Final Report for ENE06-095

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $111,801.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Diane Eggert
Farmers Market Federation of NY
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Project Information

Summary:

Using a series of face-to-face conferences and a written training manual, the project goal was to foster the sustainability of farmers markets through management skills building for market managers and Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators. Extension Educators were encouraged to provide support for managers who often find themselves isolated during the busy market season, with no one to provide guidance or supervision. Over the three years of the project, 15 Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators and 175 farmers markets attended a minimum of one of the three training conferences. After the third and final conference, a written Farmers Market Managers Training Manual was distributed to all 450+ farmers markets in New York and all 61 county Extension offices, targeting the Educators identified as working most closely with their local farmers markets.

Follow up surveys throughout the three year project found that markets were, in fact, instituting changes to improve their market based on the training received at the conferences and provided in the training manual. We also found that Extension Educators were using the training materials provided through this project in their efforts to work more closely with their county/regional farmers markets. Final surveys showed 78% of reporting Extension offices have increased their work with farmers markets over the project period.

Performance Target:

Of the 62 Extension offices and over 300 farmers’ market management teams invited to participate in workshops and given a training manual, 25 Extension Educators will use their new skills and written materials to work directly with farmers’ market managers in their region to develop professional farmers’ market management policies and practices. The impact of their involvement will result in 75 farmers’ markets adopting new procedures, policies and/or market systems that will foster long-term sustainability for their farmers’ markets.

This project has exceeded the performance target. Thirty six Extension Educators report their work with farmers markets has increased over the three year project term. Over 100 farmers markets are being impacted by Extension involvement, implementing changes to their market policies and/or practices to foster their market’s sustainability.

Introduction:

Farmers markets are an important marketing venue for small family farms, providing low cost marketing opportunities with retail level profits. They are also important to communities, playing a role in community revitalization efforts and local food security, as well as building community pride. Their continued benefit to agriculture and to local communities requires that farmers markets be structured to ensure their viability and prosperity.

Knowing the value of a farmers’ market farmers to local communities, it is important that we structure markets to prevent market failures. However, we find that up to 50% of new markets fail within the first 5 years of operation and up to 20% of markets that make it beyond the first 5 years will fail once their initial management team retires from the market.

This project sought to increase the success rate of farmers markets by increasing the professional management skills of market management. Through a collaboration of Extension Educators, farmers market managers and Farmers Market Federation of NY staff, a curriculum was developed to train Extension Educators to teach farmers’ market managers professional standards, policies and practices for the management of farmers’ markets.

Through a series of workshops and a written training manual, the project looked at the issues of market management, including basic market manager roles, community building and various market systems. Training in each subject area provided Extension Educators the skills and resources to work with farmers’ market managers to develop their skill levels at the community level.

After each year’s training sessions, surveys assessed the effectiveness of the workshops, the level of involvement of Extension Educators with market managers and the degree of change in the management structure of the local farmers’ markets. At the end of the project, a written training manual was distributed to all Extension offices and farmers markets in New York State.

As a result of the annual workshops and the written manual, a minimum of 36 Extension Educators used their new skills and written materials to work directly with farmers’ market managers in their region to develop professional farmers’ market management policies and practices, building the sustainability of each of the markets.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Krys Cail
  • Jim Farr
  • John Parise
  • Monika Roth

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The project, “Fostering Sustainability for Farmers’ Markets through Professional Market Management Training” employed a combination of hands-on training and a written training manual to train farmers market managers and Cornell Cooperative Extension in market management skills. An annual conference was held each of the three years to cover the topics identified as most critical in managing a market and developing systems for long term growth and sustainability. Each conference consisted of 2 days of class room training followed by 1 day of market tours. Each conference session was then put on the Farmers Market Federation of NY website, www.nyfarmersmarket.com.

After each training workshop, the sessions were translated into chapters of a broad and comprehensive farmers market managers training manual. CDs of the draft manual were distributed at each of the following annual conferences.

Milestones

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

Publications

Milestone 1:

Year 1 Workshop is held, a 2 day event focused on basic market manager roles. 80 beneficiaries will attend the workshops to learn market manager duties and be able to bring the skills and information back to their community farmers’ markets.

*********************************************************************
This workshop covered the first market manager training in a three part series. The workshop theme was basic manager roles. It gave the attendees a market manager job description and sessions centered around the basics on the description, such as on-site roles, post/pre season work, recruiting farmers, developing and enforcing market rules, understanding liability insurance needs, market budgets and fundraising.

