news

the umbrella | autumn 2011


In 2012, we will launch a multi-faceted public market technical assistance hub with many different digital spokes. A culmination of a decade and a half learning, sharing and growing, we seek your input. Our dual work as public market practitioner and think tank relies upon real world, real time influences. Please take a few minutes to answer the very brief survey questions about Marketshare here.

Learning:

Policy: What happens to public markets when the heavy hands of local government sweep in to regulate the world of tents and umbrellas? After all, the brick and mortar world has difficulty grasping the contours of the world of “pop-up tents.” This clashing of worlds is in respects, good news. The umbrellas are gaining pace and critical mass. Indeed, author Robert Neuwirth gives us a glimpse of his forthcoming book about the validity of the informal economy in the August 2011 issue of the Scientific American. In New Orleans, working closely with the Mayor’s Office and the Food Policy Advisory Committee, we are developing recommendations for the zoning and licensing of markets and their vendors with financial support provided by the Keller Family Foundation. We look forward to reporting on outcomes shortly.

SEED Trials: The Surdna Foundation is supporting the largest trial to date for our public market economic impact measurement tool SEED — Sticky Economy Evaluation Device. Measuring nine markets in three cities — Baltimore, Cleveland, and Los Angeles — we are learning more about the “stickiness” of farmers market economies small and large. As national discourse remains transfixed on formal job numbers, we see need for more research to capture the dynamism in our sector: albeit a semi-formal if not informal sector.

A Cluster Analysis of Farmers Market Incentives: We have joined forces with the Fair Food Network, Roots of Change and the Wholesome Wave Foundation to conduct cluster analysis of the recent rise of programs that use carrots not sticks to improve food access to vulnerable consumers. In each of the studied programs, SNAP redemption is the desired goal. Through our MarketMatch, we have increased redemption rates by 90% each year for the past two-years.

Sharing

We are delighted to report that, after six-months of capacity building technical assistance to the fledgling Central Lo’uisiana farmers market in Oberlin, LA, organizers have received a competitive USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant of $47,000 to continuing to grow organizational capacity. Thank you to the Rapides Foundation for the wisdom to invest in its region’s markets. In other recent efforts, we have high profile presentations to the Aspen Ideas Festival, Ford/USDA Rural Wealth Conference, Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, and Community Food Security Coalition’s Food Justice Conference.

Growing

In New Orleans, our Crescent City Farmers Market continues to grow in an otherwise weak economy. We invite you to review our 2011 Economic Impact Study (produced using our SEED tool). It reveals a 20% increase on 2010’s performance. Meanwhile, we continue to deploy incentives to reward vulnerable seniors, SNAP and WIC participants who seek out fresh, healthy, local foods at our Market. In the Louisiana Department of Agriculture- and Emeril Lagasse Foundation-supported Meet Me at the Market program, we will teach 1,000 grade school students in their classroom and out at the Market. We are pleased to welcome two new staff members: Market Community Coordinator Elisa Munoz and Market Assistant Patrick Fee. And finally, a huge thank you to IBERIABANK, Tabasco Brand Products, Lazy Magnolia Brewery and Republic National Distributing Company for sponsoring our Sweet 16th Birthday Dinner fundraiser at Dooky Chase. Not only did celebrated chefs and dear friends Leah Chase and John Currence prepare the most daring mix of traditional and forward-leaning dishes on our Farm-to-Table menu, but we also managed to raise $25,000 towards our operating budget.