Pursuing Innovations while Respecting Traditions at Farmers' Markets

Pursuing Innovations while Respecting Traditions at Farmers' Markets
Posted June 8, 2018

This month at PCFMA we welcomed two new farmers to our Board of Directors: Silvia Prevedelli of Prevedelli Farms in Watsonville and Ying Moua of Yia Moua Farm in Merced. They joined eight other Board members including three who were present at PCFMA’s founding 30 years ago: Mike Billigmeier of B&B Ranch in Linden, Al Courchesne of Frog Hollow Farm in Brentwood and Les Portello, formerly with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. This mix of new and veteran Board members – and the experiences and perspectives they bring – ensures that as an organization we honor and build upon our history, while not being bound by it.

Since our core business is based upon the ancient concept of a marketplace where farmers sell what they have grown to their neighbors, it leaves a lot of room for innovation. Over the past 30 years, PCFMA has been a leader in creating new opportunities for farmers by operating farmers’ markets at healthcare facilities through our longstanding partnership with Kaiser Permanente and by opening small, neighborhood-based farmers’ markets with the support of businesses and residents in San Francisco’s Fillmore, Inner Sunset, Castro and Alamo Square neighborhoods.

PCFMA has also joined with other farmers’ markets around the state to make farmers’ markets more accessible to low income shoppers by supporting purchases by WIC and CalFresh customers and by increasing the buying power of CalFresh customers through the Market Match program. The growth of these programs, which provide a custom scrip to customers to use when making purchases from farmers in our farmers’ markets, necessitated the development of a custom cloud-based scrip management system. As of today, that system has recorded more than 4.2 million scrip distributions and redemptions since it first went online two years ago.

These and other innovations have allowed us to create and support more opportunities for California farmers. We estimate that total sales in 2017 for farmers and other producers at our 11 farmers’ markets operated at Kaiser Permanente facilities exceeded $3.5 million. And, in 2017, our scrip system facilitated sales of more than $572,000 for the farmers and other producers who sell in PCFMA’s markets.

While we continue to pursue innovations that will increase our impact and effectiveness, we recognize that a significant indicator of the success of a farmers’ market is unchanged since the farmers first brought their products to market centuries ago. Our Board members recently articulated this very clearly when they shared that from their side of the table, the enduring attraction of farmers’ markets is not just about the food that is sold or the location of the market, but is also about the entire experience that a farmers’ market customer enjoys. Their advice to other farmers is to grow great products, show pride in what they have grown, craft attractive displays, sell their products for a fair price that covers their costs, put their cellphones down to focus on delivering great customer service, and understand that supporting the health and viability of the farmers’ market as a whole is the best path to sustaining the long term success of the market and their own farm.

I am proud serve alongside these leaders on PCFMA’s Board of Directors, as well as the many leaders throughout PCFMA’s staff, who share this vision of what a farmers’ market can mean for California farmers and Bay Area communities.

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