Final Report for ENE05-090

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2005: $62,600.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Project Leader:
Dr. Lynda Brushett
Cooperative Development I
Expand All

Project Information

Summary:

This project supported efforts by Cooperative Extension, NRCS and State Departments of Agriculture and staff from NOFA, Main Street programs, Chambers of Commerce and other agricultural and economic development organizations to strengthen the business fundamentals of this unique, group-based agricultural enterprise. Fifteen agricultural professionals organized training for more than 500 farmers markets in New England on the business aspects of farmers markets: board, staff and member roles and responsibilities; legal structure; member retention and recruitment; equity assessment and fund raising; operational audits; marketing and business planning; community alliances and the role of a state farmers market associations in strengthening local markets.

Performance Target:

Of the sixty agricultural educators participating in the Farmers Market Business Training Programs held around the region, 10 Cooperative Extension, NRCS and other rural, community and economic development resource providers will provide technical assistance that results in the strengthening of a local farmers market by farmers and/or market managers. Two participants will help farmers develop or strengthen a state farmers market association.

We reached the target by working closely with resource providers in NH (1), MA (2), CT (2), ME (4) and VT (2). In so doing we helped these providers organize two regional market managers business development programs as well as programs in CT, MA, NH, VT and ME. Two of the participants worked with other resource providers in their state to develop a state-wide association of farmers market in VT. The impact of all this work was to bring attention to the business of farmers markets, develop market managers as a constituency, enhance capacity for training and technical assistance and create a network of professionals committed to farmers market success.

Milestones
Milestone 1: 300 Cooperative Extension and other rural, community and economic development resource providers and 400 farmers markets in New England receive information about the Farmers Market Business Development training program. Achieved and exceeded.

Milestone 2: 60 resource providers and 60 farmers and/or managers, attend farmers market business training courses held in each New England state. Achieved and exceeded.

Milestone 3: 15 resource providers use mentoring assistance to develop and deliver business training programs for farmers markets. Achieved.

Introduction:

Farmers markets are key organizations for expanding local market opportunity for farmers, yet all too often weakness in their business structure undermines their ability to fulfill their economic and community promise. Farmers markets are unique in that for the most part they are group-based businesses and thus face the additional challenges that group ownership and decision-making brings.

One issue many markets face is the difficulty breaking a negative business cycle, as in this scenario: farmers markets need to attract sufficient customers to make the farmers market effort worthwhile to its farm vendors; to attract more customers, more products and more farmers are needed; but until the market is booming, farmers are reluctant to commit, and unless they commit the market won’t boom, and on and on. Another issue is burnout among volunteer managers and the struggle farmers markets have raising resources to hire managers, conduct marketing, make capital improvements, etc. Even when markets are owned by farmers, many do not see the market as a business whose success relates to the success of their business, that a viable farmers market is a viable market for their products. Farmers markets need assistance with board development issue and with helping members, managers and boards understand their roles and responsibilities.

The project aimed to strengthen the business fundamentals of farmers markets in New England. Training was conducted for resource providers, market managers, board members and vendors from New England; training modules were distributed nationwide by a New York Cooperative Extension Educator and were used as the basis for an Ohio training program. Training covered farmers market board, staff and member roles and responsibilities; member retention and recruitment; equity and fund raising; legal, governance and management structures; operational audits; conflict resolution; market and business planning; community alliances and the role of a state or regional farmers market association. Resource providers participated with farmers market board, vendors and/ or staff person in training or mentoring programs to start or strengthen a market. The project mentoring helped resource providers plan and conduct local farmers market training programs and development of state associations. Input from farmers market participants helped plan, publicize and conduct the trainings. Resource providers developed competency in farmers market technical assistance including the delivery of model educational programs.

The program mentored professionals during their development and implementation of training programs to strengthen local farmers markets and state organizations. Advisory Committees helped plan, publicize and conduct trainings for markets in New England; a list serv forum was created as a self-help resource for markets and as a way for service providers to lend technical assistance and obtain insight to market needs. Resource providers developed competency in providing farmers market business assistance as well as in the delivery of model educational programs. Materials are available on CDI’s web page at http://www.cdi.coop.

The project focused the attention of resource providers on the business of farmers markets, developed market managers as a constituency for education and training, created a network of market masters and resource providers, and enhanced regional capacity for farmers market training and technical assistance. Farmers market training programs were held CT, MA, VT, NH, ME along with two region-wide programs. One state-wide Farmers Market Association was developed by the project.

