A New Year Brings New Opportunities and Challenges

      Posted On: January 11, 2011

Happy New Year, fellow travelers in the healthy food movement!

It has been a tremendous year with lots of hard work… many new customers and farmers coming to market and lots of challenges to continue to serve at our highest levels.

Just like you, the Farmers Market Coalition has met challenges and successes with determination and passion.

In the past year, we’ve seen for-profit grocery stores pretend to be farmers markets and the successful rising among us to resist such abuses and false advertising; we’ve seen the pinnacle farmers market certification program in California bow to scrutiny that shows no system is perfect. We still have a long way to go to protect our farmers from abuses in the systems we’ve created to protect them.

We’ve also seen more markets pop up in every community, in some cases risking the success of established markets nearby as farmers can pick and choose the most lucrative markets, sometimes leaving their own communities without access to their healthy food. Can we blame them? Should the solution be to grow more growers? If so, how?

We’ve finally seen federal food safety policies that actually spell out support for those with the safest food… local farmers selling directly to their neighbors. We finally see federal policies that support healthy eating and buying locally.

While we at FMC don’t have all the answers we continue to strive to find them. This year saw the launching of the Farmers Market Manager Frequently Asked Questions and FMC Youtube channel, which, along with our Resource Library and listserv, are free services to the farmers market community. Our work has consistently been about you, making social change as a farmer, as a market manager, or an organization supporting farmers markets on the ground. It continues to be about you.  But, in that effort, we need to feed the beast, so to speak. We need to remember that only a strong FMC can support this incredible movement to the full extent needed.

We need your support to help us ensure your success. It’s not just about the local level. It’s about federal policies and programs that enable and encourage state, county, and local support to help you succeed. It’s about continuing to build a network of professionals that reach out and help each other.

Please promote FMC to your colleagues and encourage them to join us. These membership dollars provide a financial cushion to keep FMC in business. Please consider partnering with FMC on major projects, whether as an advisor, a networking agent, or a national platform for communicating your outcomes to peers outside your community. If your market has a facebook or twitter account, try periodically linking to FMC in your posts once in a while. And let us know what kinds of consumer education materials you might want to see from FMC, so our growing coalition can include your loyal shoppers, and we can help you in your quest to educate the public about farmers markets and local food.

And, if you’d like to be reminded of the value of the Farmers Market Coalition, please take a look at this list of accomplishments for 2010.

Year in Review

  • Publication of Real Food, Real Choice report in partnership with the Community Food Security Coalition, which we could not have done without the stellar work of Suzanne Briggs. This report is still being read and circulated in the halls of USDA, and is helping inform progressive policy priorities for advocates around the country.
  • Thanks to the thoughtful input of our members and friends, we submitted a letter to the USDA to help guide the improvement of the Farmers Market Promotion Program
  • Farmers Market Manager FAQ:  Responses to 50 most common FM management issues, from feasibility to season extension to nutrition program outreach
  • YouTube Channel: 20 new video interviews with veteran market practitioners from around the country sharing the secrets to their success as producer-only farmers market networks. Viewed 2,000 times since August 2010.
  • The launch of special member-only pricing for Directors and Officers Insurance to help protect for farmers market organizations from potentially disastrous legal risks.
  • We welcomed our first fabulous Research & Education intern Sarah Johnson, and have recently brought on Drew Love in this position
  • More updates to the National Farmers Market Resource Library: An interactive depository that now hosts more than 400 samples, best practices, guides, and other resources from among the farmers market community (but we need your support to keep it relevant and timely– if you have or know of a resource that’s missing, submit it!)
  • This marks our 4th edition of the seasonal market beet newsletter, which reaches 2,000 subscribers directly.
  • Listserv: 716 subscribers, archiving 550 discussions
  • More than 1,000 followers on Twitter
  • New Facebook page, where posts have been viewed more than 34,000 times since August

Already on schedule for 2011, FMC will be launching a webinar series on farmers market insurance, surveying the market community about health insurance needs, providing technical assistance to Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant recipients, helping its members make sense of food safety provisions, and working with national allies to develop strong Farm Bill platforms that turn the tide away from unsustainable commodities and towards healthy communities. Most importantly, we’ll be raising funds to expand our organization amidst so many demonstrated needs for our services.

Please continue to support FMC and encourage those in your region to do the same by forwarding these newsletters and our advocacy emails to everyone on your email list.

Thanks so much for all that you do to take proactive leadership in growing healthy local food systems in your communities!

Happy New Year!

Sharon Yeago, President