers’ markets are also an excellent way to reconnect consumers with their food system and develop community support for locally grown foods.

This project expanded the awareness of the role farmers’ markets serve in developing marketing skills and promoting sustainable agriculture. Educators gained knowledge of how to use business planning to build successful farmers’ markets. As a long-term outcome of this project, Kansans will invest in local food systems through their purchase decisions, formulation of public policies and creation of economic development plans.

This project trained farmers’ market leaders who in turn acted as educators within their home markets. They served as role models for the less-experienced vendors. In addition, they learned about forming partnerships with community businesses and organizations to enhance their markets. In sum, this project informed and trained a sector of farmers who may not think of themselves as educators but who, through their already-established leadership roles within markets, used their new skills to influence many people in their respective communities.

Farmers’ market leaders were trained in seven conferences. These conferences provided an overview of the research, marketing techniques, regulations and management approaches necessary to develop successful farmers’ markets. These conferences directly impacted 494 market leaders, managers and organizers.

This project coordinated 35 mentoring partnerships between master marketers and apprentices. Mentors transferred management and marketing skills to other farmers and market managers.

A business planning curriculum for farmers’ market organizers was developed and delivered to 371 leaders in 28 farmers’ markets. The curriculum was revised through an iterative process based on the evaluations these cooperative markets. Project learnings were disseminated through a national SARE conference, a sustainable agriculture conference in Kansas and through the Kansas Rural Center web site.

Project Objectives:

1.We will train farmers’ market leaders through holding six conferences over three years. Three hundred-fifty individuals will participate in the six conferences.

2.We will create mentoring partnerships between leaders and less-experienced participants to transfer knowledge. Twelve mentoring partnerships will be organized.

3.We will develop and present a business planning curriculum for farmers’ market organizers, board members, managers and community partners. Twenty-five individuals from four farmers’ markets will engage in business planning for their market.

4.Our project will focus on promoting key project activities and on recruiting participation.

Introduction:

According to USDA figures, the number of farmers’ markets in the United States has grown dramatically. Today the United States has over 3,100 farmers’ markets showcasing 19,000 farmer vendors. In Kansas, the growth in farmers’ markets has paralleled the country’s dramatic increase through the 1980’s (Hughes, 1992). Farmers’ markets in Missouri have grown by 40% over the past four years (Bruckerhoff, 2003).

Farmers’ markets cultivate business development. A study by the Farming Alternatives Program at Cornell University revealed that farmers’ markets provide entrepreneurial environments that promote new and redirected business development. Business owners who participate in these markets have the opportunity to develop business skills and confidence necessary to make market diversification and expansion possible. Research evidence also indicates that farmers’ markets serve as micro enterprise “incubators” helping small-scale food processors get started. Input-output studies reveal that businesses involved in processing farm products create more jobs and income in a community than any other industry (Markley, 1998). Examples of businesses that started at a farmers’ market are the Brown Cow Yogurt Company and Angelheart Designs (Hilchey, 1995).

Farmers’ markets serve as a farmers’ mall. The synergy of farmers working together at farmers’ markets results in a larger, more loyal. Customers typically seek out farmers’ markets to find fresh foods, but also choose to shop at farmers’ markets because of the pleasant social atmosphere (Hilchey, 1995).

Farmers’ markets bridge the formal and informal sectors of a local economy. These markets provide a niche to meet community-specific preferences for nonstandard or specialized goods that are less likely to be mass produced. Three-fifths of the part-time growers in a New York survey concluded they would be either out of business or be hurt considerably if their current market closed. For full-time growers, farmers’ markets accounted for 35% of their sales (Lyson, 1995).

Farmers’ markets boost local economies. Research conducted in 1998 at three local farmers’ markets in Corvallis and Albany, Oregon, documented about 4,500 adult customers per week which resulted in sales of nearly $37,000 per week. It was estimated that these customers also spent over $15,000 at downtown businesses after shopping at the Saturday farmers’ market. According to Lev (1998), the social atmosphere of these markets contributed greatly to their appeal.

Farmers’ markets need effective organizations. Formal organization serves to manage vendor concerns and promotes the market (Hughes, 1992). Soule (1994) identified three keys to success for a farmers’ market: 1) having a positive leadership that serves as a catalyst; 2) keeping things simple, positive, and clearly communicated; and 3) offering consumers a superior food retailing experience.

