FMC Celebrates 10 Years
Posted On: May 31, 2016
As the Farmers Market Coalition celebrates its 10th anniversary, we’ve been taking stock of just how far we’ve come. Despite the economic tumult of the past decade, farmers markets have emerged as a success story of America’s food economy. It’s necessary to pause briefly and marvel at the numbers. Since FMC opened its doors in 2006, the number of farmers markets in the United States has nearly doubled, increasing from 4,385 to 8,562. Today, direct marketing through farmers markets, CSAs and roadside stands generates $1.3 billion in annual revenue and allow upwards of 150,000 farmers and ranchers to sell their products directly to customers. This growth has been driven by shoppers from all backgrounds and walks of life. Today, you can find farmers markets in small towns and big cities in all 50 states.
When FMC was founded, smartphones didn’t exist and mobile broadband was still in its infancy. A lot has changed since then. FMC has been there every step of the way to help farmers markets utilize new technology and capitalize on the sector’s rapid growth and members. During the past decade, we’ve worked with our members to realize the benefits of technologies that allow farmers markets to advertise, track, and process payments with the touch of a button or the swipe of a card.
Inspired by the power of data and analysis to inform market operations, FMC’s Darlene Wolnik and Sara Padilla, along with a team of researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, are developing Farmers Market Metrics, an innovative tool that will give farmers markets an online platform to track essential data and information. Armed with these insights, managers and organizations can make their markets even better.
Embracing new technology has allowed us to realize some of the goals that we set out for ourselves ten years ago. FMC was founded on the principle that fresh food should be available to all Americans, regardless of their income. It gives us great pride, therefore, to note that during the last decade, the number of SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) dollars spent at farmers markets increased more than 400%. Today, farmers markets that want to welcome SNAP shoppers turn to FMC, which provides the technology and equipment necessary to process SNAP transactions—free of charge to markets. Markets that already accept SNAP but want to further improve their ability to serve SNAP customers can apply for USDA’s Farmers Market SNAP Support Grants, and receive FMC assistance reaching SNAP-eligible customers.
FMC’s ability to provide these services is due in part to our close working relationship with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. FMC’s partnership with USDA goes back to our earliest days when we teamed-up with the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service and hosted the nation’s first Farmers Market Summit in 2007. At the summit, farmers market leaders from across the country pledged to “speak with a unified voice to policymakers and to be a centralized point of contact for disseminating information about available funding and technical assistance.” It is with great pride that today FMC can confidently say that we have become that voice.
In 2015, $64.8 million in federal grant funds were provided to 407 grantees to improve and expand farmers markets and federal nutrition program access at markets. These resources were made available through four USDA programs created with FMC assistance or support: the Farmers Market SNAP Support Grants (FMSSG), the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), the Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP), and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Assistance Program (FINI). When lawmakers seek information about these programs, or the status of the farmers market industry more generally, they turn to FMC. We are honored by this trust and work tirelessly to provide public servants at the federal, state and local levels with accurate information and analysis. We are also heartened that both Congress and USDA have identified farmer markets as an essential piece of American agriculture and food retail.
As we celebrate our 10th anniversary we remain as committed to the three pillars that we set out ten years ago to guide our work—our “triple bottom line.”
- Farmer earn fair prices for the fruits of their labor by selling directly to consumers.
- Consumers gain access to fresh, nutritious, local produce.
- Farmers markets bring Main Streets and downtowns back to life, creating public spaces that allow friends and neighbors to build strong communities.
It’s with great excitement and humility that FMC embarks on a new decade of work.
 USDA Farmers Market Directory; https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets
 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Supporting Local and Regional Food Systems: Helping American Farmers Feed the Country, 2016.
 USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), 2016