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

To achieve our outcome target, the program had three complimentary components: training, mentoring and advisory committees for each training program. The project began with the original group of resource providers who designed the project and expanded to include others. Advisory committee members provided input to training content, delivery methods and learning approaches. They were the principal resource to outreach strategies developed to reach the program’s primary and secondary beneficiaries and ultimately to build a network of farmers market resource contacts in the region. Advisory committee members identified conferences and events likely to be attended by project beneficiaries and facilitated holding the training program at those venues, for example Harvest New England, the NH Farm and Forest Expo, Massachusetts Federation of Farmers Markets and VT NOFA marketing conferences. The training programs were designed to bring agricultural professionals together with farmers and market managers and vendors.

To support training efforts, modules were developed on: Market Planning, Business Planning, Financing/Fundraising, Board Effectiveness, Resolving Market Conflicts, Legal Structures, Building Alliances and Evaluating Market Operations and Contributions. The content for all modules was tested with farmers market managers and refined according to feedback. Four of the modules were included on a Farmers Market Training DVD developed by a Cooperative Extension Educator in NY and have been distributed nationally.

We created partnerships and established systems for communicating with farmers markets and resource providers in all six New England states. The farmers market list serv proved to be an effective resource for market board, staff and vendors and resource providers alike, especially during the market season.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
Accomplishments:

Publications

Milestone 1: 300 Cooperative Extension and other rural, community and economic development resource providers and 400 farmers markets in New England receive information about the Farmers Market Business Development training program.

Accomplishments:
This milestone was accomplished through program releases distributed by e-mail to farmers markets, farmers market organizations, public agencies such as Departments of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, USDA Rural Development , Natural Resource Conservation Service and Resource Conservation & Development Councils as well as Main Street programs, economic development agencies, beginner farmer, agricultural and small farm organizations and to the agricultural media. We followed up with telephone conversations and site visits. We continued to reach out to this database as trainings were offered. And we developed a project list serv New England Farmers Market Exchange to directly reach more than 500 farmers market managers and service providers in the region.

Milestone 2: 60 resource providers and 60 farmers and/or managers, attend farmers market business training courses held in each New England state.

Accomplishments:
2005: Region-wide farmers market training held in the fall of 2005, involved 7 resource providers and 10 farmers. Follow-up involved 2 resource providers in a planning discussion with farmers market representatives from MA, CT and NH about the feasibility of establishing a New England-wide farmers market association. And it led to a mentoring project in Maine with an Agriculture Department staff person, supported by Cooperative Extension, Main Street and MOFGA considered development of a Farmers Market Partnership Council in Maine. Further needs assessment determined that neither a NE regional nor a ME state-wide organization was a priority for markets.

2006: Targeted the three northern New England States: VT, NH and ME. Two farmers market business planning training sessions were conducted at NOFA VT’s Direct Marketing Conference, one on board effectiveness and one on market funding and we facilitated a panel discussion on manager roles, responsibilities and challenges. Twenty farmers market vendors/board members attended each of the training sessions with five service providers. As a result of the sessions, the project agreed to mentor staff from NOFA-VT in efforts to develop a state-wide farmers market association, with support from staff from the Agency of Agriculture and Resource Conservation and Development. A December workshop brought 4 resource providers together to assist 5 farmers market representatives in a planning session for the organization.

A training session held at the February 2006 Farm & Forest Expo in Manchester NH focused on “Business Planning for Farmers’ Markets” and included “Toolkit for Doing Your Own Farmers’ Market Research” and “Financing For Farmer’s Markets.” The material was well-received by the audience of farmers’ market vendors/board members (10) and agricultural staff (5). A mentoring project with a UNH Cooperative Extension Educator, to develop a market managers seminar resulted. The seminar was conducted in March 2008 and involved 35 market managers.

2007: Established contacts in MA, CT, RI and NY. We worked with a team of 5 resource providers from ME, NH, CT, RI and MA to organize four workshops on farmers market topics for the New England Regional Direct Market Conference. Over 600 people attended the two day gathering. Each Farmers Market workshop was attended by 40 to 100 people. Through these workshops as well as through our Conference trade show booth we reached an additional 33 resource providers. An important outcome for the project was further development of mentoring relationships to work on market master training programs in 2008 in CT, MA, NH and VT. We continued mentoring support for Vermont’s efforts to create a statewide association of farmers markets.

