1890 University Farmers Market Pilot Site Visits

      Posted On: June 26, 2024

In the fall of 2023, FMC Project Manager, Diana Broadaway, and USDA Market Manager, Toi Thompson and Assistant Manager, Tomi Ajiboye, made in-person visits to the three universities participating in the 1890 University Farmers Market Pilot as part of a cooperative agreement between FMC and the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service titled “Increasing Food Access through Farmers Market Implementation and Education with Underserved Community Focus”. In this post, we’ll share reflections from those visits. 

Pilot Background

In 2022, an application and interview process was used to select three 1890 universities who were invited to participate in this first pilot – Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia;  Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee; and Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. 

1890 land-grant universities are Historically Black Colleges and Universities created by the Morrill Act of 1890, established as a response to race-based education disparities present in the segregated, post-emancipation South and in the admission policies of the land-grant universities established by the First Morrill Act of 1862. If you would like to learn more about 1890 universities and their relationship to the broader land-grant university system, below are a couple of resources which discuss some of the persistent inequities between the 1890 and 1862 institutions and the barriers 1890 universities continue to face in terms of securing equitable funding and resources to support their work in education, research, and outreach:

Nourishing the Nation While Starving: The Underfunding of Black Land-Grant Colleges and Universities (The Century Foundation) 

The 2023 Farm Bill Must Address Inequities in the Land-Grant University System (The Center for American Progress)

After selecting three universities to participate in the first round of this pilot, our project team spent several months working with partners from these institutions to support planning and resource gathering for farmers market development. This began with a six-month community of practice where the universities were brought together every 4-6 weeks to discuss topics such as goal-setting, partnership development, vendor recruitment and retention, student engagement, and food access. The goal was for each university to test operating (or partnering in) a farmers market on (or near) their campus. Our team is very excited to share that all three universities were successfully able to pilot a farmers market in some form during their 2023 season! 

Last fall, our team was able to visit each of these three universities in-person and experience their pilot markets firsthand. These visits provided an invaluable opportunity for partnership development and technical assistance support as these universities further develop the farmers market models which work best for their university communities and can hopefully be sustained into the future.

Site Visits

Our first visit was to Virginia State University in September. Our primary partners in this work at VSU are Dr. Theresa Nartea and Dr. Janine Woods with Virginia State Extension. Dr. Nartea’s leadership and support from an amazing group of student volunteers were integral in putting together the vibrant market pictured below. During our visit, the market included a DJ and wellness activities which drew in a large number of visitors and encouraged folks to spend more time at the market, chatting with friends, vendors, and Extension staff. The VSU Extension team did a fantastic job promoting each pilot market, sharing photos and videos on social media and encouraging visitors to do the same. Demand for the market enabled the VSU Extension team to bring it back again this spring, a testament to how successful this team has been at engaging the VSU community in this work.

Photos from Virginia State University

Our second visit was to Tennessee State University in October. Dr. Veronica Oates and Dr. Zena Clardy with TSU’s College of Agriculture led this partnership with the support of other faculty and staff from the Department of Human Sciences. Dr. Oates and Dr. Clardy faced some initial challenges in terms of vendor recruitment and securing a viable market location. Despite these challenges, they were still able to host multiple market days last fall, collecting valuable feedback and data, and promoting the pilot through market giveaways and food education opportunities. The TSU team plans to build on the ideas and model developed during this pilot, including strengthening relationships with local producers and other farmers markets in the region. They look to resume the market at a later date, potentially at a more central location on the TSU campus.

Photos from Tennessee State University

Our last visit was to Southern University in November. Cornelius Jackson and Zanetta Augustine with the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center led this work at Southern, tapping into existing connections to local farmers and producers and utilizing on-campus marketing services to help promote their pilot market, drawing in students and staff alike. The team at the SU Ag Center did great work promoting their market, drawing both students and faculty to these events. The market location was walkable for most folks on campus and the festive atmosphere created by the Ag Center kept folks at the market visiting with vendors and other market shoppers. A mobile cooking unit provided wi-fi access and an air-conditioned space for students to relax. Southern brought their market back for another event this spring and continues to build on the model implemented last fall.

Photos from Southern University

Next Steps

Lessons learned from all three universities throughout the pilot process are being integrated into a set of “best practices” for organizing farmers markets on 1890 university campuses. A final report and toolkit of resources are in development and will be made available to other 1890 universities later in 2024. Our team is also working to bring together this pilot cohort for an in-person convening this summer in a day of networking and knowledge sharing. We hope outcomes of this pilot and our work together as a team will help inform future iterations of this work. 

If you have any questions about this pilot project or our work with a particular university, please feel free to reach out to Diana Broadaway at diana@farmersmarketcoalition.org.