Farmers Markets

Farmers markets contribute to the health of residents by improving the availability of fresh, nutritious, and affordable food within the community. Markets also build local economies by providing local producers with opportunities to sell their produce directly to consumers. Many farmers markets across the country operate in neighborhoods underserved by supermarkets, grocery stores, and other fresh food outlets. These markets provide much needed access to fresh foods, especially when they accept SNAP, or food stamps, Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Access cards, and Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers. Additionally, farmers markets can provide helpful nutrition information to communities regarding the preparation of oftentimes unfamiliar fresh produce. Across the country, various organizations have initiated efforts to increase the number of farmers markets in underserved communities. Check out these model farmers market programs:

  • The Food Trust's Farmers' Market Program: This program works to bring farmers markets to underserved communities throughout Philadelphia. The program is a partner of the Get Healthy Philly Initiative and has helped to pilot the Philly Food Bucks program, a coupon incentive program targeted to SNAP recipients.
  • Kaiser Permanente Markets: This program helps bring farmers markets to communities in select states, including California, Colorado, Georgia, and Maryland.
  • Greenmarket Farmers Markets: This program has successfully established more than 50 markets in the New York City area by directly connecting farmers to local neighborhoods.

 

Key Challenges & Strategies

Key Challenges

Bringing a farmers market to a new community can be challenging, given the seasonal nature of many markets, and, in many cases, the lack of an indoor location. Below are some challenges markets have faced in the past.
 

  • Start-up and administrative costs. Although farmers markets are smaller food retail enterprises than a full-scale supermarket, they still require an initial stream of funding.
  • Sustainability. Farmers markets have to attract customers to make it viable for farmers and vendors to sell their products, including the costs for traveling to the market.
  • Accepting public benefits. Ensuring that markets accept SNAP benefits increases markets sustainability, builds purchasing power for SNAP participants, and encourages SNAP customers to use their benefits to buy fresh produce. However, acquiring the right equipment and know-how to process these benefits can be an initial challenge for farmers and market managers.

 

 

Key Strategies

Communities Putting Prevention to Work Get Healthy Philly Farmers' Market and Philly Food Bucks 2010 Report highlights strategies to support farmers markets in communities. These strategies include the following best practices.
 

  • Establish and support a farmers market collaborative. A farmers market collaborative is traditionally defined as a group of community patrons composed of market managers, advocates, and city agency staff dedicated to the establishment and continued support of farmers markets. They are community-based partners committed to not only advocating for a farmers market, but support for its coordination, marketing and outreach to the community.
  • Ensure vendors are aware of the local retail environment. Vendors at farmers markets can benefit from comprehensive business plans that help them gain access to and adapt to local food retail environments. Considerations include the pricing and quality of food sources in the farmers market trade area as well as the non-food retail establishments in the surrounding area. Vendors can tap into targeted technical assistance programs that advise participants about how to increase their earning potential.
  • Ensure vendors are aware of successful marketing strategies. Existing small business development training programs can also help improve markets marketing strategies to increase their profitability. Knowledge of community demographics, including income level and race/ethnicity, is important to drive market communications and outreach strategies such as media format and language.
  • Promote the consistent on-site management of markets. Well-managed markets are key to the strategic promotion and implementation of food assistance programs. Across the country, chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations, and community-based groups have managed successful markets. Markets benefit from management that tracks economic viability and provides technical assistance to vendors. Additionally, market managers can improve outreach to communities and assist with strengthening the design of the program.
  • Ensure markets accept government nutrition program benefits. The SNAP, WIC, and the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (FMNP) provide direct, effective support for low-income mothers, seniors, and families to purchase fresh and healthy foods. Farmers markets that accept these programs benefit from the purchasing power of these recipients. Market managers can work with local governments to help vendors navigate the process of setting up machines needed to process EBT cards, thereby enabling recipients to purchase locally grown foods.
  • Build community support. Meaningful community outreach is integral to a market's growth and promotion. Markets can work with community groups, including community development corporations and community centers, to sponsor community projects that highlight markets. Local schools also play an integral role in building this support. Additionally, knowledge of community demographics, particularly in low-income communities, is essential to drive outreach strategies and ensure that products sold by market vendors match the needs of local residents.

