Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

National Farmers Market Week: August 5-11

From the Farmers Market Coalition:

United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack proclaimed August 5th through 11th, 2012 as National Farmers Market Week.  Since 2000, when the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) first proclaimed National Farmers Market Week, the number of farmers markets has grown an estimated 170%, from 2,863 in 2000 to over 7,800 in 2012.  As these numbers increase, farmers markets are bolstering local economies, improving community health, and bringing diverse groups of people together through a shared social space. 

Across the country, farmers markets will be celebrating National Farmers Market Week through special events, contests, cooking demonstrations, tastings, and much more. During each day of National Farmers Market Week, the Farmers Market Coalition will celebrate a theme and highlight the accomplishments of stand-out markets in towns across America.

* Sunday, August 5th: Farmers markets and community education
Innovative partnerships that allow markets to serve as hubs of information
* Monday, August 6th:  Farmers markets and public health
Promoting good nutrition and healthful habits
* Tuesday, August 7th : Farmers markets as economic engines
Business incubation, job development, and local spending
* Wednesday, August 8th: Farmers at the center of the system
Governance and policies that put farmers first
* Thursday, August 9th: Farmers markets and food equity
Improving access to healthful foods in underserved neighborhoods  
* Friday, August 10th: Farmers markets and civic engagement
Growing social capital and engaging volunteers
* Saturday, August 11th: Farmers markets and rural renewal
Supporting agricultural diversity and farm viability, while inspiring a new generation of producers

One of the biggest "problems" in DC is the proliferation of farmers markets across the city, which provides breadth, but makes it very difficult for farmers to make money. People forget that farmers come to sell their goods not because they want to activate the place and space, but to generate income.

I have a past blog entry on reasons why communities create farmers markets here, "The reason(s) why a farmers market is created shapes the type and mix of vendors allowed to sell."

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And I wish that DC did more focused food security and food market planning and coordination than it does. Toronto's Food Policy Council is a good model for what can be done in this arena, although many other communities have set up similar food policy councils, following the example of Toronto.

Recently, I came across a nice blog entry on creating successful farmers markets from the Neighborhood Notes blog in Portland, "Ingredients of a successful farmers market," which references this market study of farmers markets, Portland Farmers Markets/Direct-Market Economic Analysis: Characteristics of Successful Farmers Markets.

(And Union Station needs a food market hall, like the one at Grand Central Station in New York City.)

The Post had an article earlier in the week, "Ward 8 farmers market helps local food assistance users one voucher at a time," about encouraging farmers market participation by WIC program participants.  From the article:

The Prince George’s County Women, Infants and Children (WIC) food assistance program was at the Ward 8 farmers market on Mississippi Avenue SE distributing $20 bonus vouchers to Leach and other clients, a once-a-year event.

On top of that, the farmers market was handing out bonus bucks for every dollar the clients spent, up to $25. By the end of Leach’s shopping trip, she had spent nearly $50 and had decided to return as frequently as possible to buy healthier food for herself and her baby. ...

Since earlier this year, Maryland food assistance users in programs such as WIC and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) have been allowed to use their vouchers at any farmers markets in Maryland and the District. Clients in the District enjoy similar benefits. Virginia does not have a program.

I thought that was interesting because 7 years ago at the International Public Markets conference in DC, one of the local farmers on a panel complained that they are active in markets in DC, Virginia, and Maryland and each state has different rules and procedures for farmer acceptance of food benefits and that they had to spend an inordinate amount of time following three different rules.  Harmonization is clearly in order.

It is unfortunate that DC and neighboring states don't work more closely together on agriculture matters.  Although this WIC/SNAP initiative that joins together DC and Maryland programs is a great first step.

I believe that the Departments of Agriculture in Virginia, West Virginia, to some extent Pennsylvania, and Maryland should support farmers markets and direct food sales in DC because DC is a primary market for those states.  Although the Southern Maryland Agriculture Development Commission does provide some financial support to their farmers to promote their presence at markets, including DC markets.  And now there is this WIC program.

I mentioned last week that on Tuesday evenings, Eastern Market has a late afternoon farmers market that you should check out.

Markets in Columbia, Missouri ("Farmers market funds new bus route," Columbia Daily Tribune) and in Ward 8 in DC ("Ward 8 Farmer's Market launches new free shuttle service," Washington Post;) among others have special shuttle services to bring people to the market. I tend to think this type of service tends to be under-utilized and is a waste of money.

It's best to locate farmers markets in active places well served by transit, so you don't have to make special trips to get there.  Project for Public Spaces calls this "layering" while Jane Jacobs called it "mixed primary uses."

DC's WMATA system isn't too focused on placemaking and supporting farmers markets at transit stations.

Philadelphia's SEPTA system has a completely different outlook on the matter, see the past blog entry, "Transit and placemaking."



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