2008: We concluded our VT mentoring engagement by facilitating a meeting to launch the Vermont Farmers Market Association (attended by 54 farmers and 6 resource providers) and conducting a workshop on conflict management (14 markets and 1 resource provider). We completed work with CT resource providers on a statewide market manager’s seminar and provided a conflict management workshop for the gathering of 150 market managers and 7 resource providers. We worked with MA resource providers to develop and conduct a day long market managers workshop for 60 markets and 5 resource providers. We also completed a mentoring project with a NH resource provider for a market masters workshop, including a session on legal structuring (35 markets and I resource provider).

2009: Working with our advisory team, we organized a farmers market program in conjunction with Harvest New England Direct Marketing Conference. Attended by over 100 market managers and vendors as well as service providers, topics included EBT, Food Safety, Winter Markets and a wide ranging Market Exchange. Service providers and Market Managers led workshops. In Maine we assisted with planning a training program for markets in Washington and Hancock Counties, attended by 40 farmers and 10 resource providers.

Milestone 3: 15 resource providers use mentoring assistance to develop and deliver business training programs for farmers markets.

Accomplishments: Of the 15 resource providers recruited for more intensive participation in the program, we mentored 2 providers from VT, 1 from NH, 4 from Maine, 2 from MA and 2 from CT in the development of Farmers market programming. Besides mentoring participants on a wide variety of farmers’ market business issues, projects that emerged included: development of statewide associations (VT and ME), state training programs (MA, CT, NY, VT, ME and OH) and 2 region-wide training programs. All but one person, who no longer works with farmers markets due to a job change, continue to be engaged in supporting farmers markets. In addition we worked with one resource provider from NY on the development of resource materials for farmers markets and with another from Ohio on the development of a training program for farmers markets in that state.

The activities and tasks which enabled these milestones to be accomplished allowed us to achieve our projected target. We are pleased to have helped identify the key resource providers in our region with a special interest in farmers markets, brought them together to work collaboratively in support of farmers markets and developed commitment to continued farmers market work.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

By reaching out to hundreds of professionals (see details in section 6. Accomplishments), the project identified the key farmers market resource providers in the region and created a network of about 20 people with interest and expertise in delivering farmers market programming. These folks will continue to work together with CDI as the facilitator/convener to provide farmers market training and technical assistance.

As evidenced by the two special Harvest New England workshop series for Farmers Market Managers, as a consequence of our work farmers’ business development needs have risen to the forefront of training and technical assistance for direct marketing. The programs conducted by this project were the first to target market masters and the response demonstrated an overwhelming need.

Overall, we provided mentoring support to two regional and 5 state market master training programs (NH, VT, ME, CT and MA) and to the successful launch of the Vermont Farmers Market Association. We provided assistance to a New York market on legal structuring and board/manager roles and responsibilities, to a Vermont market on board/manager roles and responsibilities, and to three MA markets on legal structuring.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Milestone 1: 300 Cooperative Extension and other rural, community and economic development resource providers and 400 farmers markets in New England receive information about the Farmers Market Business Development training program.

Accomplishments:
This milestone was accomplished through program releases distributed by e-mail to farmers markets, farmers market organizations, public agencies such as Departments of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, USDA Rural Development , Natural Resource Conservation Service and Resource Conservation & Development Councils as well as Main Street programs, economic development agencies, beginner farmer, agricultural and small farm organizations and to the agricultural media. We followed up with telephone conversations and site visits. We continued to reach out to this database as trainings were offered. And we developed a project list serv New England Farmers Market Exchange to directly reach more than 500 farmers market managers and service providers in the region.

Milestone 2: 60 resource providers and 60 farmers and/or managers, attend farmers market business training courses held in each New England state.

Accomplishments:
2005: Region-wide farmers market training held in the fall of 2005, involved 7 resource providers and 10 farmers. Follow-up involved 2 resource providers in a planning discussion with farmers market representatives from MA, CT and NH about the feasibility of establishing a New England-wide farmers market association. And it led to a mentoring project in Maine with an Agriculture Department staff person, supported by Cooperative Extension, Main Street and MOFGA considered development of a Farmers Market Partnership Council in Maine. Further needs assessment determined that neither a NE regional nor a ME state-wide organization was a priority for markets.

