This project aims to expand Fresh Stop Markets (FSMs), developed by the New Roots, as a mechanism that enables farmers to achieve both agricultural sustainability and social justice in the food system across the Southeast region.
FSMs are “pop up” farm-fresh markets organized biweekly for 22 weeks during the season at local churches, community centers and other public spaces in food insecure neighborhoods. FSMs provide local fresh produce to each market’s shareholders on a sliding scale based on income. Unlike traditional community supported agriculture schemes, there is no expectation for shareholders to purchase all shares in the beginning of the season, nor are they committed to participate in every market day. FSMs offer farmers a low-risk outlet which helps them diversify their marketing portfolios and transition from farmers’ markets and CSAs to wholesale markets. FSMs allow farmers to become active leaders in their community to build food systems that promote environmental stewardship and social equity.
In Year 1, the research component will take place. First, phone interviews with national and regional leaders of farmers’ and consumers’ cooperatives, independent business associations and non-profit organizations will be carried out to identify potential models for agribusiness partnership and assess their applicability to build a regional network of community based organizations who wish to operate their own FSM. Second, we will evaluate potential instruments for replicating a FSM model to other communities through focus group interviews and listening sessions held during the FSM retreat, organized by New Roots, our field visit to potential FSM sites, and at the Annual Conference of Southern SAWG, with farmers and leaders of existing and potential FSMs in the region. Third, to understand economic viability of FSMs, we will conduct a survey of farm enterprises from the 14 existing FSMs and 5 case studies.
In Year 2, four types of instruments will be designed and piloted, including: a “community readiness assessment toolkit” to assess the readiness of a CBO to organize a FSM; a “community capacity building toolkit”, used by a CBO, to build the community’s readiness to organize a FSM; operational manuals and training materials to share knowledge with and train community leaders and farmers to successfully operate a FSM; and an “audit system”, used by New Roots, to ensure that FSMs operated by various CBOs meet the mission and values of FSMs. These instruments will be implemented in Years 2 and 3. We will visit each of the newly established sites at least once to evaluate the effectiveness of these instruments and make necessary adjustments on them to improve their effectiveness.
This project will:
- Develop a model, including toolkits, for replicating FSMs to increase the participation of small-scale, limited-resource farmers in the Southeast region;
- Design instruments to monitor the effectiveness of the model in enabling farmers to achieve their vision of ecological, financial, and sociocultural sustainability;
- Create opportunities for farmers to become leaders in their community and local food economy.
Between April 2018 and March 2019, we investigated the Fresh Stop Market (FSM) model, developed by New Roots, Inc.: how it works; what processes and mechanisms are involved in creating, maintaining, and operating FSMs; how decisions are being made; how sound its financial base, etc. After we began research activities in July, the research team from the University of Kentucky (UK) and the University of Tennessee (UT) discovered that the FSM model was not as financially sound for farmers as previously believed because New Roots, Inc.’s dependence on grants and gifts to support the operation. New Roots, Inc. was planning to reorganize FSMs in order to simplify its financial operation.
Instead of our original goal of developing tools for replicating FSMs, we have decided to focus more on identifying processes and mechanisms that are considered as best practice in engaging small-scale and limited-resource farmers work to a food hub operation that tries to address both sustainability and social justice goals. Instead of using FSM as “the” model, we have decided to investigate multiple models in use. To achieve that, we first attended the annual meeting of FSM leaders in November, 2018 to conduct participant observation. This helps us understand the dynamics of how FSM leaders interact and make decisions. In November and December, we identified several organizations (non-profit and for-profit) in the region who have a food hub operation with a strong social justice/food security mission. Between January and March, 2019, the UK team completed interviews with six organizations about their histories, leaderships, organizational structures, and operations. The UT team is currently interviewing these organizations about the financial aspects of their operation. Also, during this time we have organized our advisory board to include farmers interested in the FSM model, farmers currently selling to FSMs, leaders of community-based food organizations in the Southeast, FSM market volunteers, the New Roots Inc. Executive Director, one representative from SSAWG, a representative from the Appalachian RC&D Council and the research team. The advisory board is providing the research team with direction on research protocols and instruments as well as communications and community outreach. We also hosted two workshops at the SSAWG annual meeting in January to introduce the FSM model to other food justice organizations in the Southeast, provide a leadership platform for FSM farmers and market volunteers and connect New Roots Inc. with additional farmers and potential resources. This opportunity also provided the research team with additional data to help us understand how the market model is communicated to diverse audiences.
It is still premature to share results at this point.
Two events were organized at the Annual Conference of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group between January 24 and 26, 2019 in Little Rock, AR: (1) Fresh Stop Markets Meet and Greet Session on Thursday, January 24 from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; and (2) “If You Don’t Carrot (Care It) Won’t Happen” on Friday, January 25 from 8:00 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. The first event was a networking event to bring together farmers and organizations in the South who are interested Fresh Stop Markets. The second event was a more educational program where FSM farmers discussed the benefits and challenges of participating a marketing venue like FSM.
See the descriptions of these events at:
Educational & Outreach Activities
Southern SAWG Session Description in the Program:
“If You Don’t Carrot (Care It) Won’t Happen” — Learn how New Roots leaders and farmers are igniting community power to bring farm-fresh produce to families living in our nation’s most under-invested neighborhoods. The New Roots Fresh Stop Market model leverages the tradition of cooperative economics and the utilization of community leaders and spaces to access fresh and local food. Join this session to explore how these markets are changing our food system so farmers get a fair price and the community gets to eat. Karyn Moskowitz, New Roots, Inc. (KY), Ben Abel and Bree Pearsall, Rootbound Farm (KY), Joseph Monroe, Valley Spirit Farm (KY), and Jeremy Porter, Lexington Fresh Stop Markets (KY)
This session was well attended. It was stand-room only. We cannot estimate how many were farmers, professionals, NGO leaders, etc.
Outreach in Progress:
- At the 2020 Annual Conference of the Southern SAWG, a mini-course will be offered based on our research work.
- We will be developing “Lessons Learned” from our interviews with six organizations that summarizes best practice and pitfalls. This document will be worked collaboratively with Advisory Board members. It will be made available as a one-page brief.
- Tanaka will be giving a Presidential Address at the Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society on August 7, 2019, which includes the key findings from this project at this moment.
- Trejo-Pech will be developing a “teaching case study” about the New Roots, Inc. and other organizations which combine sustainable agriculture and social justice goals.
To share knowledge and techniques with other farmers.
For small-scale and limited-resource farmers, particularly those who are still beginners in farming, access to a financially viable market is a challenge. Food hubs and food value-chains (https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional/food-hubs) have become important in offering opportunities for these farmers. Many food hubs emphasize “agricultural sustainability” and “local food economy” as their goals in operating an alternative market outlet for farmers and consumers. Yet, the longevity of these food hubs tend to be relatively short — around 7-8 years. This means that participating in one or more food hubs can be a substantial risk to those farmers, who have not yet established their financial security. By comparing various models of food hubs with a strong social justice goal, this project will be able to identify the key elements of successful and fruitful collaborations between farmers and operators of food hubs to achieve economic, environmental, and social benefits for farmers and consumers.
None at this moment.