USDA Seeks Comments on Farmers Market Research

On November 5th, 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued a request for comments on proposed changes to its process of collecting information about farmers markets.

Proposed changes, as described in the Federal Register notice, are designed to reduce duplication in the collection of information from the annual Farmers Market Directory and the Farmers Market Manager Survey, presently conducted every four years.  Additionally, the new web-based survey will include on-farm markets and community supported agriculture (CSA) subscription programs.  As the Federal Register Notice says, “the web-based survey will incorporate an advanced GIS mapping capability, the ability to immediately stratify the respondents and direct them to the survey modules relevant to their characteristics.”

The Farmers Market Manager Survey, the only national-level effort to collect information on the characteristics of farmers market managers and organizations, was last implemented in 2006 and results published in 2009 (available here).  Publication of the 2010 survey results is currently pending. One aim of the new proposed data collection methodology is to increase the efficiency of analyzing and publishing results, in addition to increasing response rates.

The Agricultural Marketing Service now publicly defines a farmers market using the Farmers Market Coalition’s definition, as follows:

A farmers market operates multiple times per year and is organized for the purpose of facilitating personal connections that create mutual benefits for local farmers, shoppers and communities. To fulfill that objective, farmers markets define the term local, regularly communicate that definition to the public, and implement rules/guidelines of operation that ensure that the farmers market consists principally of farms selling directly to the public products that the farms have produced.

The topics for inclusion in AMS’ web-based survey are proposed to include:

—Characteristics and history of farmers markets, on-farm markets and CSAs

—Types of products sold, including fresh, locally-grown produce

—Location of the markets

—Programs to encourage healthy eating

—Special events

—Marketing methods

—Participation in federal programs designed to increase consumption of fresh fruits and

vegetables.

—Vendor retention and recruitment

—Market growth and enhancement

—Contribution to economic development

—Awareness and participation in grant and educational programs

—What information do farmers market managers have or how do they derive estimates of number of customers, sales, number of vendors, and vendor characteristics

Members of the farmers market community are invited to provide feedback on how farmers markets, on-farm markets, and CSAs are defined and suggest additional areas and methods of research using the Federal Register comment period, which closes January 4th, 2013.  The complete request for comments,with instructions for submission is available at https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/11/05/2012-26956/request-for-extension-and-revision-of-a-currently-approved-information-collection-for-the-national

Specific questions can be addressed to Edward Ragland at (202) 720-8317 or by email at Edward.Ragland@usda.gov.

The deadline to submit comments is January 4, 2013.