Looking Back: Convention 2017

The 2017 Maine Farmer’ Market Convention took place January 29th at the Alfond Campus of the Kennebec Valley Community College. With 15 separate sessions and 130 attendees (representing 50 markets!) it was a busy and productive day. Below is the list of breakout sessions, with links to available presentations.  IMG_0681

Convention Sessions

Taking the lead: Cultivate a collaborative market to find success

  1. Take a proactive approach to food safety to build a stronger market Let the inspection staff of Quality Assurance and Regulations help you take the lead! QA&R will talk about how the inspection staff can help make your market stronger and take some of the stress off of the market manager’s shoulders.  Other topics of interest to be presented will be food sovereignty, gleaning, and small poultry grower exemptions. (Ronda Stone, Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, office of Consumer Protection). Presentation slides here.
  2. Bring the whole family: integrating youth and family programming at the farmers’ market – Youth and family programming encourages kids to explore local food and relationships with those that produce it, and can attract new shoppers to the market. Can these events be planned without placing undue demands on market members, and are they really worthwhile? Hear about the benefits, challenges, and logistics from markets (and their program partners) with years of experience. (Deb Barnett, Kennebec Cooperative Extension; Trisha Smith, Piscataquis Cooperative Extension,  Nancy Wood, Knox County SNAP-Ed;  Elizabeth Siegel, Union Farmers’ Market.) Presentation slides here.
  3. Partnering with municipalities: It’s a team effort – Learn strategies to build strong relationships with town leadership, establish mutually beneficial agreements with clear expectations, and how to navigate challenges. Connecting positively with local government helps ensure market sustainability when new officials take over, when the market needs to move, and when regulatory issues arise.  (Lief Dahlin, City of Augusta, Gail Chase, Kennebec Valley Council of Governments, and Clayton Carter, Bangor Farmers’ Market.) Presentation slides here.
  4. What’s the Plan? How to make and sustain an effective SNAP outreach plan – Every year, more Maine markets begin accepting SNAP benefits, and face the challenge of promoting their new programs and attracting shoppers. In this session we’ll learn what works at the local level as well as regional strategies, plus learn about strategies that are working for farmers’ markets in other states. (Elizabeth Pratt, University of Southern New England SNAP-Ed; Tasha Gerken, SNAP-Ed; Jess Gorton, Augusta Farmers’ Market at Mill Park, and Leah Johnson, Wholesome Wave.) Presentation slides here.
  5. Keep the peace: Dealing with difficult people on both sides of the tent – In the farmers’ market environment, you never know what to expect, from disruptive buskers, petitioners, combative or unreasonable market shoppers, to resentments among market members. Learn some steps to take to promote a drama-free market. (Jack McAdam, McDougal Orchards and Mark Guzzi, Peacemeal Farm.)
  6. Do I stay or do I go? Evaluating if a market is right for you –  In this session, we will consider the social, financial, and logistical reasons for leaving a farmers’ market. We will discuss the costs of doing a market and how one analyzes if staying in a market is profitable, explore the many non-financial reasons farmers consider when contemplating exiting a market and how to exit a market in a responsible way that doesn’t discourage customers. (Bob Neal, former owner and operator of The Turkey Farm in New Sharon and Arlene Brokaw of Imagine Dairy Farm)
  7. Market Manager Roundtable Discussion – Join other market managers to compare notes, problem solve, and celebrate successes.
Thank you, convention sponsors!

Keynote: Resurgent Farmers’ Markets: Impacts Around the US and Prospects for Maine Dr. Alfonso Morales (Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, and director of the Metrics + Indicators for Impact project, University of Wisconsin-Madison) will discuss contemporary trends for farmers’ markets and how these may impact Maine farmers’ markets. Presentation slides here.

Taking the lead: Set goals and develop tactics for sustainable growth

  1. Breaking federal grants down to size: Find funding to grow your market business – Dreaming of building a high tunnel, developing a new specialty food line, or of adding a solar array to save on energy costs? Applying for federal grants can be daunting, but the results can be dramatic for small businesses. Learn about some relevant grant programs, strategies for the application process, and tips on implementation. The specific grant programs to be discussed include Value-Added Producer, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Renewable Energy (REAP), and Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE). (Brian Wilson, USDA Rural Development, Abby Sadauckas, Apple Creek Farm.)  Presentation slides here.
  2. Collecting and using data to tell your market’s story and strategize for growth – Learn how data can provide insights into the challenges and opportunities facing your market, and consider information collection strategies, including long-term data collection and regional farmers’ market data collection begun in Maine. (Lisa Lucas, MPH, Associate Research Specialist for the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Metrics + Indicators for Impact project and Leigh Hallett, MFFM executive director.) Presentation slides here and here.
  3. IMG_0678Design Your Market for Flow & Function – So little space, so many vendors? Too much space, so few vendors?  Come, think, talk about ways to set up a market to utilize the space available to its best advantage, to try to equalize the playing field between the vendors while keeping available access! Even markets with plenty of room face design challenges; throw in space constraints, and thoughtful market design becomes even more crucial – and sometimes puzzling.  (Simon Frost, Thirty Acre Farm.)
  4. Striking a balance between farmers, value-added farmers, and other vendors – How does a market find the right balance between farmers and other vendors so that the market is worthwhile for vendors and attractive to shoppers? Learn about the considerations both vendors and managers face when navigating these decisions. (Caitlin Hunter, Appleton Creamery, and Ramona Snell, Snell Family Farm.)
  5. Marketing and advertising ideas for reaching new customers and keeping the regulars coming back Learn about real examples of strategies that have worked and ways to establish what will work best for your customer base. (Sarah Smith, Grassland Farm and Clara Moore, Portland Farmers’ Market.)
  6. SNAP Roundtable Discussion – Join MFFM staff and others experienced in operating SNAP/EBT programs at farmers’ markets to talk about ways to build a strong program from the ground up. Bring your questions for this informal session. (Emilie Knight, MFFM SNAP Program Coordinator.)
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