Demonstrating the Value of Farmers’ Markets

Fresh, organic produce, locally-grown herbs, farm-fresh culinary delights…what does all of this have to do with Demonstrating Value? A lot, in fact!

Beyond our regular work, Demonstrating Value also leads research and development projects to advance the state of measurement methods, tools and practice to better understand community impact. One such project currently underway is the Farmers’ Market Impact Toolkit Project. Take a look at a recent update from Garth Yule, Program Manager of Community Impact & Evaluation at Vancity Community Foundation to learn more about this exciting work.

Farmers’ Market Impact Toolkit Project

Critics of our modern industrial food system point out that if you ask urban dwellers where their food comes from, many will say “from the store” – a sad comment on our disconnection from the people that grow and process the things we eat. In recent years there has been an explosion of interest in renewing our relationships with local food producers. Food buyers are turning to farm-direct food sources; CSAs (Community Shared Agriculture), produce delivery services, urban farms, and farmers markets are providing a significant portion of some restaurant menus and household grocery lists.

This growth in the local food sector has brought with it a need for clear and understandable information about social, ecological and economic impacts . What does it mean that food comes “from the farmers’ market”? How, exactly, is it different than a supermarket? Why should we care?

Vancity Community Foundation and the BC Association of Farmers Markets (BCAFM) are collaborating on the development of a Farmers Market Impact Toolkit that will give farmers’ market managers the means to collect, analyze and communicate the value that farmers’ markets bring to their communities. Over a dozen farmers’ markets will be pilot-testing the surveys, other data-collection tools and reporting templates over the summer market season of 2012. The data they collect will not only help them communicate the value of what they do, but also help them monitor their performance and make important operational and policy decisions as key players in a growing sector of the economy. (See the project brief)

The BCAFM has engaged Dr. David Connell, a food systems expert at UNBC, to conduct a province-wide study on the economic impact of farmers’ markets. The Demonstrating Value staff at VCF are working closely with Dr. Connell and the BCAFM to deliver the Farmer’s Market Impact Toolkit to participating markets at the same time as the study. The Toolkit complements the economic impact study and focuses on the community-building and social capital aspects of farmers markets, and how this information can be presented to key stakeholders (like customers, vendors, municipalities, and investors) in a compelling interactive ‘snapshot’.

The project is an exciting opportunity for VCF and BCAFM to share their resources and networks in the local food space. Garth Yule (of VCF) and Rebecca Pearson (of Vancity) were featured speakers at the BCAFM annual conference in Courtenay, BC in early March of 2012, where the Impact Toolkit was officially announced to the BCAFM members. There is a lot of ‘buzz’ among farmers’ market managers and many are very excited to be part of the Toolkit pilot study. The Demonstrating Value team looks forward to spending our summer on the road visiting farmers’ markets and using the Toolkit with them.

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