Writing Anti-Racist Farmers Market Work Into Your FMPP Proposal

      Posted On: April 26, 2023

Funding Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit Implementation through FMPP

A year ago, The Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit came into the world, created by twelve Black food systems experts and led by Sagdrina Jalal and Nedra Deadwyler. It’s hard to believe that it’s been only twelve months! As farmers market operators and their communities seek to operationalize the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit, operators need funding to support activities such as community building, community advisory boards, consultants, revisions of their strategic plans, and outreach to and on behalf of farmers and communities of color.

For many of these activities, the USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) is among the best federal funding sources available to market operators. FMPP funds “projects that develop, coordinate and expand direct producer-to-consumer markets to help increase access to and availability of locally and regionally produced agricultural products.” This focus makes it a rare and essential resource for farmers market operators who want to fund projects that include outreach, training, and technical assistance. The deadline for FMPP in early May is already upon us, so in this blog post, we’d like to offer both some short-term ways to write the flexibility to work on anti-racist projects into your current FMPP grant proposal just ahead of the deadline, as well as some longer-term thoughts on planning ahead for your future FMPP-funded Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit implementation.


What Does FMPP Fund and What Anti-Racist Work Might It Support?

There are three different types of FMPP Grants. Capacity Building (CB) Projects can range from $50,000 to $250,000 and “are intended to assist applicants’ efforts to achieve their mission and build long-term organizational capacity in the development, coordination, and expansion of direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.” Projects can include market analysis and strategic planning, producer or market manager training and education, online sales operation or expansion, and producer and consumer outreach.

Many of the suggested activities within the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit dovetail with these project types. Markets might consider FMPP support to hire outside experts to assist with guiding process and gathering community input as they rework their mission and strategic plan to align with antiracist goals. Integrating an antiracist framework into efforts to connect with underserved populations in their area and bring new customers to market can make efforts more effective, especially for markets focused on creating spaces of belonging for Black communities. Applicants may also consider partnering to provide training, support, and incubator programs for Black and other historically underserved farmers in order to diversify and expand their vendor base. These are just a few possibilities!

The next category is Community Development Training and Technical Assistance (CTA), which is specifically focused on outreach, training, and technical assistance to help expand local markets for farmers and ranchers. These grants range from $100,000 to $500,000. Projects can include (but are not limited) to producer marketing and promotion assistance, producer-to-consumer networks and organizations, and technical assistance.

Providing marketing and promotion assistance specifically to a group of historically underserved farmers in order to increase their capacity to sell at your market is one way to incorporate the principles of antiracism into this grant category. It might include creating a community of practice with other farmers markets in your region, or developing a community advisory board to better understand and implement the needs of underserved customers and/or vendors in your community. Another way to support anti-racist work is to provide training and technical assistance to your vendors in order to support specific goals that you’ve identified through a cultural audit. 

Finally, a new category is the “Turnkey Marketing and Promotion” project type. The addition of this project type is a direct result of FMC’s recommendations to USDA and provides a defined set of activities for FMPP marketing and promotion projects that range from $50,000 to $100,000. For this type, applicants must agree to conduct a minimum of three of the following activities: 

  • identify and analyze new/improved market opportunities, 
  • develop/revise a marketing plan, 
  • design/purchase marketing and promotion media, 
  • implement a marketing plan, 
  • evaluate marketing and promotion activities. 

These activities overlap beautifully with many of the recommendations that the “Messaging” section of the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit puts forth. 

For a list of the approaches other markets have taken in awarded grants, see the full list of project summaries on the FMPP site.There are many examples of projects that have been funded to do anti-racist work through FMPP. Often FMPP proposals focus on offering training and technical assistance to markets and farmers, which can provide an excellent opportunity to bring in outside expertise. The Utah Farmers Market Network, for example, amended their FMPP during the pandemic to include a community of practice that focused on food access and equity. They brought practitioners together to perform assessments of their markets which generated recommendations for increasing the representation of people of color in the market space, as well as a methodology for examining the relationship between market structure and inclusivity. 

Of course, given the centrality of relationships of accountability to effective anti-racist work, it’s also deeply important to include outside experts as consultants to support the work of implementation. This is true no matter what activities you are proposing! Oregon Farmers Market Association (OFMA) created an FMPP-funded series of workshops through which they partnered with Black food systems experts, including shiny Flanary of the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit Working Group, as well as with the Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA) cooperative. These experts led workshops to educate and support markets on anti-racist practice. Beyond their publicly available offerings, they also designated funding for a group of markets to collect data on their anti-racist practice, which enabled OFMA to provide those markets with administrative funding that they could use to support their own even more local and focused work.