 

In addition to city and statewide financing initiatives that support grocery projects across the country, there are other initiatives in place supporting farmers markets in underserved communities. For descriptions, go to Policy Efforts.

Advancing Equity

Strategies to Advance Equity in Farmers Markets

 

Bringing a farmers market into your neighborhood offers great opportunities to advance equity in your community. Involving the local community not only helps strengthen business but also contributes to the economic vitality of the area. Below are some strategies for creating farmers markets where all community members can participate and prosper.
 

  • Engage a broad range of residents and community groups in the market's design and operation. Involve community members and ensure meaningful community engagement from market idea to implementation. Residents and stakeholders can provide crucial insight into issues such as location, hiring, and product mix.  Recruit and support the involvement of low-income community members and people of color to ensure the market is an economically and racially inclusive space. The following Community Engagement Resource Guides are helpful for thinking about how to engage your community: Community Engagement Resource Guide: What It IsCommunity Engagement Resource Guide: Why Use It, and Community Engagement Resource Guide: Checklist.
  • Select an accessible market location. To ensure a broad customer base, place the market in a neighborhood where people of color and low-income people reside. If possible, select a site that is close to a public transportation stop to meet the needs of transit-limited customers. To attract local residents, consider locating at a church, school, faith-based facility, or affordable housing site.
  • Make the market a community asset. In addition to offering healthy food, the physical appearance of the market can help revitalize a neighborhood. Work to organize and lay out the market in a manner that will make it an inviting, appealing asset to the community.
  • Ensure the market accepts government nutrition program benefits. SNAP, WIC, and the Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) provide direct, effective support for low-income families, mothers, and seniors to purchase fresh and healthy foods. Accepting these benefits increases your customers' purchasing power.
  • Employ members of the community. Local hiring can help un- or under-employed residents of economically isolated communities benefit from the neighborhood economic development brought by the market. Food system jobs are often an opportunity to employ workers who have previously been excluded and overlooked.
  • Contract with small, local businesses. Purchase the goods and services needed to operate the market from local businesses whenever possible. These partnerships provide opportunities to enhance the local economy and support local entrepreneurship.
  • Include local farmers of color. Identify and reach out to farmers and vendors of color to support marginalized producers and the regional farm economy. Immigrant farmers and farmers of color may sustain a large customer base seeking culturally appropriate food.
  • Conduct outreach and marketing. Advertise and promote the market in gathering spaces where communities of color and low-income communities will hear about your business. This can include local churches, recreation sites, community centers, and schools.
  • Make sure that market operating hours accommodate neighborhood residents' schedules. Operating hours should be determined by surveying community members to establish the times when the market can have the highest potential attendance.
  • Cultural preferences. Make sure your farmers market is a resource to the community. Offer products that reflects the needs and preferences of the local consumers.

 

Check out PolicyLink’s Farmers Markets Tool in the Equitable Development Toolkit – It’s available online here

    Tools and Resources

    Key Resources for Funding Farmers Markets

    For information on funding for your farmers market project go to Funding

     


    Other Key Resources for Developing Farmers Markets

    Success Stories

    Successful farmers markets exist across the country in both urban and rural communities.

    • Wholesome Wave: This non-profit is developing innovative solutions for residents in underserved communities to better access farmers markets. The organization's Double Value Coupon Program provides consumers with incentives that match the value of their federal nutrition benefits when used to purchase fresh, local produce at participating farmers markets and farm-to-retail venues. They also recently launched the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx) which provides medical patients at community clinics and hospital settings with prescriptions for fruits and vegetables that are redeemable at participating farmers markets.
    • Lancaster Central Market: Lancaster Central Market in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is one of the oldest markets in the country; it is open year-round and offers delicacies produced by local farmers. The market received funding from the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Program.
    • City Heights Farmers Market: This market, located in an underserved community in San Diego, is the first in the city to accept EBT benefits.
    • Abingdon Farmers Market: This rural farmers market in the heart of Virginia's Appalachian Mountains hosts local farmers in the area. The market is open year round and offers incentive programs for SNAP benefit recipients.