Fostering Sustainability for Farmers’ Markets Through Professional Market Management Training
Farmers Markets are a vital component of small family farmers marketing plans. They provide a low cost outlet for their farm products and a ready made customer base to retail their products. Low cost opportunities keep more of the profits on sales with the farmer and helping to maintain and grow their farm businesses. In addition, it provides easy entry for beginning farmers to enter marketing venues. Farmers markets are also an opportunity to test market new farm products with immediate customer feedback and gain valuable experience to learn marketing techniques and production knowledge from fellow marketers.
Consumers also find farmers markets to be important as part of their weekly experience. As today’s consumers are one or more generations removed from agriculture, they find that shopping at farmers markets gives them a connection to farming. They build relationships with the farmers, learning about the importance of agriculture to the local food supply, the hard work and skill that farmers employ to grow the foods they eat, and the dedication of family farmers to growing safe and nutritious foods. Once consumers experience farmers markets and develop connections to the farmers in the markets, they feel more comfortable with the foods they are feeding their families. They have learned the techniques used to produce the foods they will consume and how it was cared for from farm to market, providing them with an assurance of safe and wholesome foods for themselves and their families.
Farmers markets are a source of fresh, local foods for a community, but they are also a socially just source of food. The many programs available through markets, make locally grown foods accessible to consumers of every income level. Food stamp programs, Farmers Market Nutrition Coupon programs and food stamp incentive programs all make farmers market shopping affordable to all residents within a community. Often markets will host Cooperative Extension nutrition educators doing cooking demonstrations and conducting nutrition classes. Customers are able to learn how to use the foods they can purchase at the market, from choosing the right products, to simple means to prepare them, through to preservation for winter storage.
Farmers markets are a win-win-win for all – farmers, consumers and communities. Communities across New York State, as well as the entire United States, are realizing the benefits that farmers markets can bring to their residents. This is evidenced by the growing number of markets. New York State has increased from 230 markets in 2000 to approximately 400 farmers markets in 2008. National trends, according to USDA statistics, show a similar rise.
Community leaders, both elected officials and civic leaders, are involved in the development of farmers markets for the benefit of their communities. They bring in specialists to assist in the development of the market, siting the market in the best possible location to maximize exposure for the farmers and shopping ease for the consumers. They create rules and regulations for the market that help to organize an orderly flow of commerce and conform to the rules of the various nutrition assistance programs. They are often able to provide basic infrastructure needs for the market – vending permits, liability insurance, marketing and promotional assistance, restroom facilities (whether shared with a local business or port-a-johns), traffic barriers, police and DPW assistance. Many will hire a market manager, either as a part time, seasonal worker, an assigned task for a permanent staff person, or a volunteer for the organization.
With the importance of farmers markets to the livelihoods of farmers, the value of the market to consumers and the dependence of community leaders on the benefits a market brings to the community, it is important that the market be structured for success. The key to a successful farmers market begins with a trained, professional manager. A knowledgeable market manager will have the skills to carry out the everyday duties of a market manager with diplomacy mixed with an appropriate degree of firmness. They will be fair and create an atmosphere of cooperation among the farmers and a friendly social experience for customers.
In addition to having the skills to conduct the everyday duties of the job, a trained manager will always be looking to improve the market’s potential to serve their community. They will look for ways to build relationships within the community to increase the value of the market for both farmers and consumers. They will also be looking for ways to increase the sustainability of the market – fundraising, growing their farmer and consumer bases, building programs that better serve each segment of their market population, promoting market events that bring the community together; educating the community of important issues such as health, nutrition, agricultural practices, and environmentalism. They will also need to be concerned with keeping the market safe for their consumers and safe for their farmers. This means risk management for food safety issues, traffic concerns, trip hazards, as well as natural disasters.
A well trained, professional market manager will bring these concepts to a market, help a market board or governance committee understand the value of these issues and commit to developing and implementing each of these ideas. These are the duties, community relationships and market systems that will ensure market success and long term sustainability.
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.
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.
The Year 2 workshop was held March 6-8 in Rochester, NY, in partnership with the Rochester Public Market. The event offered two days of classroom training and the third day was a trip to the Rochester Public Market where attendees were able to experience the market in operation, tour through the sheds, talk with the vendors and learn how the Rochester Public Market has build a community around its market to maximize the benefits to its farmers and vendors, its consumers and be a responsible partner to its community.
The workshop, focusing on Building a Market Community, attracted 99 attendees, market managers, market sponsors, Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators, Farmers Market Association Leaders and Community Nonprofits interested in partnering with their local farmers markets. Most attendees were from New York State, but 1 came from Canada, one from California, one from N. Carolina, two from New Jersey, 1 from Texas, and 1 from Virginia. Fifteen of the attendees attended the 2007 workshop, while an additional 6 markets sent a new representative due to turnovers in managers. With the growth of markets in New York, twelve of the attendees represented markets that were new since the 2007 workshop was held.
Dave Stockdale, Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and Executive Director of Cuesa in San Francisco was our featured speaker. His keynote presentation Building a Market Community with our Farmers our consumers and our Community set the tone for the remainder of the sessions. Market managers, sponsors, extension educators learned the value of building community to the success of a farmers markets, as well as the means to develop those relationships within their own community.
