State Farmers Market Association Survey Highlights

      Posted On: April 15, 2009

By Wendy Wasserman

Earlier this year, FMC surveyed 26 state farmers market associations (FMAs) to better understand how they are structured, what they do, how they do it, and what they need to do it better. This was the first opportunity FMC had to formally survey this group, building upon a 2006 study conducted by Project for Public Spaces, and the results were telling. According to the survey, while FMAs are growing in number and emerging as valuable service providers across the country, they infrequently engage in networking and professional development opportunities that would enable them to effectively support their thousands of member markets and producers.
Other findings include:
– FMAs cumulatively represent thousands of member markets and producers around the country
– FMAs have limited budgets, slim staff, and rely heavily on volunteers
– Some FMAs are stand alone organizations governed by boards of directors, while others operate under the umbrella of larger nonprofit or government organizations
– FMAs offer (or aim to offer) a broad range of services to their members
– FMAs see recruiting/supporting new vendors as biggest challenge for their members, and resource management the biggest challenge for themselves
– FMAs could benefit from more professional development, peer-to-peer communication, and best practice sharing
Regardless of how new or well-established, these organizations provide valuable services, like organizing state wide conferences, developing educational materials for market managers and producers, providing technical support and toolkits for start-up markets, moderating e-mail listervs for members, and promoting markets through statewide directories. A smaller number of associations offer market liability insurance to member markets. These services, however, are provided with small or no staff, often leveraging in-kind labor from umbrella or partnering organizations. They also operate with limited peer-to-peer contact, and a limited range of funding streams. The median operating income of these organizations was $50,000 or less per year, and most of these funds originate from state or federal grants or cooperative agreements.
The final report will be available from FMC later this spring, and will include more specific data as to how FMAs are governed, structured, and staffed.
As the study illustrated, FMAs could benefit from coalition building, peer-to-peer learning, ideas for innovative funding strategies, and other ways to leverage collective knowledge and experience. As part of FMC’s commitment to strengthen FMAs, FMC, in partnership with the Wallace Center, will be hosting a series of free webinars later this season. These on-line learning sessions will address some of the primary needs identified by FMAs, including how to develop an effective strategic plan, how to best cultivate and manage a board of directors, and how market managers can best collect data to document and communicate their successes and challenges. These webinars will become part of FMC’s resource library and be available for download to anyone interested. To learn more about these trainings, contact Project Coordinator Wendy Wasserman at