The project surveyed our target audience in 2003 to learn what their most important needs and interests were. This survey, which included responses from over fifty market leaders representing half of the markets in Kansas, suggested that important needs were attracting more customers, bringing in more vendors, promoting the market more effectively, generating a more diverse mix of products, harvesting better profits, building community partnerships, balancing the product mix within the market and resolving conflicts among vendors (Jost, 2003).

Our survey also asked our audience to prioritize activities to meet their needs. High-priority activities included market promotion, recruiting new growers, organizing educational workshops, building community partnerships, receiving small grants to assist markets, and organizing a network of farmers’ markets so that markets can learn from each other (Jost, 2003).

LITERATURE CITED

Bruckerhoff, Tammy. April, 2003. Missouri Department of Agriculture. Electronic mail communication.

Hilchey, Duncan, Thomas Lyson, and Gilbert Gillespie. 1995. “Entrepreneurship, Business Incubation, and Job Creation in the Northeast.” Farming Alternatives Program, Department of Rural Sociology, Cornell University. Community Agriculture Development Series.

Hughes, Megan and Richard Mattson. 1992. “Farmers’ Markets in Kansas: A Profile of Vendors and Market Organization.” Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station. Report of Progress 658.

Jost, Jerry. 2003. Written survey taken at a farmers’ market workshop in Topeka, Kansas.

Lev, Larry and Garry Stephenson. 1998. Analyzing Three Farmers’ Markets in Corvallis and Albany, Oregon . Small Farms Working Group. Oregon State University Extension Service.

Lyson, Thomas, Gilbert Gillespie, and Dunccan Hilchey. 1995. “Farmers’ Markets and the local community: Briding the formal and informal economy.” American Journal of Alternative Agriculture. Volume 10, Number 3. Pages 108-113.

Markley, Kristen and Duncan Hilchey. 1998. “Adding Value for Sustainability: A Guidebook for Cooperative Extension Agents and Other Agricultural Professionals.” Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture and the Farming Alternatives Program at Cornell University.

Soule, Jeffrey. 1994. “Starting and Strengthening Farmers’ Markets in Pennsylvania.” Center for Pennsylvania. Penn State Cooperative Extension.

Zachary, Lois J. 2000. “The Mentor’s Guide.” Jossey-Bass, Inc. San Francisco, California.

Education & Outreach Initiatives

Objective:
Description:

Methods

1.Our project trained farmers’ market leaders through holding seven conferences over four years. These conferences provided an overview of the research, marketing techniques, regulations and management approaches necessary to develop successful farmers’ markets. These conferences directly impact 494 market leaders, managers and organizers. These participants went back to their community markets and transferred this knowledge and skills to other vendors. Extension agents and economic development professionals gathered resources to make referrals in their home communities.

A keynote speaker with both practical experience and strong research orientation provided training at these conferences. These speakers transferred knowledge, skills and ideas from different regions of the country to market leaders in Kansas and Missouri. Master farmer marketers demonstrated effective marketing techniques. Market research on customer preferences for local foods was presented at these conferences. Books were awarded as door prizes to attract participants and extend the information transfer.

2.Our project organized mentoring partnerships between leaders and less-experienced participants to transfer knowledge and knowledge. The mentor served as a “guide from the side” creating a learning partnership with the mentee. Together they shared the accountability and responsibility for achieving the learning goals of the mentee. The mentor was encouraged to nurture the mentee’s capacity for self-direction. This learning partnership created an opportunity for the discovery of wisdom and to gain understanding (Zachary, 2000).

This project created 35 mentoring partnerships between master marketers and apprentices. These master marketers included the workshop speakers and successful farmer market vendors. This one-on-one learning between a master and an apprentice stimulated more in-depth learning than can be achieved in traditional conferences. Mentors transferred management and marketing skills to other farmers and market managers.

Participants in these mentoring partnerships were selected based on the readiness of the mentee to learn and their existing level of commitment with a farmers’ market. The project coordinator presented a brief summary of the mentoring stages, facilitated a learning agreement between the mentors and mentees and monitored progress.

3.Our project developed and presented a business planning curriculum for farmers’ market organizers, board members, managers and community partners. The curriculum was developed through conducting research on existing planning tools used with farmers’ markets. The project field-tested the curriculum in planning workshops with a few pilot farmers’ markets. These workshops eventually involve 371 market leaders and vendors. The curriculum was revised through an iterative process based on the workshop evaluations. The project coordinator presented project outcomes to educators at a national SARE conference. Project publications are available on the Kansas Rural Center web site.