The workshop was held in conjunction with another organization, under the premise that a joint conference would attract a larger audience. This was not the case. Only 47 beneficiaries attended the first training workshop, 8 Extension Educators and 39 farmers market managers. Despite the lower than hoped for attendance, engagement in the program was high, as attendees worked together in roundtables and workgroups. This was the first time many of the farmers market managers came to a workshop devoted to the issues of running farmers markets. Participating Extension Educators noted that the information would help them to train market managers in their county/regions. Market managers indicated the sessions would help them on a day to day basis with the management of their markets.

After conducting this first conference, it was decided to host the next conference on our own. Market managers were interested in more networking opportunities with other managers and market supporters without the distractions of other organizations. We also learned the importance of a dynamic keynote speaker. This person sets the tone for the entire conference and should be able to draw attendees in, hold their attention and begin the interaction.

Milestone 2:

50 Extension Educators will work with farmers market managers through the first market season of the project, targeting at least one area from the workshop training.

*********************************************************************
A follow up survey to the first market manager training workshop showed that Extension was learning ways to work effectively with farmers market managers. Some of the improvements made to the local farmers markets as a result of the training were:

• Rewrote mission statement and rules
• Communicated with vendors often throughout the market day
• More focus on food processing rules permits
• Became much more aware of appearance – displays and other aesthetics
• We were able to sponsor different types of events which our farmers found much less intrusive

Milestone 3:

Year 2 Workshop is held, a 2 day event focusing on leadership skills. 80 beneficiaries in total will participate in the workshops, 50 from the original group with another 30 joining in Year 2.
*********************************************************************
This second year conference was held independent from any other farm organization. We also included a well known and respected market manager from outside the state. This captured a great deal of attention and helped to boost the attendance. Attendance increased to 99 participants, including 7 Extension Educators and 92 farmers market managers and supporters. Of the 7 Extension educators, 3 had also attended the first workshop and 10 farmers market managers were repeat attendees from the first workshop.

The second in the series of farmers market training workshops centered around the theme of building a market community. The topics of discussion were connecting markets to nonprofit organizations, businesses and governmental agencies for support, assistance and partnerships. Connections to consumers through media was explored, as was means to increase connections between consumers and farmers at the market; i.e. Friends of the Market organizations, nutrition programs, food stamp participation, direct delivery programs.

Milestone 4:

30 Extension Educators will work with farmers market managers within the second market season, assisting in at least one area from the training workshop.

*********************************************************************
A follow up survey found that Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators were continuing to use the training from the conferences, whether they attended, received a copy of the draft market managers training manual, or viewed the conference presentations online. Their work with local farmers markets increased in the following ways:

• I’d like to help more with organization development, manager support (holding discussion groups, bringing in speakers). Also, I’m getting questions from communities interested in starting new markets. This information will help with management suggestions; building customer base.
• Start by meeting with them. Offering to share tools.
• I will utilize the information learned to train market managers, vendors, boards
• I will now talk to them more about branding, logos, community connection.
• Broader view of mission/purpose of farmers markets.
• Reported on conference to market members.
• Have used the CD from 2007 in evaluating/changing market application and rules.
• A better understanding of markets, their roles in society as a whole. Very beneficial through the interaction with other market managers—similarities and differences.
• Helped to guide my first year as an Extension Educator

Milestone 5:

Year 3 Workshop is held, a 2 day workshop focusing on market management systems. 80 beneficiaries will participate in this workshop, 30 continuing from the past training workshops and 50 new participants.

*********************************************************************
The third workshop of the series was held in Schenectady, NY. The focus of the programming was on developing market systems that would guide the market toward future growth and sustainability. Among the conversations were special event planning, crisis management, developing a marketing plan, strategic planning for farmers markets and evaluating markets.

The final conference was attended by 101 attendees, including 7 Extension Educators and 94 farmers markets managers and supporters. Four of the Extension Educators attended previous conferences, returning to continue to build their knowledge on farmers market management. In addition, 29 farmers market managers had attended previous conferences. In some cases, managers turned over in the course of the 3 year program reducing the number of individuals that could continue the three year program, however, in many cases, the market sent their new market manager.

Milestone 6:

A written training manual for market mangers will be completed and distributed. Of the 400 manuals distributed to Extension Educators and farmers market managers, 100 will be read, either in whole or in part.

