Farmers' Market Leadership: Factors contributing to success and failure

Progress report for GS18-187

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2018: $11,823.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2021
Grant Recipient: Virginia Tech
Region: Southern
State: Virginia
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Eric Kaufman
Virginia Tech
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Project Information


Farmers’ markets play an important role within a sustainable agriculture system, connecting community, place, food networks, farmers, and economic development. Since 1994 the number of farmers’ markets has grown dramatically, increasing by 490%. However, many farmers’ markets fail, and it is not clear why. This proposal addresses this gap in our knowledge. For such an important resource, little is known concerning: How does farmers’ market leadership influence factors contributing to success and failure? This research project documents the growth or contraction of farmers’ markets in Virginia, uncovers patterns or trends contributing to the success and failure, aligns these findings through seven lenses for analyzing leadership and social enterprises, and disseminates these research findings. The outcomes of this research will provide valuable insights on building sustainable farmers’ markets, thus creating more resilience for a sustainable agriculture system. These findings can help inform planning of future resources, such as mobile farmers’ markets as well as identify recommendations for farmers’ markets in decline. Community stakeholders, local food movements, and small farmers benefit. Understanding how leadership influences farmers’ markets will lead to improved profitability of farmers/ranchers and enhance the quality of life for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. Although these findings are specific to Virginia, the research may have broader implications for similar geographical regions and states.

Project Objectives:

As a result of this project, the following will have occurred:

  1. Documented growth or contraction of Farmers’ Markets in Virginia;
  2. Uncovered patterns or trends in the variables contributing to success or decline of FMs;
  3. Aligned FM variables with the lenses for analyzing leadership and social enterprises; and
  4. Built Capacity for future research and practice.


Materials and methods:

The project involves studying farmers markets through seven lenses for analyzing leadership and social enterprises. We will contact organizations affiliated with Virginia’s farmers markets and aggregate data provided. Then, we will conduct semi-structured in-person key informant interviews. Findings will be shared through academic forums.

Although we have received approval for the project, there are no activities yet to report.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Information about this SARE funded research will be shared at departmental seminars, graduate research seminars, and local conferences. Research findings will be presented at regional and national conferences, and manuscripts about the influences of leadership on farmers markets will be published in appropriate journals, such as Agriculture, Social Enterprise Journal, Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, and American Journal of Alternative Agriculture.

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.