Stories from the Field: “New Farmer’s Guide: Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets”
October 25th, 2012
Due to inaction in Congress, the 2008 Farm Bill expired on September 30. While the big ticket items such as food stamps, crop insurance, and commodity support will continue to receive funding in the interim, there is no support for the lower profile programs that drive innovation, create jobs, and support the next generation of farmers. The Farmers Market Coalition has seen the significant impact of one of these programs first hand – the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP).
By Jen O’Brien, Interim Executive Director, Farmers Market Coalition
For seven years, FMPP competitive grants have increased access to healthy foods, strengthened regional food systems, fueled rural and urban job creation, and built the capacity of small and medium-sized farms. Funds can be used to fuel market start-up and expansion, provide training in business and strategic planning, bring local farm products into federal nutrition programs, and offer education and outreach to existing and potential customers.
In order to address the need for training and marketing assistance, especially for beginning farmers, Shelly G. Keller and Randii MacNear of the Davis Farmers Market recently wrote and published the “New Farmer’s Guide: Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets.” The guide was one part of a larger FMPP award to the UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program and Davis Farmers Market to plan, open, and operate the Sutter Davis Hospital Farmers Market. The grant was one of five awarded to California in 2010.
Since 2008, Shelly and Randii have worked with hundreds of new and established farmers wanting to sell at a Davis market and had long felt the need for new farmer reference materials.
Randii notes, “The explosive growth of farmers markets around the country is fed by the people who are becoming farmers, as well as by the customers who buy their products. We have so many new farmers who come to us, wanting to sell at our market. Shelly and I wrote the guide to help those new farmers plan for success at both emerging and established farmers markets around California and the nation. More and more beginning farmers are interested in local food production and direct marketing, and we also saw the opportunity to remind long-time sellers of the basics of cultivating success at farmers markets.”
The guide covers almost every aspect of selling at farmers markets from determining a producer’s readiness to sell, to researching local farmers markets, to planning and budgeting costs. The Guide includes worksheets to help farmers evaluate prospective farmers markets and how to budget for the costs of selling at farmers markets. The farmers market advice offered by the Davis Market sellers help to make the guide both credible and compelling.
It is imperative that farmers and markets are supplied with tools that allow them to reach the full economic potential of the burgeoning local foods movement. FMPP funds play a critical role in building the support systems that allow for the financial success of small agricultural businesses. When Congress returns in November, please tell them to support farmers, consumers, and communities by passing a new farm bill, and making FMPP a priority.
All of us have the opportunity to speak out for FMPP and other critical programs in the farm bill. Sign up for NSAC Action Alerts here for opportunities to speak out!
To read more about the status of funding for FMPP and the expired farm bill, click here.