Planning for a Successful 2018
Over New Year’s weekend a friend posted to social media that he was not making resolutions for 2018 as he did for 2017. Instead, he was making commitments. While this appeared to some to be a difference only in semantics, his reasoning was that a commitment is a more serious obligation as it involves a promise to others while a resolution involves only an internal pledge. That conversation was on my mind as I looked back at what PCFMA accomplished in 2017 and the work that remains to be done this year. As I considered how to frame our work in the year to come, I decided that neither the term “resolution” nor the term “commitment” was the appropriate term for PCFMA. We have plans.
The hard work of our staff over the past two months has created detailed plans for engaging our customers, supporting our farmers, and sustaining our farmers’ markets. With 50 farmers’ markets spread across six counties, this is no small task. We learned long ago that you cannot cut-and-paste plans for community service and community engagement. Every community in which we work – and thus every farmers’ market we operate – is unique. The plans that we will implement throughout 2018 reflect the distinctiveness of each community and our love for all that makes each community special.
Plans are essential but we recognize that plans alone are not a guarantee of success. As we all know, even the best laid plans often go awry. Our plans for 2017 went wildly awry when flooding rains washed out farmers’ markets and farmers’ fields. In the first quarter of 2017, our weekend customer count was 70% smaller on our worst weather days – days when our staff said they could not imagine the weather being any worse – than on our best weather days. That quarter 12.5% of all of our weekend markets were rated as worst weather days by our market managers. Our managers would know because they braved the rain to support our farmers and those few, ultra-committed customers who came out despite the downpours.
In 2017 we counted just under 2.2 million customers across all of our farmers’ markets, fewer customers than we served in 2016 when less than 2% of our weekend farmers’ markets in the first quarter were rated as worst weather days. When faced with these unexpected challenges we adapted as best we could. We could not control the weather but we could control our response to it and worked as best we could to ensure that the farmers who were still harvesting had a market for their products. Despite challenges we faced in the early months of 2017, we increased our audience by 11%, reaching 8,750 more farmers’ market customers via email and social media when 2017 ended than when the year began.
Our plans for 2018 are designed to build upon the successes of the previous year by continuing to build our audience and engage with them about the farmers and food that fill their local farmers’ markets. And our plans are designed to address the challenges of the previous year with calls to action that encourage our audience to visit their local market to experience for themselves what makes it special – even in bad weather.
I hope that your plans for 2018 also include regular farmers’ market visits and purchases. Mine do and I look forward to seeing you in the market soon!