Marketshare Upgrades Offer Improved and Integrated Impact Evaluation Tools

      Posted On: January 11, 2011

Farmers market advocates often argue that markets bring economic opportunities to the surrounding communities. One can say that shoppers who visit the farmers market are more likely to visit surrounding businesses, or that the market itself generates income for the farmers and vendors. But how do you provide numbers to support these arguments? And how do farmers and communities come together to start, grow, and continually improve their farmers market?, the New Orleans non-profit that runs the Crescent City Farmers Market and provides development tools for farmers markets across the country, has responded to this question by building and continuing to refine Marketshare, which includes a growing set of tools and best practices gleaned from the field – an ideal complement to FMC’s Resource Library, the largest database of resources ‘crowdsourced’ by the farmers market community.
What sets Marketshare apart is the immediate utility of its tools. After creating an account with Marketshare, which is free and takes less than a minute, you have immediate access to a plethora of tools divided into different sections. Under the profile section, users can manage their own organization’s Marketshare profile, and manage information relating specifically to their organization. The resource section includes various reference materials such as manuals, videos, and lessons learned about best practices for farmers markets. Those who wish to become more involved with the community can share ideas and request visits from staff members.
The most impressive and immediately useful tool of all, though, is the Market Portrait, which FMC also previewed in a July market beet article Portrait Tool to Help Markets Prepare Community Reports, Connect with Similar Markets. Darlene Wolnik, Director of Marketshare, says the Market Portrait “gives a market of any size the ability to easily generate a solid annual report for the community.  It can literally provide a snapshot of whole market organization, gathering data that can easily be communicated to internal and external audiences.”
One of the evaluative tools used to augment the portrait is SEED 3.0. SEED (Sticky Economic Evaluation Device), a tool designed to measure a public market’s impact on the local economy.
Richard McCarthy, Executive Director of, describes “SEED version 3.0… [as] a decade of cumulative work to develop clean, simple tools that markets can deploy to aggregate economic impact — using the methodologies that big box operators in the industrial world use to pitch their value to a community. Utilizing customer intercept surveys of shoppers (not vendors), we gain insight into who is shopping at the market, their behavior (frequency, shopping patterns at/near the market), and the cumulative effect upon the entire region.”
This winter, in fact, the team is presenting SEED at the USDA Farmers Market Consortium and the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont’s 6th Annual Direct Marketing Conference. McCarthy hopes that after more funding has been secured, he will be able to travel around the country with SEED 3.0 so that eventually, his team will be able to portray the national economic impact of farmers markets, and work with organizations like FMC to paint that picture for the general public.
Helping individuals to better describe the economic impact of a market is only the beginning of the Marketshare portal. Two other tools that are currently being refined by are NEED and FEED. The website describes NEED (Neighborhood Exchange Evaluation Device), as a way to “measure if and by how much farmers markets build social capital between shoppers, vendors, and the communities that host them.” This tool helps put hard numbers behind the claim that farmers markets create social environments that bind communities together by giving them a community space to socialize.
FEED, the Food Environment Evaluation Device, uses “customer intercept surveys with adults and children… [to] gain insight into the role farmers markets play in reorienting consumers’ relationships to food, its sources, and the roles it plays at home in kitchens and around dinner tables.” Darlene Wolnik offered a preview of FEED in practice in the October market beet article FEED and other Evaluation Tools Can Give Markets Insight into Operations and Impacts.
Once FEED and NEED have been completed, they will complement the SEED tool on the marketshare site in allowing community members to better understand the full social, economic, and educational benefit of a farmers market.
Even before these tools are completed, though, Marketshare still offers its visitors plenty of helpful services. There are videos, green papers, field notes from current Marketshare research projects, and links. Creating an account is free and allows market organizations to input and store data for multiple market sites. The portal promises to be a helpful one-stop site for anyone interested in starting, improving, or better understanding a farmers market.
Learn more at