Summit Debrief

      Posted On: November 1, 2019

The 2nd annual National Direct Agricultural Marketing Summit took place October 7-9, 2019 in Rosemont, Illinois. FMC hosted pre-Summit activities, including a state & network leader meeting, an emerging issues panel, and discussion groups on markets training and technical assistance needs.

 For the second year, Farmers Market Coalition gave its all for the Summit, including bringing the entire FMC team while offering as much visibility and content as possible.

Monday started with side-by-side rooms of market leaders

The Emerging Topic Panel focused on two that have recently populated our listserv: how to handle cannabis sales at markets (where applicable!) and best practices for creating diverse, immigrant-friendly markets. The discussion was lively and offered some practical advice  for those who have these topics on their “to-tackle” list for 2020.

Next door, state and network leaders met to discuss a range of topics related to their development, including training programs, fundraising, and state department partnerships. The growing need for these entities to offer sustained support for markets was illustrated by the large number attending this morning session: what had been predicted as around 20 leaders ended as more than double that number.

A partial picture of S/N Market Attendees

Once the morning was done, lunch was made more animated by having market track attendees mark their nametag as hailing from rural, suburban, or urban places, or as a market network leader in order to find their cohort.

(Let us know what you learned from a peer during the Summit.)


Training and Technical Assistance Discussion Groups

After lunch, markets and networks reconvened into groups to discuss the particulars around technical assistance needs within the topics of organizational design, program development, or evaluation/analysis. Attendees also answered Dot Surveys that were set up around the room. Once seated, the three groups spent a few hours discussing the questions posed by FMC.

What does your market need (for this topic)?

At what point (meaning what precipitated it) did the market realize it needed help on this (for this topic)? 

What is the goal (for this topic) for your market? 

A successful training and technical assistance program at FMC and at state level (on this topic) would include……?

What resources already exist on this topic?

The notes from each discussion group will be shared with state and network market leaders and used to implement FMC’s expanded Training and Technical Assistance work.

Notes from two of the groups:

Program Development needs

A searchable database of grant success programs; webinar series of success stories

What programs are Farmers Markets running? Overviews of programs

Overview of Farmers Markets: size/# of vendors, type of market (producer-only, farmer on-site, volunteer-run, paid staff, funding sources)

Updates on changing trends

Overviews of community partnerships (university, Extension, Municipal, Healthcare, etc.)

Stories of SNAP marketing initiatives

How to maximize volunteers

Stories to create efficiencies and processes

Vendors would like some sort of “Master Application” or Vendor Application App that simplifies submission to markets

Examples of data-driven marketing

Examples and information on consumers convenience such as curbside pickup, market pre-ordering, wholesale sales, convenience boxes

Farmers Market examples of Safety at the market, zero waste, reduction of plastic bags, safety protocols, etc.

How to bring new shoppers to the market

A market manager onboarding manual, succession plan examples, paid manager toolkit

Evaluation/Analysis needs

Staff/volunteer capacity for data collection

What can we do to show our communities data?

How do we reach people we’re missing?

Other than sales, what is a good metric for evaluating the progress of the market?

Difficulty in collecting vendor sales data

Economic development (hard data) is valuable for partners

Examples of markets that successfully got vendors to start reporting sales data?

How did they do it?

What was the response rate?

When do we have definitive data vs. illustrative data? (based on sample size, response rate)

What is the difference in reliability between shoppers and vendors reporting sales data?

Fundraising is a primary issue every farmers market meeting. Put program design before funder requirements.

Program: involving young people in farming/ag workforce development, working with tech schools

Making programs explicit to shoppers, stop hiding the hard work of markets

How to measure market managers work on developing new enterprises?

Measure coalition-building between non-profits.

Money from healthcare partners – they want data on health impacts, behavior change but markets cannot collect that without significantly more staff capacity & resources

Cultural shift within market organizations, especially when farmer boards have a narrow focus

Respecting & relying on data collection

Connecting markets to a broader food system (e.g. civic engagement)

Data point: Number of conversations someone has at a farmers market vs. at a grocery store

Define what we mean by civic engagement, economic development (e.g. how long people stay, how often people come)

Example: Number of people sitting & hanging out at market’s chairs & tables

(Notes from the organizational development discussion coming soon.)

(Please let us know if you have ideas for added topics.)


Plenaries, Posters and Praise

Once the Summit began on Tuesday, the flurry of presentations and posters available had people puzzling over their agenda, planning how to get to as many as possible. Many teams divided up the top choices between them to ensure they had notes on as many as possible.

Over at the FMC table, we heard buzz about Community Food Works’ Master Tracker presentation, Social Media Strategies for Farmers Markets by The Ecology Center, Grow NYC’s Understanding Customer Behavior at Farmers Markets, Virgin Islands Good Food’s Disaster Resilience, the Just Food Marketing Initiative at Georgia Farmers Market Association, among others. Presentations from the Summit can be downloaded.

Certified Naturally Grown’s Alice Varon had a crowd during the poster slot, asking about their Guide to Exceptional Markets (GEM) program, as did MIFMA’s Michelle Gagliardi around their Produce Prescription Program.

The plenaries offered high-level views of developing direct marketing businesses and what channels can do to support those businesses.

The Gus Awards

During the evening event, FMC was proud to offer the Gus Schumacher Award to two very deserving individuals. The award recognizes those who exemplify Gus’ tireless work to bring fresh, local food to Americans of all income levels and backgrounds, and his people-first approach to building coalitions to support farmers market success.

This is only the second year of the award. In year one, awardees were Kate Fitzgerald and Eli Cook.

Darnella Burkett, farmer and  cooperative field specialist at the Federation of Southern Cooperatives where she has led the work at Mississippi Association of Cooperatives on Farm To School initiatives and worked on farmer training programs. In 2014, she was a Mississippi Food & Health Fellow and National Rural Leader in the Rural Development Leadership Network, a multicultural program that assists community leaders in developing their communities and themselves at the same time. She is a 4th generation farmer in Petal MS, working alongside her father legendary farmer and activist Ben Burkett. The family has been on this 164-acre homestead since since 1889.The student-led market at Southeastern University in rural Louisiana largely credits her attendance and support to its success: “It is certain that without Darnella, our market would have fizzled out years ago instead of having grown into the successful college campus farmers market it is today.”

Darnella Burkett Winston with family (daughter Denver in front) and colleagues receiving her Gus award


Kelliann Blazek, Legislative Council for Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME), grew up on a farm in Wisconsin about 5 hours northwest of Chicago. After completing law school, she became interested in agriculture policy and moved to Washington, DC where she has become an ally and champion for small farms, local food, and farmers markets. As one of her colleagues said:“Kelliann’s dedication and leadership was critical to the inclusion of LAMP in the 2018 farm bill, and the establishment of permanent funding for the farmers market and local food promotion program. She is one of a kind when it comes to congressional staff.”




One of our favorite materials picked up while at the Summit; Go MIFMA!


FMC Training and Technical Assistance Director Dar Wolnik flanked on either side by state market leaders from MI, MD, IL, VT, and UT.