Is your market ready for National Counting Week?

      Posted On: July 3, 2019

FMC staff tallies their visitor counts at MD’s Crossroads Farmers Market  in 2016.

Over the last decade, the Farmers Market Coalition has been building resources to help market operators and market partners trumpet the impacts made at the almost 9,000 locations across the U.S.  Using the annual CSA signup day as inspiration, FMC introduced the idea of National Counting Week (NCW) to its networks and markets to count their attendance, and also undertake other counts on the same week of the year across the U.S. 

National Farmers Market Week, held annually during the first full week of August, was chosen as the date of Counting Week, both to promote the active role of market operators  and, once completed, to allow for data from that year’s NFMW week to be shared with market stakeholders such as the USDA. 

This idea neatly ties into the Farmers Market Metrics program at FMC, which puts market operators at the center of the data collection strategy and use of data. Its important to underscore that Metrics does NOT expect managers to handle ALL of the collection of data, but instead puts market operators as the leaders and decision makers of that season’s data collection strategies, rather than just as a bystander. Those decisions include which Metrics to collect, when to collect, and which audiences could best use that data. Metrics offers resources and templates on its accompanying Guide site that allow any market partner or volunteer to easily collect disciplined, shareable data on behalf of the market.

Those evaluation resources are available to any market operator – or even any DTC channel – interested in collecting similar metrics. (The data entry and reporting portal of Metrics is only available to farmers market operators.)

Without a doubt, the easiest and most popular type of metrics to collect and use are numbers. Numbers of vendors, farm vendors, products, visitors, events, and others are among the “low hanging fruit” for busy market operators to gather and use.

Most appealing among those numbers is clearly the number of visitors,  yet far too many markets have never even attempted the collection.  Since knowing the average visitor attendance is integral to any season to season analysis and most important to the host town or location, this is one data point that FMC believes all markets should regularly collect, along with the number of market days open, average number of all vendors and the average number of farm vendors attending. Not only will a Counting Week encourage more markets to use the resources and tips found on FMC’s Guide site, but it will also alert market stakeholders across the US to the need to join their local data collection team for that week.

We’re still a few seasons/years away from having enough resources and support to pull this off in all regions, but in 2019, the Virginia Farmers Market Association (VAFMA) is piloting this idea for FMC during National Farmers Market Week, using the Metrics tool and Guide resources. Their inaugural Visitor Count Week will highlight the data-driven mindset of Va farmers market operators, encourage volunteerism, and result in simple graphic-friendly numbers on Virginia markets useful to a wide number of stakeholders.

VAFMA and the Greater Washington Farmers Market Association (GWFMA) have been working with FMC since 2016 on an FMPP-funded project to build the capacity of networks to collect and use data with their markets. Through this project, the two networks have greatly expanded their use of data and the culture of data collection in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Please check out VAFMA’s excellent work to strengthen the field of markets in Virginia. And if you happen to be in Va the week of NFMW, I am sure they would be happy to hand you a clicker and let you join in the counting…

Please contact FMC if your market or network has questions about Counting Week activities during 2019’s National Farmers Market Week, or just download the resources for your own count.