Once the conference was over, all powerpoint presentations were uploaded to the website, www.nyfarmersmarket.com/workshops to be shared with those who could not attend the conference. This allowed the lessons to be shared far beyond the 99 people who attended.
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. Assessment will be made on a final survey as part of Milestone 7.
The Year 1 workshop focused on the duties of market managers. The topics included:
• The role of a market manager – job description
• Effective farmers market rules
• Understanding liability insurance
• Farmer and vendor recruitment
• Market budgets
• Customer Satisfaction
• Farmers Market EBT programs
The topics were covered during the workshop and then put together in written form for a market managers training manual. The manual contains, not only a written description, but worksheets, checklists and procedural outlines to aid market managers in performing the duties of their jobs.
The manuals covering the first year topics were put onto CDs and distributed to the 2008 workshop attendees.
Topics covered in the 2008 workshop are in development for the manual and will be distributed to attendees in the 2009 workshop.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The target audience for the second conference in the project was 80 attendees with 50 returning from the first year and 30 attendees being Cooperative Extension educators. The total attendance exceeded expectations, with 99 attendees. However, the number of repeat attendees was lower than expected. Some of this was due to manager turnover and market dissolutions, the very issues this project seeks to overcome. This points to the importance of this kind of training and the need for the training manual for managers who cannot or will not attend formal training, as well as to have on hand to assist them throughout the year.
To maximize exposure to the lessons of the conference, the presentations were put on the Federation website at www.nyfarmersmarket.com/workshops/htm. Announcements were made through the farmers markets managers list serve hosted by Cornell University and through the Farmers Market Federation of NY website directing market managers, organizers and Extension educators to the site.
Evaluations of the project were conducted at the conference. Market managers were asked if they made changes to the way they performed their market duties as a result of the training they received, either by attending the 2007 workshop, reviewing the workshop presentations on-line, or by reading the market managers manual developed as a result of the 2007 workshop. They reported the following changes:
• Rewrote mission statement and rules
• Communicated with vendors often throughout the market day
• Looked at food processing rules permits
• Most had to do with public health issues
• 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
• I’m more informed when vendors have questions or concerns
As a result of the 2008 conference, they indicated they would work on the following areas to make improvements to their markets:
• More aware of encouraging local products
• As a market advocate, I will use these skills to support the market and to help create a friends of the market organization
• New ideas for promotion – will share with market committee
• Get more people involved
• Tips on handling accusations by vendors against others – “put it in writing”
• I have pages of notes to bring home and incorporate
• Provides new contacts for resource info, encourages trying new programs – reassurance that we share common goals and challenges
• Will schedule visits with neighboring businesses
• A few good ideas. Enthusiasm and interesting information on mediation techniques
• Gave me some guidance and guidelines to address certain situations and also solutions.
• Some marketing ideas to draw people into the market and how the market can be beneficial to the community and the community to the market
• Setting goals for the future
• Beginning to build community connections
• Looking at ideas for fundraising
• Ideas on events and education programs
• Marketing our market – found how to create a buzz
• Gathered information to bring to other community not-for-profits
• Will contact local papers regularly
• Confirmed the importance of networking within the community via relationships
• I will be developing a website and email blast list for the market
• We use the media very well already, but will try to use radio more.
• I will be asking the local chamber to let me present to them.
• Will help organization rethink logo and mission
• Will try to do more news releases – encouraging news stories
• May try to involve non-profits in weekly market
• Will apply more topics in newspapers and radio
• Media release reminders
• We have been wanting to form an active group and now have an organizer and advisor to kick start it. We now have some good ideas to help us gather some “friends”.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Educators were asked what changes they made in the way they work with farmers markets in their county. While only 6 Extension educators participated in the 2008 workshop, we corresponded with Extension educators throughout the state to determine their level of involvement with markets during the 2007 season. Their responses included:
• Worked more as an advisor to the local markets
• Helped new markets organize in the county
• Helped local markets recruit more farmers
• Conducted cooking and nutrition demonstrations at the market
• Administered the Farmers Market EBT program at the market
• Will use the information to have market manager and farmer informational meetings
• Will make all the information and leads with other managers in our region
• I would like to organize a friends of the market in the Adirondack region
• Conduct training, write articles for local newsletters, continue to offer one-on-one information distribution
• Hand off training CD and talk about it
The results of the trainings have brought a greater interest in building manager skills and growing the capacity of farmers markets. A survey to assess current market management skill levels, shows a growing ability for market managers to perform their jobs. But more importantly, the survey showed a greater interest among managers to reach out for assistance in learning the skills necessary to perform the job of market managers with greater efficiency, improved effectiveness and increasing success in serving their market audiences.
Niagara Frontier Growers Cooperative
1443-1517 Clinton St.
Buffalo, NY 14206
Office Phone: 7168222466
Cornell Cooperative Extension
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Ithaca, NY 14850
Office Phone: 6072722292
Cornell Cooperative Extension
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Canandaigua, NY 14424-1049
Office Phone: 5853943977
Bureau of Parks & Recreation
400 Dewey Ave.
Rochester, NY 14613
Office Phone: 5854286770