Low-Income Community Markets Initiative
Our goal is to expand all aspects of the Farmers’ Market program including farmers, sales, and market locations. In the first five months of the grant, much work has begun. As part of our farmer recruitment efforts, we are working with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Penn State Cooperative Extension and will soon be doing outreach with agencies in Maryland and New Jersey. We have been conducting research at farmers’ markets, talking to farmers and customers, and plan to develop a targeted advertisement strategy for next season, and additionally provide farmers with technical assistance in appropriate offerings, product, display, unit sizes, and pricing. The project will also research how the use of incentive-based marketing techniques at markets can increase sales and support long-term market sustainability.
- Objective 1: Double the number of farmers at farmers markets in Norristown, Chester, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and in Camden, New Jersey, and create new markets in low- and mixed-income areas.
Objective 2: Increase sales at existing markets by at least 100% over the next two years and increase total farmers’ market sales in the region to over $1 million.
Objective 3: Field test incentive-based market operating techniques to increase sales and the number of farmers and customers, and support long-term market sustainability.
Objective 1: We are recruiting farmers in five ways.
1) Over 600 farmers have been contacted through a direct mail campaign that targeted farmers who work with the Pennsylvania FMNP program and the New Jersey Farm Bureau.
2) We have placed 14 ads from October through April in “Lancaster Farmer” to recruit farmers for next year.
3) Farmers will soon be contacted through articles to be published in county Extension newsletters as well as other regional farming publications.
4) Farmers are to be contacted through outreach through the Maryland Cooperative Extension as well as the New Jersey Agricultural Society.
5) We are developing a display to be taken to winter extension meetings that will promote the markets and contain take-away brochures promoting market opportunities.
Additionally we have pursued a variety of approaches to find additional sites for farmers’ markets next season. We have worked with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society surveying eight possible sites. We are working with several other community groups to open farmers market next year, including the Fitler Square Improvement Association and the Strawberry Mansion Civic Association. We are contacting other food and farming agencies in the region to identify new market opportunities, and we are surveying sites near the 22 schools we work in to identify possible sites.
Objective 2: To bolster sales next year, a targeted promotional strategy is being developed.
1) We are working with North, Inc., as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to ensure that receipients of FMNP benefits are aware of the market locations and hours.
2) From August through November, a great deal of time was spent at the twelve farmers’ markets sponsored by The Food Trust, speaking with both farmers and customers about how to improve sales at the markets.
3) Addresses of shoppers at farmers’ markets were collected and converted into a customer database, and will be sent mail next year announcing the opening dates of the markets.
4) We are contacting members of the public relations community in an effort to develop a public relations and marketing advisory committee that will help promote the markets.
5) A new set of recipes using fresh local produce is being developed for distribution at the markets.
Objective 3: Incentive-based marketing techniques are being researched for use next season.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We are creating a framework for the expansion of our farmers’ market program next season. Although the project is still in its early phases, to date, over 30 new farmers have expressed interest in market opportunities next season, and more inquiries come in weekly. Fitler Square in Center City, Philadelphia has been identified as a definite site for a farmers’ market next season. Two articles have been published on our farmers’ markets, one in the Society Hill Reporter promoting local farmers’ markets, and another in the Newsletter of the Delaware Estuary Program promoting the value of local produce and farmers markets.
PA Department of Agriculture
PA Cooperative Extension, Southeast Region
New Jersey Agricultural Society