Champions of Your Farmers’ Market - Role of PCFMA and Sponsors
This month, we – the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA) – are joining in the celebration of Farmers’ Market Week by highlighting the market champions, the people who make the farmers’ markets successful. This post is the introduction of a four-part series of articles, with each piece taking a close look at different stakeholders – farmers, sponsors, local businesses, customers, and market staff – and their role. In this first article, we take a look at the role of PCFMA and our sponsors, as well as a breakdown of how our association is organized.
The Role of PCFMA
Andrea Jadwin is a resident of San Francisco’s Inner Sunset neighborhood and a member of the Inner Sunset Park Neighbors, which is the sponsor for the PCFMA Inner Sunset Farmers’ Market. For Inner Sunset residents, the inception of a farmers’ market came from the appeal of a central gathering place. “Unlike most San Francisco neighborhoods, we don’t have a neighborhood park. We don’t have a community center,” Andrea explains. “And we also felt strongly that the market could be a place for people to hang out with friends and family, and a place to buy great food and help support California farmers.”
Farmers’ markets are an actualization of community interests, and the sponsors are facilitators in establishing and maintaining the markets. Markets can be operated by local governments, nonprofit organizations, and farmers. Often times, a community recognizes a desire for a neighborhood farmers’ market, but needs help getting established, making connections with farmers, building up marketing campaigns, and maintaining a successful event. That’s where PCFMA come in.
When communities ask us for help, we aid with street closure and health permits; we reach out to farmers and invite them out to the markets; we engage with communities to continuously promote the event; and we ensure market safety and compliance with state and county regulations. PCFMA operates Certified Farmers’ Markets, which means that we provide opportunities for California farmers to sell directly to consumers. Through our PCFMA inspection program, we ensure that all of our farmers are producing their own fruits and vegetables in the state of California.
We also work with our sponsors, like Andrea, to make sure the markets meet the needs of both the farmers and the communities. For PCFMA, sponsorships are not fiscal. Instead, we rely on sponsors for their homegrown, neighborhood connections and resources. They are liaisons between their communities and PCFMA, and have intimate knowledge about their neighborhood dynamics. They leverage their insider perspective to help PCFMA craft a successful, culturally-appropriate farmers’ market.
For the Inner Sunset Farmers’ Market, it was important to the neighborhood that space was provided for community interaction. The market operates children’s activities and unique events, such as a kitchen swap. Sunset residents bring their unused or unwanted kitchen equipment to the market to trade with their neighbors. The market also makes space for local nonprofits and merchants, via the Community at the Market Program, so that they can provide information about their services and programs. “It gives them an opportunity to do some outreach,” says Andrea. “It’s not meant to be a place for people to sell but it does function as a way for Inner Sunset residents to learn about stuff that’s going on in the government or in the local commercial community.”
PCFMA’s institutional framework
Direct Marketing: The public face of our direct marketing are the farmers’ market managers. These are the green-shirted faces of PCFMA. They are the facilitators and the line of communication between farmers, communities, and PCFMA’s ground control in Concord.
As the seasons change, the managers ensure that the markets stay full and bustling. They handle the logistics of returning seasonal vendors – such as cherry farmers – and the general logistics of the market site plan. Beyond managing the flow of producers, a manager is always observing the health and dynamic of a market: is there a demand for olive oil? Are there more families visiting the market who may want children’s activities? Why is a particular vendor not doing as well in sales as he or she used to?
To make the market successful and relevant for a community, the manager develops a network of neighborhood contacts and relationships. This often means that a manager is out in the community handing out flyers, chatting up the locals, and making new connections with local organizations.
Marketing and Promotions: The Marketing and Promotions Center develops strategies and tactics that build relationships between staff, products, producers, customers, and communities. They find success when farmers are making a profit, the markets are full, and the community is engaged, connected, and excited.
The PCFMA marketing team creates written content for blogs, newsletters, social media, and local newspapers, as well as proprietary graphic designs for posters, postcards, flyers, social media, and more. PCFMA oversees its Cookin’ the Market program, an initiative of the marketing department which uses an on-site chef to educate eaters about cooking seasonally, selecting produce, and understanding produce variety.
Part of the role of the Marketing and Promotions Center is to educate communities, farmers, and our own PCFMA workers. The marketing and promotions department puts out informative materials, such as seasonal produce guides, and work to educate our farmers about effective marketing techniques that they can apply to their businesses. Chef Marisa organizes tastings for farmers’ market customers and students of all ages, to teach about the diversity of flavors that you can find just in one type of fruit or vegetable. She also conducts in-house tastings for our direct marketing team.
Much of the marketing team’s work falls under a grant that PCFMA received from the USDA’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP). FMPP is a component of the Farm Bill, which PCFMA has reported in previous news and blog posts. The FMPP is a grant program which aims to increase access to local food and to develop marketing avenues for farmers. Nationwide, the program has proven highly effective: between 2006 and 2011, sales increased by more than 25% at the farmers’ markets participating in the FMPP and customer counts increased by 47%. PCFMA is using its FMPP grant to develop best practices for using e-mail, social media, and text messaging to inform and motivate farmers’ market shoppers in three target generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials. Starting in 2019, the project will also train farmers to implement this technology, and will experiment with the efficacy of farmer-farmers’ market cross-promoting partnerships.