Partnerships: The Key Ingredient in Successful Farmers Markets
by Cristina Sandolo, Project Co-Director, Nourishing Neighborhoods, Wholesome Wave Foundation
This is a guest article submitted by the Wholesome Wave Foundation in honor of National Farmers Market Week 2010.
At Wholesome Wave, we have seen firsthand over the years how partnerships between farmers markets and other organizations lead to opportunities to boost new and existing initiatives, everything from increasing attendance and sales, to turning a farmers market into a rich community gathering place. In honor of National Farmers Market Week 2010, I want to take a moment to reflect on the importance of strong state and local collaborators. Building the capacity of state farmers market associations and farmers market organizations on the ground is an issue I know the Farmers Market Coalition takes seriously, and as an FMC member, Wholesome Wave appreciates these efforts.
As a national nonprofit aimed at increasing affordable access to healthy food in underserved communities through supporting local agriculture, our own initiatives, such as the Double Value Coupon Program, are run in over 150 farmers markets across the country. Often, we are not the only, or even first, partner to work with a market, and we benefit from the rich knowledge these organizations can share with us, as in the case of our newest venture into the Hudson Valley where our partnership with the state-wide Farmers’ Market Federation of New York (FMFNY) is critical to implementing our program.
This season, we had grant funding that was earmarked to combat food deserts in New York’s Hudson Valley. Our story in New York truly began in 2008, when we provided a small $5,000 seed grant to The Farmers’ Market Federation of New York to support their launch of the Fresh Checks Program. This year, when we realized we had the opportunity to fund our Double Value Coupon Program at two markets in the Hudson Valley, we immediately seized the opportunity to work with FMFNY once more.
This type of relationship building is very standard operating procedure for us. Our organization is trying to combat food deserts nationwide – but it is often the local community groups that have the insider knowledge necessary to determine where our programming can be a success for the markets, for the farmers, and for the community. In this particular case, FMFNY was able to identify farmers markets that would not only benefit from our Double Value Coupon Program, but that also had the capacity to administer the program – something that is very important when we are strategically planning our programs. This knowledge base reduced the time spent researching and contacting individual markets and identifying communities in need of a farmers market incentive program. Our program partner was immediately able to identify two markets that had the essential resources to expedite program development and implementation: Electronic Benefits Transfer capability and staff to administer the program. This strategic partnership allowed for an immediate collaboration among us all to distribute Fresh Checks at the two identified markets. Community members have gained access to affordable, locally grown, healthy fruits and vegetables, while farmers at the markets enjoy a stronger buying market.
As of this month, the Poughkeepsie Main Street Farmers Market and the Healthy Orange Market, in Newburgh have both been given $5,000 to seed revitalization of the 2008 “Fresh Checks.” One of the truly exciting factors in working with these farmers markets is the partnerships that already exist within the community, not only with FMFNY, but with local agencies as well.
The Poughkeepsie Main Street Farmers Market is managed by the Poughkeepsie Farm Project while The Healthy Orange Market is sponsored by, and located across the street from, the Newburgh Health Department, which houses the city’s WIC clinic. Nutrition education takes place both at the market and at the WIC clinic through the Health Department and Cornell Cooperative Extension.
These two markets are proof that farmers markets can benefit from building relationships with their local community organizations. Historically, farmers markets are natural community-gathering places. Fostering connections with community supporters and utilizing the nutrient-rich market space to seed relationships among community groups intensifies the role of the market within the community. This partnership building is beneficial to market sustainability, which is necessary for the wellbeing of farmers and consumers.
This partnership-rich programming in the Hudson Valley has the potential to be a shining example of how successful programs come from innovative organizations and individuals working together on the ground level. It’s the latest example of what we see everyday as we work toward our goal of eradicating food deserts throughout the U.S. Our work with FMFNY clearly demonstrates that the platform for sustainable food systems relies upon like-minded organizations assisting one another, sharing knowledge and resources, and coming together for the common goal of affordable, healthy, fresh food being present in every community and accessible to all community members.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cristina Sandolo is the Project Co-Director, Nourishing Neighborhoods for Wholesome Wave. The mission of Wholesome Wave is to nourish neighborhoods by supporting increased production and access to healthy, fresh, and affordable locally grown food for the well-being of all. Their most recognizable initiative is the Double Value Coupon Program, which doubles the value of Federal Food Stamps, (SNAP), when used at participating farmers markets nationwide. Visit the Wholesome Wave website to learn more how you can get involved in combating food deserts in your community.