Farmers Markets & Public Markets: Advancing their Role in Urban & Rural Communities

PPS held its Fourth Annual Public Market Briefing in Washington, DC on Thursday, May 3, 2007. Over 80 people attended the briefing, which focused on the benefits and needs of farmers markets and public markets, with special attention given to the role of these markets in the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill. [View the briefing agenda.]

In our work we have seen how farmers markets and public markets provide profitable revenue opportunities for farmers; reinvigorate communities by creating vibrant social and economic centers of activity; improve access to locally-grown fruits and vegetables; and address the social and physical health of communities. However, as the number of markets around the country expands, the needs for planning and coordination, farmer training, and nutrition education for consumers are all too apparent.

This year, in light of the Farm Bill’s renewal, we wanted to take the opportunity to share our thoughts about the final year of PPS’s three year, $3 million grant program for diversifying farmers markets and public markets. With support from the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, PPS has been able to provide some 40 grants in 22 states. “Through this effort, we have been able to see the benefits for farmers, consumers, and communities that come from strategic investments in innovative programs and to build the capacity of market management,” said Steve Davies, PPS’s Senior Vice President.

Several PPS grantees also spoke, including Elaine Brown, Executive Director of the Michigan Food & Farming Systems (MIFFS) and Fred Broughton, the Small Farm Program Manager with the South Carolina Dept. of Agriculture, who both spoke about the need for investment in state farmers market associations to enhance access to EBT/food stamps at farmers markets, and to build the capacity of hundreds of farmers markets to run bigger and better markets for the benefit of farmers and consumers. [Read the text of Elaine's remarks.]

Linda Boclair, a grantee with the Camden Area Health Education Center (AHEC) in Camden, NJ, spoke about the success her organization has had operating farmers markets in a city notorious for crime, poverty and health issues: “In addition to providing fresh produce and nutrition education to 2,500 residents per week, we are contributing to the revitalization of a city that for [the past] two years was designated the most violent city in the nation and now the poorest city… The demand is great for farmers markets in Camden but we simply do not have the resources to meet those demands.” [Read the full text of Linda's speech.]

In conclusion, Tazuer Smith of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition spoke about three ways in which the reauthorized farm bill could support markets through the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP):

  • Expanding the program to $25 million;
  • To the maximum extents possible, using 25% of total program funds for projects implemented in areas the Secretary deems underserved; and
  • Specific statutory identification of the categories of farmer-to-consumer direct marketing activities eligible for funding under the program, including the implementation and staffing of electronic benefit transfer (EBT) systems in farmers markets.

A reception followed featuring farm, fresh foods direct from the Takoma Park Farmers Market in Takoma Park, MD; the Byrd House Market and William Byrd Community House in Richmond, VA; and the California Farmers Market Association in Walnut Creek, CA.

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