*********************************************************************
With the growth of farmers markets, both in New York State and across the nation, over the three year span of this project, the number of training manuals required increased. To accommodate the increased need for manuals, production was done on CD’s rather than a hard copy. One thousand copies of the manual were burned onto CDs for distribution. A CD was mailed to all 450 farmers markets in New York and to each county Cornell Cooperative Extension office. Additional copies have gone to USDA AMS, fourteen additional states and Nova Scotia.

The manual was also published on the Farmers Market Federation of NY website, www.nyfarmersmarket.com and linked to the national Farmers Market Coalition website, within their resource library. The manual was then available for download either in a pdf file or word document. This would increase the scope of distribution to nationwide and beyond.

Milestone 7:

25 Extension Educators will use their new skills and written materials to work directly with farmers’ market managers in their region to develop professional farmers’ market management policies and practices.

*********************************************************************
A final project evaluation survey was conducted with the county Cornell Cooperative Extension offices. With a 75% return rate, we found that Extension Educators are increasingly engaged with their local farmers markets. Thirty six offices reported their work with markets has increased over the three year project term, while only 4 indicated an overall decrease in their work with farmers markets.

In most all cases, decreased involvement with farmers markets was due to budgetary restraints. However, those that reported an increase partially attributed the increase to:

• the Farmers Market Managers Training Manual
• Farmers Market Information Days, regional workshops conducted by the Farmers Market Federation, in partnership with the NYS Dept of Agriculture and Markets.
• market managers training conferences
• the availability of the NYS Farmers Market Wireless EBT program, administered by the Farmers Market Federation
• Federation assistance with farmers market development
• Increased consumer demand for local products
• Farmers markets helps them achieve their mission for both growers and the community

Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators increased engagement with local farmers markets during the project term has impacted the markets by:

• Nutrition education at the markets, including cooking demonstrations has resulted in increased customer traffic and greater sales of fruits and vegetables
• Markets within counties and regions are coming together under Extension leadership to find ways they can work together
• Providing training to market managers and market farmers
• Assistance with administering an EBT (food stamp) program in the market
• Starting new farmers markets
• Conducting farm inspections for compliance with market rules
• Acting as an advisor to the market manager and Boards of Directors
• Promoting the local markets
• Connecting farmers markets with Master Gardeners
• Assistance with special events
• Assistance with farmer recruitment

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

Outcomes

This project reached all 61 county Cornell Cooperative Extension offices in New York and each of the 450+ farmers markets in the state through the distribution of the Farmers Market Managers Training Manual. In addition, we reached 15 Extension Educators and 175 farmers markets and market supporters through direct training at farmers market managers training conferences.

As a result of face-to-face training, market managers and Extension Educators were able to acquire a better understanding of the needs and inner workings of successful farmers markets. Hearing from people with key expertise, as well as the opportunity to network and learn from one another was key to increasing the knowledge of each participant. Evaluations showed a real commitment to use the knowledge gained to improve their markets.

Many markets made changes to their policies and procedures based on the training, often with the support and involvement of the county/regional Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator. Some of the changes included:

  • Rewrote market rules to ensure clarity and fairness.
    With a clearer understanding of liability issues, market managers and Extension helped to educate their farmers about the need for market liability insurance to protect the farmers assets.
    Markets began to explore Friends of the Market organizations as a possible nonprofit arm of the market that would help with program administration, volunteer activities and fundraising.
    A farm inspection program was developed to ensure compliance with market rules and maintain the integrity of the market for consumers.
    Extension Educators began/increased local training programs for both market managers and market farmers, resulting in more successful market management as well as a greater number of farmers participating in the market.
    Extension educators are beginning to bring their county/region farmers market managers together to explore a regional network of markets, sharing common elements; such as market managers, rules and market applications, EBT manager, and promotions; in an effort to reduce costs and ensure market longevity.
    An increasing number of markets joined the NYS Farmers Market Wireless EBT program, providing access to fresh, local foods to food stamp consumers.

Additional Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:
Milestone 1:

Year 1 Workshop is held, a 2 day event focused on basic market manager roles. 80 beneficiaries will attend the workshops to learn market manager duties and be able to bring the skills and information back to their community farmers’ markets.

*********************************************************************
This workshop covered the first market manager training in a three part series. The workshop theme was basic manager roles. It gave the attendees a market manager job description and sessions centered around the basics on the description, such as on-site roles, post/pre season work, recruiting farmers, developing and enforcing market rules, understanding liability insurance needs, market budgets and fundraising.

