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.
Project objectives from proposal:
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.