When the Minnetrista Farmers Market first set up shop one Saturday on a parking lot shared by a museum and an expensive gourmet food shop, it attracted a fairly homogenous customer base. So to make the market more accessible to all of Muncie’s diverse population, organizers encouraged vendors to accept WIC and Senior FMNP coupons. By the market’s third year, almost all of the 74 registered farmers had agreed to take Farmers Market Nutrition Coupons.
Yet the organizers soon realized that accepting coupons did not immediately attract those eligible to use them — they had to re-think their outreach strategies to attract low-income customers. Based on the success of the Saturday market, they opened a second market Wednesday nights to make shopping more convenient. To help people without cars get there, city buses re-routed their bus lines during market hours. Since the market does not provide the same array of produce as a grocery store, the market manager created a Crop Availability Chart to help customers determine what food is available when. The charts are extremely successful with local nutritionists who work with mothers eligible for WIC. The local WIC office also began sponsoring two nutrition students at nearby Ball State University to set up a stall at the market delivering WIC vouchers, making smoothies, and holding taste tests for kids.
One of the most successful outreach activities has been a partnership with Motivate Our Minds (MOM). MOM is a popular local literacy and tutoring program run by African American women. They teach students from kindergarten to 12th grade how to grow vegetables and maintain gardens as well as improve reading skills. When kids in the MOM program started selling produce grown in their youth-managed gardens, the market attracted a more racially and economically diverse customer base.