Farmers Market Inspiration Award seeks stories from behind the stands; Offers $1,000 grand prize for winning essay

      Posted On: July 19, 2012

by Natalie Roper, FMC Research and Education Intern

On June 21st, the Farmers Market Coalition launched the Farmers Market Inspiration Award. In honor of National Farmers Market Week 2012, the Award is designed to reward and showcase the variety of ways farmers markets benefit communities across the United States, as told throughout the lens of those who grow and sell America’s freshest food.  This award is a partnership between the Farmers Market Coalition and Growing for Market, conducted in concert with the American Farmland Trust’s America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest.

For a grand prize of $1,000, farmers/producers at farmers markets from all corners of the nation are invited to submit essays that depict concrete examples of farmers market impacts: on-farm biodiversity, diversity among producers and customers, or diversity in the partnerships that help farmers markets best serve their communities.

FMC is looking for concise, imaginative, striking essays that reflect agricultural producers’ perspectives about the people, products, or partnerships that make selling at farmers markets valuable. Essays should in some way answer the question, “How has selling at farmers markets affected you, your farm, your family, or your community?”  For inspiration, prospective essay submitters FMC suggests scanning the blogs and newsletters of other direct-marketing farms; for example, Northstar Orchard in Pennsylvania offers an interesting example in this short blog post about seasonality and biodiversity, starting out with a simple, “One of my favorite things about going to market is answering (or trying to answer) the questions people ask as they walk up to the table.” Stories can be hilarious or heart-rending, but should be compelling to a general audience. The subject may focus on a challenge, a relationship, an interaction, an event, a lesson learned or anything specific that provides an opportunity to illustrate the value of farmers markets.

Submissions should be no longer than 1,200 words, and should include at least one quote from a fellow farmer, customer, market manager, or community partner. In addition, essays should weave in at least three pieces of measurable data; for example, the number of acres in production, number of crops/varieties, income earned at farmers markets, number of employees and/or family members supported by farmers market sales, number of regular customers, or number of pounds donated to social service agencies. Each entry should include a photograph of the submitter (or another representative from their business) at their market, accompanied by a one sentence caption. See the Inspiration Award home page for all submission criteria.

To be eligible for the award, essays must be submitted through the FMC website submission form by 5 p.m. on August 11, and follow all the essay guidelines. Farmers Market Coalition staff and Board of Directors, American Farmland Trust staff, and Growing for Market editorial staff will make up the panel of judges and will announce the winning $1,000 entry in early September. The winning essay will be published in the October issue of Growing for Market, and selected honorable mentions will each receive a free one year memberships in the Farmers Market Coalition and a one year print subscription to Growing for Market.

For more details about guidelines and how to get started, visit the Inspiration Award home page. Contact Natalie Roper at with questions.