Niyi Balogun of Dodo Farms, vendor at Crossroads Farmers Market in Takoma Park, MD


Immediate Term-Grant Writing

By now, the wheels might well be turning about how activities like these can apply specifically to implementing the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit. Would you want to engage a Toolkit workgroup member as a consultant to support your market’s outreach to and partnership with Black farmers in your community? Do you want to assess your market culture, convene a community advisory board on the history and present of your market’s impact on Black, Indigenous, and people of color in your area, and rewrite your mission to address the needs of your broader customer base? Do you want to hire outside experts to provide vendor training or help you create a marketing plan? All of these and much more are doable with FMPP funds. 

Within the limited time for applications, even though there may not be time to gather the data, support, and consensus for your most ambitious dreams, you can still include the flexibility to work on anti-racism in markets in your proposal, even if that proposal’s focus is not directly on the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit, or on anti-racist work more broadly. In this section, we’ll offer some examples of language drawn from successful market FMPP-funded grants to include in your current proposal that can help to give you that flexibility. If you’re applying this year, consider writing in opportunities to:

  • Hire consultants to help you assess equity in your organizational structure (for example, vendor agreements or market policies) for the purposes of attracting a vendor pool that is more attractive and relevant to the community you’re focused on.
  • Conduct focus groups of shoppers & non-shoppers representing the communities you want to reach to assess what barriers exist to them attending the market, what would make the market more welcoming, etc.
  • Funds for the translation of marketing materials.
  • Unique outreach efforts such as grassroots organizing, street teams, or culturally relevant market tours to reach historically underserved populations.
  • Partnering with community members of color and culturally specific community organizations to offer an event at your market to celebrate that culture (i.e. Latinx American Month, Black History Month, Chinese New Year, etc)
  • Engage experts to provide culturally sensitive nutrition education and cooking demonstrations with community members, including shoppers and vendors.

In applying for any grant, language is important. Amanda Cross of OFMA notes that while writing their winning FMPP grant, “we were using terminology that felt accessible. We tried to imagine a reader who would be new to this and use words that would make sense to them.” In the most recent round of grants, which were awarded in 2022, many awardees used keywords such as “historically underserved” and “minority owned” within their proposals to indicate that their programming was intended to benefit farmers and customers within these groups. These terms have established definitions at the USDA, which may be why grantees tend to use them in preference to more current language. For an example of how proposals use these terms, we can look at City Farm San Luis Obispo (SLO) in California. City Farm SLO summarized their 2022-awarded project as creating a “Farmer Collaborative that offers sustained supportive services and trainings to empower, and benefit limited resource, beginning, historically underserved, and veteran farmers.”

Other projects that were funded last year included vendor education and mentorship for historically underserved farmers, adding a staff position with the goal of increasing revenue at markets for indigenous and Hispanic growers, creating a marketing plan and standard operating procedures, providing targeted technical assistance and training to beginning and historically underserved farmers, ranchers, and food businesses, and training and TA for refugee farmers, among other things. By including language that shows the intent of these activities is to reach historically underserved populations, these proposals support the potential for anti-racist work.

Even if it is not the focus of your whole project, simply including language that addresses the needs of underserved populations and that specifies that your market or markets will aim to reach a vendor base or customer base that more accurately reflects the community you’re a part of can give you the flexibility to apply funds to activities directed towards these ends. Setting aside funds can support the implementation of the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit over the course of your FMPP even if you are not yet ready to designate a specific process for implementation at this time.

Crossroads Farmers Market in Takoma Park, MD


Long-Term Planning 

Readiness is important. For effective anti-racist practice, market operators will need to develop authentic, mutual, and accountable relationships with Black and Indigenous community partners and community members of color. Building relationships takes time, and so does understanding what your market needs. It can be valuable to run a pilot version of what you’d like to implement in order to gather baseline data and understand in detail what you will do with your time. You can then take the lessons you’ve learned into your next round of funding, as well as into other funding opportunities through USDA or your state’s extension agency. This was OFMA’s approach when they amended their proposal for the use of outreach funds from FMPP in 2020 to immediately begin addressing their community’s calls for more education on how to address racial justice in their markets. OFMA created an initial round of workshops in partnership with AORTA in order to meet the need among farmers market operators for deep and meaningful education on race in the farmers market context. Similarly, in the case of the Utah Farmers Market Network project mentioned above, the organization might take the assessments and recommendations that were produced through their community of practice and make a case for putting them into action with their next FMPP to increase the customer and vendor base for their markets.

All of this means that especially if your market organization is in the early stages of implementing the Anti-Racist Farmers Market Toolkit, it will be extremely valuable to make room in a current proposal for outreach and data-gathering activities. These may include culture assessments, relationship development through joint events, assessments delving into the present and history of race in your market space, remunerated focus groups with shoppers and non-shoppers, and communities of practice that support market operators to engage with the Toolkit and begin developing plans for implementation. By developing a strong sense of mission—an understanding of how the Toolkit applies directly to the work you and your community aim to do, you’ll be better placed to create a strong grant narrative and budget for your next FMPP.