This curriculum included exercises around mission and goal development, management, decision making, marketing, strategic planning and financial planning. The curriculum was designed so that it can be used in a one-day workshop with farmers’ market board members, market managers and key community partners. It used a participatory process to encourage discussion, reflection and cooperative planning to improve the farmers’ market as a business and a service to the community.

4.Our project focused on promoting key project activities and on recruiting participation. We learned through many years of workshop evaluations that direct mailings, Extension communications, newsletters, newspaper stories, electronic mail, electronic newsletters and personal invitations are effective forms of promotion of activities. In addition, we made postings on web sites to solicit participation in the activities of this project. We also drew upon the contacts of Extension and economic development professionals to recruit project participants.

For our business planning workshops, we targeted key leaders within farmers’ markets who worked with us to determine and recruit appropriate stakeholders. The selection criteria for participation in this project activity included market leadership committed to growth, an existing farmers’ market with potential for growth, and geographical considerations that lead to a balance of rural and urban markets among selected participants.

Outreach and Publications

1.In a project partnership also with USDA’s Risk Management Agency, a “Marketing the Market” publication was developed. It can be downloaded at http://www.kansasruralcenter.org/publications/MarketingTheMarket.pdf .

2.A worksheet “Assess Your Farmers’ Market Checklist” provides an assessment tool to monitor the management of a market.

3.A worksheet “Our Plan to Grow Note Page” is used by workshop participants to take personal notes.

4.A worksheet “Identify Your Targeted Customer” is used by workshop participants to identify their customers at a farmers’ market.

5.An outline “Market Displays – How to Look Great, Bring in Customers and Sell Lots of Produce” was developed by Katherine Kelly and Joan Vibert at a farmers’ market conference to help vendors improve their market displays.

6.An “Organizing A Farmers’ Market Mission Statement” worksheet was developed to help markets develop a mission statement.

7.A “Marketing the Market Planning Tool” is a worksheet to help vendors improve their marketing of a farmers’ market.

8.A “Promoting The Market Yourself” was is an outline written by Katherine Kelly and Joan Vibert for a farmers’ market conference to help vendors think about how individual vendors can promote a farmers’ market.

9.A “Farmers’ Market Communications Strategies Calendar” is a worksheet to help farmers’ market plan and assess promotion costs.

10.A “Selecting the Right Location for a Farmers’ Market” is a worksheet to help farmers’ market determine the best location for a market.

11.A “Taking Stock of Your Farmers’ Market” is a reflective worksheet for markets to help them develop a growth plan for the market.

12.A “Web Sites to Help with Market Research and Business Planning” reference sheet directs farmers’ market to additional resources.

13.A “Our Farmers’ Market Business Plan” worksheet is a simple business plan format for a farmers’ market.

14.A “Grow Your Farmers’ Market” PowerPoint was used during the business planning workshops. It contains many pictures to illustrate good displays, limiting displays, customers, vendor presentations, products and ideas to make a farmers’ market a destination place. It also contains research summaries, quotes from vendors and researchers, promotional ideas and key points on market management.

15.A Kansas State University, who partnered on this project, released a press release on farmers’ markets in February, 2007.

16.A series of newsletter articles published in the Kansas Rural Center’s newsletter.

Outcomes and impacts:

Objective 1: Our project trained 494 professionals through seven conferences in Kansas and Missouri. The impacts of this training are summarized in the following outcomes.

a.Educators will develop an awareness of the viability of farmers’ markets to cultivate the necessary business skills to market more of their products locally. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their awareness by 17%.

b.Educators will advance their knowledge of the role that business planning contributes to successful farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their knowledge by 17%.

c.Educators will work in partnership with farmers and community stakeholders to develop farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated their commitment increased by 17% to create working partnerships.

