Communities of Practice


What are Communities of Practice (CoP)?

In the context of farmers markets and farm-direct work*, FMC uses communities of practice as a peer-to-peer platform for bringing together small groups of market operators, organizational leaders, network partners, and/or other farm-direct site operators to address specific topics or areas of interest impacting their work.

The key to a successful CoP at FMC is an engaged, active group of leaders who are willing to learn from one another and share that collective knowledge in a final resource or lesson for FMC and the leaders to share through technical assistance. Participation in a CoP at FMC means the individual has made a commitment to the group and to the focus of the practice. Over a set period of time, members engage in a process of teaching and learning, either reaching a conclusion or deciding on the next steps. For FMC, the goal is to listen and learn, connect to more market leaders, and conclude with a resource or new information that we can share with others.


Why engage in Communities of Practice?

FMC’s CoPs provide greater opportunities for peer-to-peer technical assistance through this holistic, proactive approach to the teaching and learning experience. Participants work with FMC and other partners sharing knowledge and ideas with the goal of developing practical solutions to questions or challenges within specific focus areas. In addition, leaders are able to meet peers with similar market type and expertise and hold sensitive discussions related to the focus of their CoP and contribute to the FMC resource or learning that will result from each community of practice.


What is FMC’s process for developing a new Community of Practice?

  • Establish the focus, shared interest, or topic of concern
  • Identify and invite potential community participants
  • Define the structure and duration (frequency & length of meetings, overall timeframe)
  • Schedule first convening to introduce participants and discuss goals/outcomes for CoP (e.g. deliverables, new resources needed)
  • Provide ongoing guidance and support to encourage communication and collaboration among participants
  • Help foster relationships, facilitating network growth beyond scope of CoP



Current Communities of Practice at FMC

*Once a CoP is listed here it is typically already in progress. If a CoP is still open to new participants, that will be indicated within the description*

State and Network Leaders

State and Network Leaders: This community includes State and Network FM Leaders from across the country which meet twice each month to discuss topics impacting their organizations, including state and federal policy, data collection and analysis, fundraising, virtual conferencing, and a variety of other issues.

One of the monthly calls for this CoP is narrowly focused on a topic suggested by the leaders themselves (topics change every few months). In 2020, the topic of this meeting has been how farmers markets have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic and what network leaders are doing to support them. The other, long-running monthly call is led by FMC and based on its need to share information and explore new topics, including inviting network partners (e.g. USDA-AMS staff) to join in discussions with these leaders.

Flagship Markets


Flagship Markets*: This community includes a small group of flagship farmers market operators who meet every other month to discuss issues impacting their organizations, including budget analysis in the era of COVID, the role of flagship markets within informal economies, and individual flagship market initiatives.

*Flagship market organizations are described in the Type A section of the FMC market typology document below:

Access CoP deliverables here.

Indoor/Winter Farmers Markets


Indoor/Winter Markets: This community includes a small group of indoor/winter market operators from states including Vermont, Minnesota, Ohio, and Kentucky who are meeting every three weeks between mid-September and mid-November 2020. Participants come together to strategize best practices for operating indoor winter markets during the pandemic and collaborate on any new tools or resources which may provide additional guidance to these markets.

Access CoP deliverables here.

Local Food Systems Response to COVID


Local Food Systems Response to COVIDThis community is a national collaboration between the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, researchers from the University of Kentucky, Penn State, Colorado State, and the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, as well as leaders from seventeen different local and regional food systems organizations. FMC’s work within this project involves the development of various deliverables which will highlight innovations, collaborations, and mitigation efforts within the farmers market sector in response to COVID-19.

Access Resource Hub here.


Community of Practice Resources

More about Communities of Practice


*for the GusNIP National Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information Center  (NTAE) workwe use the term Farm Direct to describe farmers markets. CSAs, and farm stands