Working with the Ford Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, PPS developed a national funding initiative around public markets and farmers markets. With initial support from Ford, we conducted research that demonstrated how public markets provide both a low-cost entry point for new businesses and a focal point for bringing diverse groups of people together (see Public Markets as a Vehicle for Social Integration and Upward Mobility, 2002).
This research was soon complemented by a grant from Kellogg to explore the role farmers markets play in supporting local food systems (see Public Markets & Community-Based Food Systems: Making Them Work in Lower-Income Neighborhoods, 2003). Using these findings as a departure point, with continued support from Ford and Kellogg, PPS developed a national funding program for public markets in low and moderate-income communities. The goal of the three-year (2005-2007), $3 million grant program was to strategically support markets, market networks and state market associations broaden their social and economic impacts on their communities while simultaneously improving their internal economic sustainability.
Forty markets in 22 states were awarded funding and their efforts showed that through small amounts of funding markets could boost the sustainability of vendors and management, resulting in increased market sales and higher market operating revenue. These gains were also a result of strategic efforts to enhance the spin-off benefits and the market’s “sense of place” in the community. Markets diversified their vendor and customer base, supported youth development projects, provided increased access to healthy food and served as transformational places for their communities to gather (see Diversifying Farmers Markets: New Opportunities for Farmers, Communities and Consumers, 2008).
In partnership with Columbia University, PPS examined strategies for implementing farmers markets in low-income communities as well as barriers that need to be addressed to improve the viability of markets in these areas. The project focused on several former PPS grantees from across the country, each of whom has implemented a variety of strategies to enhance the sustainability and community impact of their markets. This research combined case study analysis and an examination of a wide array of existing data collected by the markets, including customer surveys and annual management reports, with new data collection including a survey of customers and local residents and focus groups with youth involved in farmers markets.