The following are some examples of this outcome:
•The Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market collaborated with city commissioners, government and businesses in the creation of a city task force to select an improved location for the market. The Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market collaborated with the city and local businesses to open a new week day market.
•The Holton Farmers’ Market collaborated with Extension, the Chamber of Commerce and a county official to promote their farmers’ market.
•The Parsons Farmers’ Market partnered with a local business and the city to select a more visible location for the market and to transition into more formalized management of the market.
•The Hugoton Farmers’ Market partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and Extension to start a new farmers market.
•The Concordia, Peabody, Winfield and Spring Hill Farmers’ Market partnered with a local Chamber of Commerce to conduct business planning and promote the market.
•The Meade, Leoti and Scott City Farmers’ Market partnered with a local economic development agency to provide education and training for vendors.
•The LaCrosse, Smith Center, Sabetha, Newton, Lyons, Sterling and Goodland Farmers’ Market collaborated with Extension to provide training and business planning.
•The Belleville Farmers’ Market partnered with a main street program and a local bank to provide business planning for the market.
•The Ark City and Minneola Farmers’ Markets partnered with a local business to promote their market.
•The Neodesha Farmers’ Market partnered with the Chamber of Commerce, a service agency and a local business for business planning and to promote their market.
•The Emporia Farmers’ Market partnered with an educational organization, Extension and a business to conduct business planning and grow their market.

d.Educators will improve their skills in marketing through their involvement with farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their marketing skill knowledge by 37%.

e.Educators will work with public and private entities to generate funding to promote farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they intended to increase their commitment to work with public and private entities to promote their farmers’ market by 39%.

Examples of increased funding are listed below:

•From 2005-2007 the project coordinator collaborated with educators at Kansas State University to secure $29,621 in additional funds from USDA’s Risk Management Agency to expand business planning with farmers’ markets across Kansas. This allowed the expansion of activities and outcomes identified in this report.
•Business enhancement minigrants from the Kansas Department of Commerce helped several farmers’ markets develop a business plan and promote their markets. The project coordinator has applied for an additional $20,300 from the Kansas Department of Agriculture for business planning and farmers’ market promotion through 2009.

Objective 2: Our project organized 35 mentoring partnerships between market managers and board members with conference speakers. The impacts of this training are summarized in the following outcomes.

a.Educators will develop an awareness of the viability of farmers’ markets to cultivate the necessary business skills to market more of their products locally. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their awareness by 18%

b.Educators will advance their knowledge of the role that business planning contributes to successful farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their knowledge by 12%.

c.Educators will work in partnership with farmers and community stakeholders to develop farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated their commitment increased by 39% to create working partnerships.

d.Educators will improve their skills in marketing through their involvement with farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their marketing skill knowledge by 23%.

e.Educators will work with public and private entities to generate funding to promote farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they intended to increase their commitment to work with public and private entities to promote their farmers’ market by 26%.

f.Educators have the tools they need to grow their farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased the knowledge of the tools they need to grow their markets by 24%.

g.Participants ranked their overall satisfaction with these mentoring relationships (on scale with 1 being low and 5 being high) at a score of 4.6.

Objective 3: The project developed and presented a business planning curriculum for farmers’ market organizers, board members, managers and community partners. With additional project support from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, 31 business planning workshops were conducted with 28 farmers’ markets in Kansas. The project facilitated business planning workshops for 371 professionals as they developed plans to grow their markets. The impacts of this training are summarized in the following outcomes.

a.Educators will develop an awareness of the viability of farmers’ markets to cultivate the necessary business skills to market more of their products locally. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their awareness by 26%.

b.Educators will advance their knowledge of the role that business planning contributes to successful farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their knowledge by 25%.

c.Educators will work in partnership with farmers and community stakeholders to develop farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated their commitment increased by 19% to create working partnerships.

d.Educators will improve their skills in marketing through their involvement with farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased their marketing skill knowledge by 49%.

e.Educators will work with public and private entities to generate funding to promote farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they intended to increase their commitment to work with public and private entities to promote their farmers’ market by 24%.

f.Educators have the tools they need to grow their farmers’ markets. Impact: In a self-assessment survey, participants stated they increased the knowledge of the tools they need to grow their markets by 50%.

g.Participants ranked their overall satisfaction with these business planning workshops (on scale with 1 being low and 5 being high) at a score of 4.7.

Workshop participants gave the following comments about the impact of these workshops.

