Building Efficacy and Financial Success among West Virginia Producers via Farmers Market Manager Education

Progress report for ENE20-161

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2020: $85,958.00
Projected End Date: 06/30/2022
Grant Recipient: West Virginia Farmers Market Association
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Erica Gallimore
West Virginia Farmers Market Association
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Project Information

Performance Target:

Twenty-one service providers will host 20 events for 70 farmers to address producer barriers. Ten farmers market managers will identify barriers and map resources to assist 60 farmers in increasing their farmers market sales. Ten farmers market managers will address barriers and improve marketing at ten farmers markets to increase customer spending by $1 per customer per week for 60 farmer vendors. Sixty farmers will adopt new marketing practices leading to $9000 in increased market revenue.

Introduction:

Problem and Justification: West Virginia producers are facing barriers without understanding the resources available to them in their region to remove those barriers. Agriculture service providers in the role of farmers market managers have identified some common producer barriers in a targeted 2019 survey conducted by WVFMA. WVFMA will monitor these barriers and periodically assess the regional progress being made to help producers work through them.

Solution and Approach: Farmers market managers can support producers who are not fully aware of the resources available to them. West Virginia Farmers Market Association (WVFMA) will develop leadership skills among ten West Virginia farmers market managers to serve as agriculture service providers in support of growth and sustainability for profitable agriculture businesses. Managers will be included in statewide conversation with experts and statewide service providers and be trained by WVFMA and other agriculture service providers in a peer-to-peer environment to use resources and technical assistance available to them to assess and address producer barriers. Trained farmers market managers will use the knowledge gleaned to provide ongoing support to producers through collaborative events and connections to statewide resource providers in order to address their needs. Producers participating in the events coordinated by the local farmers market manager will gain knowledge and confidence to improve the sustainability of their agriculture business. 

Value Chain Cluster Initiative (VC2) has developed a statewide communication network around Processing, Aggregation and Distribution consisting primarily of agriculture service providers. Within that network there is little representation of West Virginia farmers markets. Thirty-four organizations are represented with only 17.65% of them being farmers markets. WVFMA with VC2 would use this established network to survey twenty statewide agriculture service providers, ten of them being farmers market managers, to determine what they believe are the biggest barriers for producers statewide. This survey would also assess resources and technical assistance already in place to address identified barriers. Once the barriers are identified and services are mapped; connections between statewide service providers and producers can be established.

Milestones and Performance Target: This is designed to improve the sustainability among agribusinesses through agriculture service providers. Managers will be trained to collect and report vendor sales data and customer count data on a monthly basis using the WVFMA data collection toolkit available online. Twenty-one service providers will host 20 events for 70 farmers to address producer barriers. Ten farmers market managers will identify barriers and map resources to assist 60 farmers in increasing their farmers market sales. Ten farmers market managers will address barriers and improve marketing at ten farmers markets to increase customer spending by $1 per customer per week for 60 farmer vendors. Sixty farmers will adopt new marketing practices leading to $9000 in increased market revenue.

Educational Approach

Educational approach:

The WVFMA plans to solicit up to 10 market managers via an open call for applications. A selection committee will review applications to select participants who have strong relationships with farmers and who express readiness to assemble experts, tools and resources in order to coordinate local trainings and events that meet the needs of the farmers and producers in their service area. Farmers market managers will be trained as agriculture service providers to: find trained and affordable labor, address supply and demand, assess costs associated with input, processing and expansion, and general marketing practices. Additional topics may include production planning, vendor retention, and community partnership development based on the needs identified by local producers.

The WVFMA will host an initial train-the-trainer event to kick-off the program where participating managers will gain leadership development skills and become integrated into a peer network of statewide agriculture service providers. Survey results from previous trainees indicate a preference for peer learning which will include phone calls, training opportunities and site visits. During this meeting and ongoing throughout the program managers will experience 1-on-1 and group peer support and have access to technical assistance through this network. Peer training topics may include focused sessions on areas of interest and future needs.

Each manager will be encouraged to develop their leadership skills as an agriculture service provider. They will have resources and technical assistance available from the peer network to host training events for producers. Market managers will identify needs and develop strategies to overcome producer barriers. They will become proficient in financial sustainability, program and partnership development, and knowledge of available statewide resources. Participants will be invited to attend peer-to-peer networking opportunities involving other agriculture service providers including market managers.

