Reducing Tensions on Market Day: Training Farmers' Market Organizers and Service Providers on Conflict Resolution and De-escalation Strategies

Project Overview

ENE22-176
Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2022: $149,407.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Maine Federation of Farmers' Markets
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
James DeBiasi
Maine Federation of Farmers' Markets

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Education and Training: decision support system, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, study circle, technical assistance, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: farmers' markets/farm stands
  • Sustainable Communities: community development, leadership development, quality of life

    Proposal abstract:

    Opportunity:

    Well-designed farmers’ markets are essential to the success of the New England agricultural community. They support the livelihoods of thousands of farmers and small business owners in Maine and Vermont, and they serve as a low-barrier market access point for new farmers. Farmers’ markets offer space for farmers to set up and sell under a managed operation, and they offer resources and training that benefit farming businesses beyond market day.

    More than 95% of farmers’ markets in Maine and Vermont are governed by an elected advisory board composed of market vendors. That group oversees the annual budget, manages the bylaws, and supervises the person(s) who manage the market day. Market organizers are often untrained and under-resourced as they conduct the necessary work to make farmers’ markets happen.

    This project sees an opportunity to better support farmers’ market organizers, often farmers themselves, who work countless unpaid hours every year to keep their markets running.

    A thriving, resilient farmers’ market depends upon vendor harmony and cooperation. This does not come naturally. There are skills to be learned and best practices to share. Through our project, market service providers will be trained with conflict resolution strategies and resources specifically tailored for market management, organizing, and planning.

    Service providers will be supported as they bring their new skills back to their farmers’ markets to train farmers and take actions that will address and prevent conflicts at markets. Farmers will benefit from reduced market tensions, better cooperation, and increased sales at farmers’ markets due to improved vendor and customer retention.

    Solution and Approach:

    This project recognizes that farmers’ market organizers are service providers. Our project gives professional development training to 72 market organizers, market members, volunteers, and other direct-to-consumer support staff (e.g., Extension educators working with farmers focused on farmers’ markets, farm stands, agritourism farms). Our focus is on conflict resolution strategies and resources specifically tailored for farmers’ market management and farmer development.

    The training will be a workshop series, both in person and online, with curriculum that is informed by farmers’ market organizers in Maine and Vermont. Professional mediators, conflict educators, and farmers’ market organizers will lead lessons and facilitate discussions with participants. Over the course of the 3 years, the lessons will be finetuned with feedback from participants. Recorded lessons and workshop materials will be made available online for anyone to access.

    Farmers’ market organizers will be tasked with taking their learnings back to their market to implement structural changes and new practices to address conflict and prevent it from happening in the first place. Overall, this training and resources will lead to 60 actions and interventions at 30 farmers’ markets benefiting 200 farmers in Maine and Vermont.

     

     

     

    Performance targets from proposal:

    72 Maine and Vermont service providers (24 each year) who gain knowledge and skills in market organizing and conflict resolution will work with at least 30 farmers’ markets to ensure that 60 actions/interventions (2 per market, at least) are taken to address and reduce common instances of conflict.

    This will require service providers to use their new skills in leadership, negotiation, and mediation to facilitate conversations and actions among market organizers and vendors about best practices and common challenges in conflict resolution at farmers’ markets.

    Actions and interventions from service providers may include: assisting farmers in identifying and updating problematic market rules and bylaws; supporting farmers in addressing interpersonal conflicts among vendors and/or shoppers; hosting mediated conversations with outside support; and creating dispute resolution procedures for markets. We anticipate many interventions to involve the service providers leading difficult discussions to create new systems of accountability for market organizers and managers.

     

    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.