•“I can relax and enjoy myself and not worry as much about things. I’m looking forward to an exciting year with new ideas”
•“(The workshop) clarified thinking and gave guidance to help grow our farmers’ market.”
•“This gave me inspiration and ideas to help promote our market.”
•“The data was very helpful to understand the ‘most marketed merchandise.’”
•“I liked the variety of presentation styles with charts, slides, video, handouts and discussion.”
•“I found it very helpful since this is all new to me. I understand how to run my stand so I can sell more and look neat and friendly.”
•“Great stimulation of ideas and keeping us on task.”
•“A great seminar for ‘visual’ people like myself! The flow was steady and interesting.”
•“It helped to brain storm together and to get ideas to put in action.”
•“(The facilitator) asks great questions celebrates the positives and looks for what is unique about us.”
•“This workshop helped us open up and start talking. Thank you for coming.”
•“The workshop was well organized and provided helpful information.”
•“We’re excited to try out the market for the first time this year.”
•“Thanks again for all your excellent work. You helped our market get to a place where we never would have gotten without you.”
•“Excellent handouts.”
•“Excellent! We’re so energized – Thank you!!”
•“Great moderation at getting us regenerated!”
•“Good discourse. You got us to discuss ideas and move forward on the farmers’ market.”
•“This workshop stimulated my thinking about farmers’ markets. I now feel more able to succeed in this form of marketing.”
•“This workshop helped us identify the most important areas to focus on.”
•“(I want) to let you know how motivating your training session was for us … Since our training, I have seen several of the committee members, and each time they mention how great they thought your training was … We are forever in your debt. Your subtle touch was exactly what we needed.”

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Objective 1: Over four years our project organized seven state-wide farmers’ market conferences in Kansas and Missouri providing information and training to 494 professionals. These conferences partnered with the following market managers, educators and authors who were presenters at these conferences.

•Vance Corum, farmers’ market consultant and one of the contributing authors of The New Farmers’ Market
•Jeff Cole, director of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets
•Katherine Kelly, farmer and market vendor at Farmers’ Community Market in Kansas City
•Joan Vibert, farmer and market vendor at Farmers’ Community Market in Kansas City
•Randii MacNear, manager of the Davis Farmers’ Market
•Doug Walton, farmer and market vendor
•Larry Johnson, farmer and manager of the Dane County Farmers’ Market

Objective 2: Our project organized 35 mentoring relationships between conference speakers and market managers and board members. The mentees (market managers and board members) met face-to-face with the mentors (conference speakers). Follow-up mentoring was conducted by telephone consultations. In addition, three networking conference calls including 31 individuals were used for follow up learning after the seventh conference. Finally, overview presentations of market business planning were made to three farmers’ markets resulting in an outreach to 80 individuals.

Objective 3: Our project developed a business planning curriculum for farmers’ market organizers, board members, managers and community partners. With additional project support from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, 31 business planning workshops were conducted with 28 farmers’ markets in Kansas. This outreach included 371 individuals as they developed plans to grow their markets. These workshops included strategic planning using a Technology of Participation model, a video, a one page business plan format, PowerPoint summaries, promotional display materials, handouts, and slides from many farmers’ markets across the country. A few of these planning tools have been included in this report. The New Farmers’ Market book was distributed to cooperating farmers’ markets.

Objective 4: Our project focused on promoting key project activities and on recruiting participation. Numerous flyers, brochures, electronic news letters, direct mail, electronic mail, press releases, news articles, phone calls, and electronic messages helped promote project activities.

Recommendations:

Potential Contributions

Farmer Adoption

The project, including a collaborative partnership with USDA’s Risk Management Agency, reached 995 farmers. Farmers have improved their farmers’ market displays, expanded their product mix and networked with other farmers and market managers to grow their farmers’ markets.

Economic Analysis

The project collaborated with the Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market in Lawrence, Kansas to conduct an economic analysis of the market using the “Sticky Economic Evaluation Device” developed by Richard McCarthy and Loyola University. An economic calculator used in this analysis is available at www.marketumbrella.org.

Researchers interviewed 445 customers at the Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market on July 1, 2006. A market customer spent an estimated $19.60 at the Saturday market. This generated an estimated $39,000 during a market day. An estimated 57% of the customers also shopped at downtown businesses neighboring the market. Market customers spent and estimated $20,800 at downtown businesses during their trip to the Saturday farmers’ market.

Future Recommendations

The following areas need additional study and training:

•Farmers’ market managers need training on market promotion strategies, coaching farmers on how to improve their displays and product mix, developing partnerships within the community, measuring success within the market, market management, working with boards and working with conflict.

•Farmers need training on improving their market displays, customer service, expanding their product mix, extending their growing season to increase produce and fruit production and providing leadership on farmers’ market boards.

•Community organizations and leaders need training on how to coach a start up or small farmers’ market to grow into a successful business.

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.