Milestones

Milestone #1 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

In spring 2020, the WVFMA will survey 30 agriculture service providers statewide to determine what they believe are the biggest barriers for producers in West Virginia. Service providers within the statewide network, previously established as the Processing, Aggregation and Distribution (PAD) network, will be asked to report what resources, technical assistance, and services they have to assist producers in addressing those barriers. This initial framework will be a starting point for connections between agriculture service providers and farmers.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
20
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
74
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
19
Proposed Completion Date:
October 21, 2020
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

On May 28, 2020 the WVFMA collaborated with Liberty Newberry from Value Chain Cluster Initiative (VC2) and Grow with the Flow (Patti Miller) to provide an on-boarding training session to ten farmers markets. The training event took place via webinar (Zoom) and was recorded for future viewing and participants who were unable to attend on the day of the event. During the session, Erica Gallimore (WVFMA Project Coordinator) gave a program overview and outlined the WVFMA Data Collection and Record Keeping Toolkit with templates for vendors and managers. Participants were able to provide feedback and input data into a test form for practice. Liberty and Patti introduced the resources available through the PAD Network and began an open discussion about producer barriers. 

In spring 2020 following the onboarding training session, the nine farmers market managers indicated through open discussion the types of barriers affecting their market and the agriculture businesses that support it. As a result, WVFMA staff set a schedule of meetings to include eight agriculture service providers with resources to address identified barriers. 

In October 2020, the WVFMA and nine agriculture service providers discussed the biggest barriers identified by seventy four producers in West Virginia. Service providers within the statewide network, previously established as the Processing, Aggregation and Distribution (PAD) network, will be asked to report what resources, technical assistance, and services they have to assist producers in addressing those barriers. This initial framework will be a starting point for connections between agriculture service providers and farmers. Later that month, the nine market managers (representing 74 farmers) contributed to the 2020 WV Farmers Market Census. (2020 Census Results Handout)

Milestone #2 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

The WVFMA will then solicit up to ten market managers via an open call for applications between March 1 and April 30, 2020. A selection committee comprised of members of the agriculture service provider peer network will review applications to select farmers market managers who have strong relationships with farmers and who express readiness to assemble experts, tools and resources in order to coordinate local trainings and events that meet the needs of the producers in their service area. Eligible farmers markets must have at least six active producers or farmers in participation weekly during their season.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
74
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
9
Proposed Completion Date:
June 1, 2020
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

The WVFMA used the 2019 Farmers Market Census to identify and solicit nine market managers, representing 74 farmers, to participate in this program. The WVFMA will solicit up to two additional markets in 2021 using a selection committee comprised of members of the agriculture service provider peer network will review applications to select farmers market managers who have strong relationships with farmers and who express readiness to assemble experts, tools and resources in order to coordinate local trainings and events that meet the needs of the producers in their service area. Eligible farmers markets must have at least six active producers or farmers in participation weekly during their season and have completed the 2020 Farmers Market Census.

Milestone #3 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Participants will be surveyed three times over the course of the program to determine a starting point and progress. The first survey will take place during the initial training event held by the WVFMA. Two additional surveys will be issued to participants in February 2021 and February 2022, one annually, during the WV Small Farms Conference.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
74
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
9
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

During October the nine participating managers, representing 74 farmers, were also tasked with collecting data regarding barriers faced by producers and encouraged producers to speak with them about their challenges in sustaining their agriculture business. These interviews were guided by a checklist of known barriers identified by PAD Network service providers (Producer Barriers - Individual). Each of the nine managers met with WVFMA staff on either October 20 or 21, 2020 to discuss the results of the producer barriers discussion and to review the data analysis of the records and identify trends in reported  metrics from the season. All managers improved their record keeping abilities and provided more accurate reports to the 2020 census as a result of implementing better record keeping practices. This was evaluated by comparing the analyzed monthly data records and results of the 2020 census analysis. 