The workshop was held in conjunction with another organization, under the premise that a joint conference would attract a larger audience. This was not the case. Only 47 beneficiaries attended the first training workshop, 8 Extension Educators and 39 farmers market managers. Despite the lower than hoped for attendance, engagement in the program was high, as attendees worked together in roundtables and workgroups. This was the first time many of the farmers market managers came to a workshop devoted to the issues of running farmers markets. Participating Extension Educators noted that the information would help them to train market managers in their county/regions. Market managers indicated the sessions would help them on a day to day basis with the management of their markets.

After conducting this first conference, it was decided to host the next conference on our own. Market managers were interested in more networking opportunities with other managers and market supporters without the distractions of other organizations. We also learned the importance of a dynamic keynote speaker. This person sets the tone for the entire conference and should be able to draw attendees in, hold their attention and begin the interaction.

Milestone 2:

50 Extension Educators will work with farmers market managers through the first market season of the project, targeting at least one area from the workshop training.

*********************************************************************
A follow up survey to the first market manager training workshop showed that Extension was learning ways to work effectively with farmers market managers. Some of the improvements made to the local farmers markets as a result of the training were:

• Rewrote mission statement and rules
• Communicated with vendors often throughout the market day
• More focus on food processing rules permits
• Became much more aware of appearance – displays and other aesthetics
• We were able to sponsor different types of events which our farmers found much less intrusive

Milestone 3:

Year 2 Workshop is held, a 2 day event focusing on leadership skills. 80 beneficiaries in total will participate in the workshops, 50 from the original group with another 30 joining in Year 2.
*********************************************************************
This second year conference was held independent from any other farm organization. We also included a well known and respected market manager from outside the state. This captured a great deal of attention and helped to boost the attendance. Attendance increased to 99 participants, including 7 Extension Educators and 92 farmers market managers and supporters. Of the 7 Extension educators, 3 had also attended the first workshop and 10 farmers market managers were repeat attendees from the first workshop.

The second in the series of farmers market training workshops centered around the theme of building a market community. The topics of discussion were connecting markets to nonprofit organizations, businesses and governmental agencies for support, assistance and partnerships. Connections to consumers through media was explored, as was means to increase connections between consumers and farmers at the market; i.e. Friends of the Market organizations, nutrition programs, food stamp participation, direct delivery programs.

Milestone 4:

30 Extension Educators will work with farmers market managers within the second market season, assisting in at least one area from the training workshop.

*********************************************************************
A follow up survey found that Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators were continuing to use the training from the conferences, whether they attended, received a copy of the draft market managers training manual, or viewed the conference presentations online. Their work with local farmers markets increased in the following ways:

• I’d like to help more with organization development, manager support (holding discussion groups, bringing in speakers). Also, I’m getting questions from communities interested in starting new markets. This information will help with management suggestions; building customer base.
• Start by meeting with them. Offering to share tools.
• I will utilize the information learned to train market managers, vendors, boards
• I will now talk to them more about branding, logos, community connection.
• Broader view of mission/purpose of farmers markets.
• Reported on conference to market members.
• Have used the CD from 2007 in evaluating/changing market application and rules.
• A better understanding of markets, their roles in society as a whole. Very beneficial through the interaction with other market managers—similarities and differences.
• Helped to guide my first year as an Extension Educator

Milestone 5:

Year 3 Workshop is held, a 2 day workshop focusing on market management systems. 80 beneficiaries will participate in this workshop, 30 continuing from the past training workshops and 50 new participants.

*********************************************************************
The third workshop of the series was held in Schenectady, NY. The focus of the programming was on developing market systems that would guide the market toward future growth and sustainability. Among the conversations were special event planning, crisis management, developing a marketing plan, strategic planning for farmers markets and evaluating markets.

The final conference was attended by 101 attendees, including 7 Extension Educators and 94 farmers markets managers and supporters. Four of the Extension Educators attended previous conferences, returning to continue to build their knowledge on farmers market management. In addition, 29 farmers market managers had attended previous conferences. In some cases, managers turned over in the course of the 3 year program reducing the number of individuals that could continue the three year program, however, in many cases, the market sent their new market manager.

Milestone 6:

A written training manual for market mangers will be completed and distributed. Of the 400 manuals distributed to Extension Educators and farmers market managers, 100 will be read, either in whole or in part.

*********************************************************************
With the growth of farmers markets, both in New York State and across the nation, over the three year span of this project, the number of training manuals required increased. To accommodate the increased need for manuals, production was done on CD’s rather than a hard copy. One thousand copies of the manual were burned onto CDs for distribution. A CD was mailed to all 450 farmers markets in New York and to each county Cornell Cooperative Extension office. Additional copies have gone to USDA AMS, fourteen additional states and Nova Scotia.