2006: Targeted the three northern New England States: VT, NH and ME. Two farmers market business planning training sessions were conducted at NOFA VT’s Direct Marketing Conference, one on board effectiveness and one on market funding and we facilitated a panel discussion on manager roles, responsibilities and challenges. Twenty farmers market vendors/board members attended each of the training sessions with five service providers. As a result of the sessions, the project agreed to mentor staff from NOFA-VT in efforts to develop a state-wide farmers market association, with support from staff from the Agency of Agriculture and Resource Conservation and Development. A December workshop brought 4 resource providers together to assist 5 farmers market representatives in a planning session for the organization.

A training session held at the February 2006 Farm & Forest Expo in Manchester NH focused on “Business Planning for Farmers’ Markets” and included “Toolkit for Doing Your Own Farmers’ Market Research” and “Financing For Farmer’s Markets.” The material was well-received by the audience of farmers’ market vendors/board members (10) and agricultural staff (5). A mentoring project with a UNH Cooperative Extension Educator, to develop a market managers seminar resulted. The seminar was conducted in March 2008 and involved 35 market managers.

2007: Established contacts in MA, CT, RI and NY. We worked with a team of 5 resource providers from ME, NH, CT, RI and MA to organize four workshops on farmers market topics for the New England Regional Direct Market Conference. Over 600 people attended the two day gathering. Each Farmers Market workshop was attended by 40 to 100 people. Through these workshops as well as through our Conference trade show booth we reached an additional 33 resource providers. An important outcome for the project was further development of mentoring relationships to work on market master training programs in 2008 in CT, MA, NH and VT. We continued mentoring support for Vermont’s efforts to create a statewide association of farmers markets.

2008: We concluded our VT mentoring engagement by facilitating a meeting to launch the Vermont Farmers Market Association (attended by 54 farmers and 6 resource providers) and conducting a workshop on conflict management (14 markets and 1 resource provider). We completed work with CT resource providers on a statewide market manager’s seminar and provided a conflict management workshop for the gathering of 150 market managers and 7 resource providers. We worked with MA resource providers to develop and conduct a day long market managers workshop for 60 markets and 5 resource providers. We also completed a mentoring project with a NH resource provider for a market masters workshop, including a session on legal structuring (35 markets and I resource provider).

2009: Working with our advisory team, we organized a farmers market program in conjunction with Harvest New England Direct Marketing Conference. Attended by over 100 market managers and vendors as well as service providers, topics included EBT, Food Safety, Winter Markets and a wide ranging Market Exchange. Service providers and Market Managers led workshops. In Maine we assisted with planning a training program for markets in Washington and Hancock Counties, attended by 40 farmers and 10 resource providers.

Milestone 3: 15 resource providers use mentoring assistance to develop and deliver business training programs for farmers markets.

Accomplishments: Of the 15 resource providers recruited for more intensive participation in the program, we mentored 2 providers from VT, 1 from NH, 4 from Maine, 2 from MA and 2 from CT in the development of Farmers market programming. Besides mentoring participants on a wide variety of farmers’ market business issues, projects that emerged included: development of statewide associations (VT and ME), state training programs (MA, CT, NY, VT, ME and OH) and 2 region-wide training programs. All but one person, who no longer works with farmers markets due to a job change, continue to be engaged in supporting farmers markets. In addition we worked with one resource provider from NY on the development of resource materials for farmers markets and with another from Ohio on the development of a training program for farmers markets in that state.

The activities and tasks which enabled these milestones to be accomplished allowed us to achieve our projected target. We are pleased to have helped identify the key resource providers in our region with a special interest in farmers markets, brought them together to work collaboratively in support of farmers markets and developed commitment to continued farmers market work.

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

This project brought the business needs of farmers markets (vs. individual vendors) to the attention of agricultural service providers and identified market masters as a target group for training and technical assistance. Most of these people are volunteer managers; many combine farmer/vendor and manager roles. All are looking for ways to strengthen their markets, recruit new vendors, increase customer traffic, deal with legal, structure and board issues, develop community alliances, and more.

The response to training topics and content was overwhelmingly positive. These folks are hungry for information and support. By helping them organize and operate successful markets, their farmer vendors in turn will be more successful. Discussions with the professionals who were most intimately involved with the project made us all realize that we have just begun to address the business development needs of our region’s markets. Much more needs to be done and will be done going forward. Plans are underway for 2010 training programs.

Future Recommendations

Training and technical assistance for farmers markets is a continuing need. Business issues are challenging, especially for volunteer leaders who are also dealing with the challenges of their own farm businesses.

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.