Milestone #4 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Farmers market managers will be trained as agriculture service providers in November 2020. Resources and technical assistance will be offered and provided to farmers market managers before and after the initial training. Managers will be integrated into a peer-to-peer network of agriculture service providers including other farmers market managers that will allow them to address ongoing barriers and identify solutions to producer barriers. One-on-one technical assistance will be made possible once the barriers are identified and resources are mapped.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
9
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Once monthly after the initial meeting in May 2020, the managers met in a peer network virtual call to discuss producer barriers. In June, and July 2020 the managers met with each other and WVFMA staff. In August, Shelley Keeney (Manager of The Wild Ramp in Huntington) met with the peer group to discuss conflict resolution among producers. The peer network was introduced to the WV Department of Agriculture Regional Coordinators in the September meeting. October 2020 was full of events including a peer network meeting, one-on-one consulting sessions, and a production planning workshop. In November the peer network hosted the USDA Farmers Market Manager and their VegU Coordinator who spoke about marketing opportunities and vendor retention during the pandemic. In December Dr. Dee Singh-Knights spoke about food safety and GAP certification training.

During October the participating managers were also tasked with collecting barriers from producers and encouraged to speak with them about challenges in each agriculture business. Participants met with WVFMA staff on October 20 and 21 to discuss the results of the producer barriers and to review the data analysis of the records reported for the season. All managers improved their record keeping abilities and provided more accurate reports to the 2020 census. This was evaluated by comparing the analyzed monthly data records and the preliminary results of the 2020 census. 

Between May and December 2020, there were ten online events for the participating market managers and each of the nine managers participated in one-on-one coaching sessions with WVFMA staff. These meetings will continue indefinitely, and will gradually include farmers market managers in other WVFMA supported programs.

Milestone #5 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

The WVFMA will work as the catalyst for farmers market managers to find partners and resources to address producer barriers. The WVFMA will then coach market managers to host their own regional training events annually, twenty events in total for individual farm viability. The WVFMA will assist in recruitment of partners and collaborators for these events.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Proposed Completion Date:
February 28, 2022
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

In spring 2021, the peer network will begin scheduling events for producers which will include resources provided by service providers who attended monthly peer network meetings. These training events will be based on the results of the one-on-one consultations between the managers and WVFMA staff and will focus on their regional producer barriers.

Milestone #6 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Managers will be trained to use the WVFMA data collection toolkit including the record keeping toolkit before the start of the 2020 farmers market season, which is variable for each farmers market. Once the 2020 farmers market season begins, the managers will report their monthly sales and customer count data to the WVFMA to be recorded. Participant sales will show an increase annually as well as the average dollar amount a typical customer spends at the market weekly. Data collection will continue throughout the course of this program.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
74
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
9
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Managers were trained to use the WVFMA data collection toolkit including the record keeping toolkit during a virtual on-boarding event on May 28, 2020. Once the 2020 farmers market season began, the managers reported their monthly sales and customer count data to the WVFMA to be recorded. The data metrics reported to the WVFMA by the participating managers were reported to them by the farmers and producers participating in their farmers market, 74 total farmers reported sales regularly to managers. The preliminary data has shown seven out of nine participants increased annual sales and five out of nine increased the average dollar amount a typical customer spends at the market weekly. As a result, a report to identify regional trends was created as a Shareable Dashboard. New Vendor Sales Report 2020 was used to collect data and data collection will continue until December 2021.

Milestone #7 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

A peer networking meeting will take place in fall 2020 and then another in 2021 to allow farmers market managers to share their successes and identified barriers with other agriculture service providers in the PAD network.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
9
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

Monthly peer networking meetings have taken place since June 2020. The WVFMA plans to continue these monthly meetings in 2021 to allow farmers market managers to share their successes and identified barriers with other agriculture service providers from the PAD network and other agencies.

Milestone #8 (click to expand/collapse)
What beneficiaries do and learn:

Producers in attendance at the events hosted by the market managers will be asked to assess the training and their likelihood of implementing the programs or techniques into their businesses. Farmers market managers will conduct periodic surveys to identify areas where barriers have been reduced and connections between statewide service providers and farmers have been made.

Proposed number of farmer beneficiaries who will participate:
60
Proposed number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who will participate:
10
Actual number of farmer beneficiaries who participated:
74
Actual number of agriculture service provider beneficiaries who participated:
9
Proposed Completion Date:
December 31, 2021
Status:
In Progress
Accomplishments:

74 producers were surveyed in fall 2020 by 9 farmers market managers (Producer Barriers - Individual) to better understand their challenges and begin developing a plan for producer focused education. The barriers were separated into five categories (Labor, Policy/Regulations, Business Development, Personal, and Crop/Land Management). They managers were asked to survey their producers to respond "yes" or "no" for each barrier listed. "Yes" being for those negatively impacted by the barrier or challenge, and "no" being for those not negatively impacted by the barrier or challenge. 14.89% reported that labor was a barrier for their agriculture business. 21.28% reported local, state, or federal policies/regulations were a barrier for their business. 29.65% reported business development issues as a barrier for their business. 36.93% reported personal factors as a barrier with a majority of negative impacts being internet access, age, and health concerns. 28.30% reported crop and land management as a negatively impactful barrier to their business.

