Invite Your Elected Officials to the Farmers Market!
Posted On: July 13, 2016
Elected officials will make the best policy decisions when they hear from you—the experts. Now’s the perfect time to invite them to visit your market during National Farmers Market Week (August 7-13th) to show off your market’s great work. A market visit provides an opportunity to showcase the impact that your market has on the community, it’s successes, as well as some challenges it’s facing. There’s no need to even discuss a specific policy—providing information about your market and it’s work is an important step in building a relationship with your elected officials. When the time comes for policy decisions to be made, your elected officials will have a basic understanding of how changes may impact your market, and you’ll already have a foot in the door to provide recommendations or further information. Follow these easy steps to help plan and execute a successful visit!
1. Identify Who, When, and Where
Find out who represents you (and your market) here. Spend some time learning about your elected officials—policymakers draw on their experiences while making decisions, so it can be helpful to be familiar with their backgrounds and past positions. If your market is hosting any special events to celebrate National Farmers Market Week, invite the elected official to attend, or better yet, participate. They may be willing to serve as a judge in a contest, as an assistant in a cooking demo, or as a taste tester. If there’s an opportunity to speak, they may be interested in making brief remarks about why we’re celebrating National Farmers Market Week.
2. Schedule the Visit
Call or email your elected official. Use FMC’s Elected Official Invitation Template and invite them to participate in your National Farmers Market Week events. You may be referred to an aide who handles agriculture or scheduling issues. Don’t be disappointed! These are the people who advise their bosses and they can be very influential. Aides can also be helpful by providing background on the elected official and explaining what their priorities are. (Quick tip: Be sure to use their titles when addressing public officials. For example, address members of the Senate as ‘Senator’ and members of the House as ‘Congressman or Congresswoman’).
3. Promote the Visit
If an elected official is coming to an event at your market, be sure to spread the word. Tell your customers and vendors using your usual communication methods: emails, newsletters, the market’s website, and social media. Officials love positive media attention, so consider sending a press release to local newspapers and television stations, so they’re able to cover the visit. Use FMC’s Press Release Template to get you started.
4. Show off
When at your meeting or visit, succinctly and clearly explain how the market operates, its successes and the challenges it faces. Be confident—you are the expert on how an issue or program affects their constituency, they are eager to hear what you have to say. Be appreciative of any support they have given in the past. Be respectful of demands on their time and do not expect them to stay at the market for more than half an hour. Bring a short handout with your main points and leave it with them in case you don’t get to cover all the issues. Have data on hand: Equip yourself with basic information like the number of farmers at your market, markets in the area, number of SNAP, WIC, and/or Senior customers served, and total market sales, as well as any other relevant statistics. Use FMC’s Talking Points document to help tell your market’s story. Keep in mind that from an elected official or aide’s perspective, you are the expert.
5. Follow up
Send a short thank-you note or e-mail after each meeting or event and offer yourself as an informational resource. Keep in touch! After you introduce yourself and your organization, act as a resource by providing updates on your organization’s activities and successes. The goal is for your elected officials and their staffs to view you as a trusted and dependable source of information. Add key Congressional staff to your newsletter, press, and event invitation lists but not to any fundraising solicitation lists. Most elected officials have public social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram), so look them up and be sure to follow them. A public ‘thank you for the visit’ through these outlets is appreciated by the officials, and helps publicize your market. Check out FMC’s Social Media Cheat Sheet for great tips and posting ideas.
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