Progress report for ENE20-161
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
In 2021, the WVFMA recruited three additional farmers markets to participate in this program. One of the three ultimately could not participate due to personal challenges that could not be overcome through the methods presented in this project. However there were additional producers served by this project, one of the new markets represented 10 additional farmers, while the other represented 14 new farmers. These two markets actively participated in group discussion, co-hosted workshops on public policy changes with the WVFMA and WV Department of Agriculture, and attended the virtual 2021 Small Farm Conference hosted by West Virginia University Extension.
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.
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.
Participants were surveyed again in November 2021. Data analysis is still in progress (01/27/22).
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.
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.
Virtual meetings continued into 2022. Farmers market managers attended frequently to discuss common issues effecting their producers and communities. This group has been established as the West Virginia Farmers Market Association Peer Network, and currently offers mentorship support to farmers market managers and representatives in West Virginia.
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.
In spring 2021, the peer network participants began scheduling events for producers with the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, and West Virginia Farmers Market Association which included resources provided by service providers who attended monthly peer network meetings. These training events were focused on regional producer barriers regarding food safety and vendor safety. There were 9 events in total between June 24 and August 24, where 11 farmers markets and 47 producers were represented.
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.
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. Data analysis is still in progress (01/27/22).
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.
Monthly peer networking meetings have taken place since June 2020. The WVFMA has continued these monthly meetings in 2021 to allow farmers market managers to share their successes. Conversations and identification of common barriers has led the WVFMA to collaborate with WVU Extension Small Farm Center, a member of the PAD Network, to develop a curriculum for a West Virginia Certified Farmers Market Manager course. Members of the Peer Network will inform the content and resources from the PAD Network will be used as course materials and resources for participants of the course.
Managers in the peer network were invited to participate in quarterly PAD Network calls in early 2020. The development of this curriculum comes as a result of their involvement in both networks and an expressed need for more managers supporting farmers directly.
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.
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.
Farmers market managers struggled to complete these surveys with producers in 2021, and there was not enough data provided to give a clear indication if the previous barriers had been addressed. Of the 9 markets to complete the task in 2020, only 2 managers were able to complete and return this survey in 2021. However, 8 out of the original 9 managers were able to discuss changes from their perspective in their producers through one-on-one interviews with WVFMA staff. This data has been recorded, but not analyzed or reported.
Milestone Activities and Participation Summary
Educational activities and events conducted by the project team:
Participants in the project’s educational activities:
Performance Target Outcomes
Performance Target Outcomes - Service Providers
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
Monthly discussions continued in 2021 and expanded to include five more farmers market managers. During a session in spring 2021, the WVFMA staff shared the Data Collection and Record Keeping Toolkit. New participants were offered one-on-one sessions, support through digital toolkits, and networking opportunities outside of the monthly discussions. The WVFMA expanded its staffing capacity which allowed for the development of new resources to help farmers markets self assess and collect customer data. Manager participants assisted WVFMA staff in drafting the assessment model to help strengthen farmers markets. This model will be used to identify perceived barriers from the customer perspective for individual vendors and the farmers market altogether. The impact of these tools has not been determined, but the sales and customer count seem to indicate positive changes to the farmers market and agriculture businesses.
Performance Target Outcomes - Farmers
The average farmer revenue for 2020, as reported by participating managers, was $185.55. Producer focused training events began in early summer 2021 to address barriers in food safety.
In November 2021, the WVFMA held one-on-one sessions with farmers market managers and hosted a virtual production planning workshop. The event was recorded, but automatically deleted after 60 days. There were several attendees to this event and at least three took advantage of the offer for a one-on-one consultation with an expert to create a production plan for their farm.