In October 2005, over 350 market leaders – market managers, policy makers, and foundation officers – convened in Washington, D.C. for PPS’ 6th International Public Markets Conference, which was generously sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. As part of the conference, the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA) and the Farmers’ Market Coalition (FMC), hosted the first ever Farmers Market Policy Forum, with sponsorship provided by the Agricultural Marketing Services at USDA.

During the conference, 97 panelists hosted 27 workshops and information sessions covering a diverse range of public and farmers market topics, such as how to start and sustain markets in both high and low-income communities, how to attract new vendors, and how to strengthen partnerships with community groups. Three market tours visited over 10 diverse indoor and outdoor public and farmers markets in the Washington DC and Baltimore metro areas. The conference helped to further build the voice of public markets and to demonstrate markets as vital tools for sustainable community and economic development.

The policy forum, held on the last day of the conference, featured the release of two policy papers on farmers markets. The first paper, entitled Farmers Markets’ are Good for Everyone: Here’s how to make them better, developed by the Farmers Market Coalition itself and called , highlights three federal programs, Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), Farmers’ Market Promotion Program and (FMPP) Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), and details how some simple changes to these policies could enhance the success and reach of farmers markets all over the country.

With support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, PPS also commissioned a white paper on farmers market policy for the forum, entitled Farmers Market Policy: An Inventory of Federal, State, and Local Examples, by Professor Neil Hamilton of the Agricultural Law Center at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The study was designed to provide an assessment of current farmers market policies found in the U.S. and to use this inventory to evaluate the effect of policies and identify how they can be improved.

Other speakers at the conference included Clarence Carter, Deputy Administrator of the Food Stamp Program at USDA, who gave the keynote address; Kate Coler, Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services, USDA; and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), who gave an inspiring closing address.

“This issue goes beyond saving agriculture and revitalizing neighborhoods in small-town America. You represent one of those rare issues that really nobody is against. Think about it: every farmers market, every public market project that I’ve seen touches a wide range of participants. You have people of all different political persuasions, philosophies, economic backgrounds that are brought together because they love a public market. If we can get it on the radar screen and have people focus on it we can make it part of a larger reform. I think you would be amazed by the breath and the depth of the support for your agenda which is why your being here is so important.”

Download the full speech here.

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