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 two years of our grant, a significant amount of work towards these goals has been accomplished. Our work with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture and Penn State Cooperative Extension, in addition to advertisements in farming magazines, resulted in new farmers participating in our Farmers’ Market Program this season. To expand the program we also encouraged existing market farmers to participate in additional markets. Early estimates suggest that 2004’s advertising and promotional efforts, which focused on articles in regional and community newspapers, and signage at train and bus stations, increased sales. New data from the 2003 season indicates that similar efforts in that year increased gross sales by approximately 30% across our network of farmers’ markets. Predictions of this season’s sales increase, as well as the data gathered from a survey of farmers’ opinions about our market managers, suggests that incentive based marketing may be a successful tool to develop farmers’ markets.
- 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 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 have more than doubled the number of farmers participating in our program and opened five new markets in low- and mixed-income areas in two years.
Double the number of farmers
Farmer participation in our Farmers’ Market Program increased from 24 to 55 farmers. The following methods were employed to recruit farmers, listed in order of perceived effectiveness:
1) Ads were placed in Lancaster Farming.
2) A letter to the editor was published in Lancaster farming encouraging farmers to attend markets.
3) Farmers were encouraged to enroll fellow farmers in markets, using cash incentives.
4) In conjunction with Penn State Cooperative Extension, we have developed a display to be taken to winter farmer meetings that will promote farmers’ markets and contain take-away brochures promoting market opportunities. While discussions about the content of the piece delayed production, the display has been developed and is being taken to meetings.
5) Farmers were solicited through articles published in county Extension newsletters promoting farmers’ markets.
6) Farmers were recruited through informal community networks.
Create new markets in low- and mixed-income areas.
Thanks to overwhelming community support, three new markets opened in low- and mixed-income areas this season, resulting in a total of five new markets over two years. Our partnership with the:
1) Fairmount Civic Association and the Friends of Eastern State Penitentiary (a Philadelphia historical site’s area neighborhood group) led to the successful opening of the Fairmount Farmers’ Market.
2) Coatesville Main Street Office and City of Coatesville led to the successful opening of the Coatesville Farmers’ Market.
3) Oxford Circle Mennonite Church led to the successful opening of the Oxford Circle Farmers’ Market.
While we have opened the five markets required under the terms of this grant, we continue to work with several other community groups to open new farmers’ markets next year, including the East Parkside Residents Association, the South Philadelphia Civic Association, and others. We are contacting other food and farming agencies in the region, including the Philadelphia Health Promotions Council, to identify new market opportunities for the future.
Objective 2: We developed a targeted promotional strategy to increase sales at our farmers’ markets, resulting in a projected 25% increase in sales for the 2004 season. Should these projections prove conclusive, the combined increase in sales for the 2003 and 2004 season would be approximately 50 % or more.
Our promotional strategy included:
1) Working with North, Inc. and the Philadelphia Corporation on Aging, as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, to create a colorful flyer that listed sites where WIC and FMNP vouchers were redeemable. 70,000 were distributed in the southeastern Pennsylvania region in both 2003 and 2004.
2) Developing a two-year publicity campaign with a theme of “There’s no taste like home… grown,” that sent press releases to over 50 local media outlets, ranging from regional newspapers, websites, magazines, radio and telephone stations, to small community newspapers. Numerous articles have been published in a variety of these outlets.
3) Placing outdoor advertisements at train stations near farmers markets that promoted the market locations and hours in 2004.
4) Placing print advertisements in 9 community newspapers twice during the season to promote market openings in both 2003 and 2004.
5) Mailing over 1000 flyers each year to market customers to promote the beginning of the season. The flyers contained the schedule for all The Food Trust farmers’ markets.
6) Producing 30 banners that were displayed at markets, each of which pictured colorful fruits and vegetables and market hours.
7) Securing a permanent banner at one market location for the length of the 2004 season.
8) Promoting the availability of a wireless Food Stamp/EBT machine through press releases and advertisements in local newspapers as the technology became available in 2004.
As a result of our efforts, our organization now manages over 35% of the total farmers’ markets in Philadelphia, and we are well on our way towards our goal of increasing total farmers’ market sales in the Philadelphia area to over $1 million dollars. Projections indicate that sales at our existing markets were over $500,000 in 2004.
Objective 3: An incentive-based marketing system was established and field tested. Incentives were reliant on a large increase in sales (over 50% for the 2002 season) and high farmer satisfaction with market management. While it is still too early to tell if this system was successful, it is possible that the target was set too high to result in monetary bonuses for the market manager.
The market manager is to receive a bonus equivalent to 10% of his salary if farmers report sales increases of 50% over the 2002 season. Additionally if the farmers and customers report that the market manager did an excellent job, he is to receive an additional bonus of $500. While the system seems to have increased sales, it appears as if the results generated are short of the mark required to meet the terms of the incentive.
Based on the initial responses to a survey sent out regarding farmers’ opinions about Food Trust market managers, our farmers’ appear pleased with market management. Surveys asked farmers to rate market management as being Poor, Fair, Average, Good, or Excellent, in the categories of Courtesy, Responsiveness, Knowledge, Accessibility, and Overall Satisfaction. While 85% of responses for all categories fall into the category of either Good or Excellent, this response is insufficient to meet the goals stipulated by the terms of the incentive.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
We expanded our Farmers’ Market Program over two years by increasing sales, the number of farmers we work with, and the number of markets we operate. With the help and support of community groups and residents, we have opened five new successful markets in the region over the past two years. Work is underway to continue the expansion next season, as new farmers have already expressed interest in attending our markets, and existing farmers appear interested in attending additional markets. A number of potential market sites have been identified as prospects for next season. Our promotional strategy for 2004 built on work accomplished in 2003, and our efforts, especially articles published in community newspapers throughout the region, were instrumental in helping new markets develop a solid customer base and expanding sales at existing markets.
PA Department of Agriculture
PA Cooperative Extension, Southeast Region
New Jersey Agricultural Society