The manual was also published on the Farmers Market Federation of NY website, www.nyfarmersmarket.com and linked to the national Farmers Market Coalition website, within their resource library. The manual was then available for download either in a pdf file or word document. This would increase the scope of distribution to nationwide and beyond.

Milestone 7:

25 Extension Educators will use their new skills and written materials to work directly with farmers’ market managers in their region to develop professional farmers’ market management policies and practices.

*********************************************************************
A final project evaluation survey was conducted with the county Cornell Cooperative Extension offices. With a 75% return rate, we found that Extension Educators are increasingly engaged with their local farmers markets. Thirty six offices reported their work with markets has increased over the three year project term, while only 4 indicated an overall decrease in their work with farmers markets.

In most all cases, decreased involvement with farmers markets was due to budgetary restraints. However, those that reported an increase partially attributed the increase to:

• the Farmers Market Managers Training Manual
• Farmers Market Information Days, regional workshops conducted by the Farmers Market Federation, in partnership with the NYS Dept of Agriculture and Markets.
• market managers training conferences
• the availability of the NYS Farmers Market Wireless EBT program, administered by the Farmers Market Federation
• Federation assistance with farmers market development
• Increased consumer demand for local products
• Farmers markets helps them achieve their mission for both growers and the community

Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators increased engagement with local farmers markets during the project term has impacted the markets by:

• Nutrition education at the markets, including cooking demonstrations has resulted in increased customer traffic and greater sales of fruits and vegetables
• Markets within counties and regions are coming together under Extension leadership to find ways they can work together
• Providing training to market managers and market farmers
• Assistance with administering an EBT (food stamp) program in the market
• Starting new farmers markets
• Conducting farm inspections for compliance with market rules
• Acting as an advisor to the market manager and Boards of Directors
• Promoting the local markets
• Connecting farmers markets with Master Gardeners
• Assistance with special events
• Assistance with farmer recruitment

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

By making improvements in market policies and procedures, markets have been able to increase their customer base, increase their farmer base and improve the sustainability of their market. There has been a drop in the number of market failures over the last couple of years, with only 3 farmers markets folding in New York State in 2009.

As a result of bringing new customers to farmers markets through outreach to food stamp consumers and participation in the NYS Farmers Market Wireless EBT program, farm revenue was increased by a total of $883,000 in food stamp benefits in 2009. This increases farm revenue for participating farmers and improved market policies and procedures ensures a market that will be viable for farmers to continue to direct market their farm products.

Future Recommendations

We learned several lessons on hosting annual conferences for farmers market managers as a result of conducting this project.

• Conference dates can impact attendance. Holding the conference outside of standard conference times for farmers; January and February; was important to ensure the greatest number of potential attendees were available. The first of the series of workshops was held in the height of conference season, late January, and, consequently it conflicted with several other state and regional conferences, requiring market managers and Extension Educators to make a choice of conferences to attend.

• Rotate conference locations. Moving the location of the conference each year encouraged those local to attend. Once a market manager or Extension Educator attended once, it was more likely that they would follow to other locations on subsequent years.

• Keep it local. Each location should be a locally owned facility, foods should be local, and tours and conference events should feature the local flavor. This helps to build excitement for the conference and adheres to the farmers market concept.

• A keynote speaker should set the tone for the conference. A keynote speaker must be recognized as a farmers market expert and be dynamic to engage the attendees and build excitement for all sessions following it.

• Market managers want to tell their market story. It was important to build significant time in the conference for networking, but also to build a platform where any market manager could showcase their market work.

• Extend session times. The interest level of market managers and Extension Educators in each of the workshops sessions necessitated longer sessions to accommodate an indepth presentation of the topic, as well as a prolonged question and answer session.

The project accomplished our goals to give market managers and Extension Educators the knowledge and tools to build sustainable farmers markets. We witnessed Extension and market managers working together to make improvements to local markets based on the skills learned through this project and we have seen a drop in the number of market failures, even as we continue to experience a high level of growth in the number of markets in New York State. The market managers manual is available to all new market managers, as well as the support of the Federation and local Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators.

The missing piece that should cap this project is a market manager certified training program. This could be an online training program, followed up with quizzes that would test the skills learned through the program. A Certificate of Completion would be issued to show that the person has the skills and knowledge needed to be a market manager that can advance a market’s ability to serve its farmers, consumers and community.

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.