Performance Target Outcomes

Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers

Target #1

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
21
Target: actions the service providers will take:

21 service providers (10 farmers market managers plus 11 statewide and regional service providers) will host a total of 20 events in ten WV communities for 70 farmers to offer resources and support to address producer barriers.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
70
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

NA

Verified: number of service providers who reported taking actions to educate/advice farmers:
19
Verified: number of farmers the service providers reported educating/advising through their actions:
0
Verified: amount of production these farmers manage:

NA

Target #2

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
10
Target: actions the service providers will take:

Ten farmers market managers will identify barriers and map available resources with assistance from the Processing, Aggregation, and Distribution (PAD) network or statewide and regional service providers, and use this information to assist 60 farmers in increasing their farmers market sales.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
60
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

NA

Verified: number of service providers who reported taking actions to educate/advice farmers:
9
Verified: number of farmers the service providers reported educating/advising through their actions:
0
Verified: amount of production these farmers manage:

NA

Target #3

Target: number of service providers who will take action to educate/advise farmers:
10
Target: actions the service providers will take:

Ten farmers market managers will address barriers and improve marketing at ten farmers markets, leading to an increase in customer spending by an average of $1 per customer per week, increasing revenues for 60 farmer vendors.

Target: number of farmers the service providers will educate/advise:
60
Target: amount of production these farmers manage:

NA

Verified: number of service providers who reported taking actions to educate/advice farmers:
6
Verified: number of farmers the service providers reported educating/advising through their actions:
0
Activities for farmers conducted by service providers:
  • 1 Curricula, factsheets and other educational tools
  • 9 Consultations
  • 2 Online trainings
  • 7 Webinars/talks/presentations
  • 1 Workshops/field days
  • 1 Managers participated in the Processing, Aggregation, and Distribution (PAD) Summit and will be incorporated into the PAD Network.
19 Total number of agricultural service provider participants who used knowledge and skills learned through this project (or incorporated project materials) in their educational activities, services, information products and/or tools for farmers
Performance target outcome for service providers narrative:

In 2020, nine farmers market managers were recruited to take part in the Localized Information Exchange Program. The initial meeting on May 28, 2020 was recorded for any manager unable to attend. This meeting guided managers through the program expectations and how to collect accurate data from producers in order to report back to the WVFMA. From that point moving forward, managers met monthly on the second Friday of each month to discuss a variety of challenges producers were facing. The managers also kept records of vendor sales and customer transactions to help the WVFMA staff evaluate customer spending.

Data collected and reported by managers was compiled by the WVFMA staff and a visual data dashboard was created to understand the sales and customer trends between 2019 and 2020. A baseline was established by using data provided by the participating markets in the 2019 WV Farmers Market Census. 2020 data revealed that on average across the state, customers spent $9.38 per visit to the farmers market and farmers took home on average $185.55. The increase in customer spending and average take home for producers may have been due to the increased need for local food sources caused by the global pandemic, COVID-19. 

Between June and December 2020, participants of the Localized Information Exchange Program were provided a space monthly to discuss openly the barriers effecting producers in their communities. Ten service providers from national, state, and regional organizations provided insight and resources available from their organizations to help the managers address expressed barriers. In October 2020, nine market managers provided one-on-one consultation to WVFMA staff which will guide training programs for producers in 2021. These sessions identified current needs for business development, processing equipment, and broadband internet among other challenges.

Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers

Target #1

Target: number of farmers who will make a change/adopt of practice:
60
Target: the change or adoption the farmers will make:
60 farmers will address barriers and adopt new marketing practices leading to an increased farmers market revenue of $150 per season per farmer ($9000 total per season).
Verified: number of farmers who made a change/adopted a practice:

0
Performance target outcome for farmers narrative:

The average farmer revenue for 2020, as reported by participating managers, was $185.55. Producer focused training events will begin in spring 2021 to address barriers in business development, equipment needs, and other priority challenges identified by participating managers.

Information Products

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.