by Dar Wolnik, Farmers Market Support Director
As a founding member of the World Farmers Market Coalition (WFMC), we at the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) participate in as much as we can, including the Academy studios held on Zoom where different components of farmers market organization are discussed among peers, facilitated by WFMC’s Head of Strategy, Robin Moon.
On the most recent Academy call, we discussed how individual markets and associations like ours can assess their impacts on food and civic environments via mapping using a free tool, KoBo Toolbox. These Academy calls are currently open to anyone, although membership is always encouraged (I’d be remiss as a FMC staffer if I didn’t suggest US markets should consider joining both; I know our two teams have begun to discuss a single shared membership – lets hope it happens soon). I hope some of you check out the WFMC site and join some of these global calls to share and to learn.
Another benefit for FMC has been to hear about the work WFMC is directly supporting in various countries, including the introduction of cash incentives to encourage more shoppers to attend farmers markets and farmstands regularly, and for larger institutional food outlets to take that same idea to encourage more healthy local food purchases.
As I hope most of you know, US markets were the earliest innovators of this approach in local food systems, and through pilots and partnerships have done extraordinary work on expanding the number with programs for those with limited means. Over the last 15 or so years ago, the idea has grown into a national strategy included into the Farm Bill (first as FINI and now known as GusNIP) offering funding through annual competitive proposal seasons.
NIFA also funds a center for research and TA (“the Hub”) for all GusNIP grantees and for the sites where they offer these incentives such as farm-direct outlets (farmers markets, farmstands, and CSAs) as well as grocery and mobile markets. These incentives are funds matched to SNAP purchases, but also are in the form of Produce Prescriptions offered through doctors and hospitals to their patients to use for healthy food.
While FMC served as the lead TA facilitator for farm-direct outlets for the first four years of the Hub’s existence, we noted an ever-changing and constant stream of challenges and successes at both the site level as well as the grantee level, and as a result, collected and created a lot of resources for those issues and strategies. We also used that opportunity to increase the capacity of TA providers, including similar program support to CSA sites that we offer to farmers markets, and to support the creation of anti-racist tools that help build system change for farmers markets.
Although FMC will no longer be serving as the Lead Farm Direct TA Facilitator for the next round of the Hub, we fully expect to continue supporting the Hub with specific TA and resources for farmers markets when requested and to support the new farm direct lead, Michigan Farmers Market Association.
So instead of the Hub role, we will expand our staff support to a wide variety of coupon and incentive programs funded through many partners in and outside of GusNIP, and to join in the learning happening at the international level. (Feel free to reach out to our Food Access Program Manager if you want to partner with us on providing TA or Community of Practice facilitation for US markets working on food access projects; check in with me on any international work.)
To that end, FMC was recently asked to lead a U.S. delegation to support Italy’s foray into those same policies, as well as to learn more about their multi-functional agriculture model. Much thanks to our national farmers market partners Campagna Amica, as well as our travel hosts, the I Love Italian Food Team.
The delegation that traveled to Rome for the three day Villaggio Coldiretti was an impressive list of leaders:
Farm Aid (NC)
Gilbert & Associates (LA)
Farmers Market Coalition (LA)
Farmers Market Coalition (NC)
National Farmers Union (DC)
The Food Trust (PA)
Anthony Road Winery (NY)
Fair Food Network (MI)
City of Geneva Farmers Market (NY)
Young Local Food Activist
Young Local Food Activist
The delegation spent a long weekend in Rome in mid-October participating in far-reaching discussions about how farmers markets can help to expand the power of production of healthy food, honor land stewardship, and expand entrepreneurial activity, all of which anchors local places. We had the honor of some time on Friday with Ellen Luger, who leads the US Embassy’s work for the UN as Minister Counselor of Agriculture and to talk with her team about what we are doing at home and to support WFMC’s role in their work globally.
The members were also able to have dozens of one-on-one and group discussions with producers, civic and food leaders, as well as to help FMC facilitate a discussion with Mediterranean farmers market leaders including our hosts Campagna Amica, sharing the many US lessons around incentives. We expect to continue to support WFMC’s efforts to grow these approaches and to use our access to expand U.S. leaders’ awareness of the work happening worldwide at farmers markets.