News

Farmer Market Managers Highlights (full report is here)

In 2019, Farmers Market Managers operated 8,140 farmers markets.

The largest number of markets operated during June through September. The month of July was the highest month of operation, followed closely by August, with 71.9 percent and 71.8 percent, respectively. Twenty-one percent of the markets operated year round.

At 52.4 percent, Saturday was the most common day of operation.

Fruits and vegetables composed the most common food category sold at 99.6 percent of markets, followed by Condiments and sauce at 94.1 percent.

The percent of markets that had locally grown labeling totaled nearly 84.7 percent. Gluten free and Grass-fed had 46.1 percent and 46.0 percent, respectively.

Of the 4,076 markets that accepted Federal Nutrition Programs, 78.7 percent accepted Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

Of the 4,352 vendors/producers who accepted Federal Nutrition Programs, 66.7 percent accepted Women, Infants and Children’s (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP), followed closely by Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) at 66.3 percent.

On an average market day, 916 households shopped across markets in the U.S. and spent $14,547 per farmers market.

Farmers Market Managers served as paid employees in 4,321 markets, while in 3,162 they served as volunteers. On average, the paid Farmers Market Mangers earned $18.40 per hour. Managers worked an average of 19.4 hours per week.

There were 31,609 volunteers contributing their time across 5,078 markets.

I was honored to represent Texas on the advisory team for the National Good Food conference this year. The conference was in New Orleans March 10-13.. yes in 2020. Those early days of the COVID-19 pandemic hampered us a bit — no hugging ūüôĀ — but the sessions and keynote panels were so engaging, it was easy to focus even amidst the looming troubles. It was a great conference and I’m casting my vote that we do New Orleans again in 2022! Here’s a video to give you a sense of this amazing gathering of brilliant minds. -Sue Beckwith, TCLF

MEDIA RELEASE

August 18, 2020

Contact(s): Sue Beckwith, Texas Center for Local Food, sueb@TexasLocalFood.org 512-496-1244

Courtney Long, program manager, ISU Extension and Outreach Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program, court7@iastate.edu, 515-460-3227

ELGIN, TEXAS – A growing number of practitioners across the US are working to create and enhance thriving, equitable local and regional food systems. These food system practitioners have identified a need for professional development opportunities to build their skills and capacities and are pleased to release their report today.

In August 2019, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) formed a cooperative agreement with the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Farm, Food and Enterprise Development Program to work with national partners to develop a set of core competencies that food system practitioners deemed essential to their success.

Under the leadership of program director Craig Chase and program manager Courtney Long, a diverse group of more than 30 partners including the Texas Center for Local Food, identified nine core competency categories for food system practitioners. Categories range from community capacity and equity to policy and business development.  

The group then agreed upon a set of sample learning objectives related to each competency. Finally, based on a national survey, the team developed a matrix of existing curricula from providers across the US that can meet one or more of the learning objectives. 

‚ÄúRelating to agricultural marketing, extension educators identified a need for curricula that address emerging markets and consumer trends,‚ÄĚ said Courtney Long. ‚ÄúBuilding skills in those areas will help food businesses and farmer clients improve profitability.‚ÄĚ

‚ÄúAs a result of the burgeoning consumer interest in local food, we are seeing expanding career opportunities across the food system from increasing food access to enhancing economic development to catalyzing food business opportunities to reducing food waste,‚ÄĚ said Sue Beckwith, Executive Director of the Texas Center for Local Food. ‚ÄúBy identifying the requisite core competencies and essential skills, we have created the foundation for focused professional development that will increase our effectiveness and quality of work individually and collectively.”

The next step recommended by the project team is to create an online public access portal listing existing curricula based on the identified competencies. The portal also would offer information to assist food systems practitioners in understanding the logistics of accessing the curricula (location, costs, registration, etc.)

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The Texas Center for Local Food provides education, research, and technical assistance to create regional food systems in Texas that support prosperous family farms, healthy Texans and vibrant rural economies.  The Texas Center for Local Food is financially supported by members.  We invite you to join us today to support this important work.  TexasLocalFood.org

Related links:

Group photo of about 30 adults who worked together on the core curriculum project.
The Food Systems Core Competencies Project partners met in October 2019 in Chicago to begin developing a list of food system training requirements and available curricula.
Photo Credit: ISU Extension and Outreach

Whether you’re starting a new farmers market or building shared use commercial kitchen to support your downtown, the Council of Development Finance Agencies’ (CDFI) Food System Finance Initiative has excellent research and webinar series to guide you.

Keep in mind that “food initiatives” aren’t always about local farms or Texas agriculture. Lots of “local food” work includes supporting food trucks and other businesses that, while they provide jobs and economic activity (and that’s great), their ingredients are usually imported from outside Texas and outside the U.S.

Be clear about your goals and values. Write them down and use them to direct your decisions. If, for example, you want to support local farmers, then be sure your development incentives require outcomes that support farmers. If you want to support healthy food initiatives, be clear about that! While that bakery make smell great in your downtown, think about what healthy food will be available.

Most importantly, do it! Use local food, Texas grown food, to bring energy and economic vitality to your town, neighborhood, or community.

CDFA Food Systems Finance Webinar Series: Neighborhood Revitalization Through Food Systems Finance. The full list of food system financing resources on the CDFI site:

August 2-8 is National Farmers Market Week!  Farmers markets are one of the safest places to shop so grab your mask and get on over to your local market this week! The Texas Center for Local Food (TCLF) is honored to be the new statewide partner of the Farmers Market Coalition. When you become a member of TCLF you support our work to provide technical assistance for these critical access points for local food. Farmers markets are amazing!

When you shop at a farmers market nearly 100% of your dollar goes to the farmer. When you shop at a traditional retailer, only 15% goes to the farmer.

It felt so good to see 100 Texas Farm Veggie Boxes safely make their way home with folks on Wednesday afternoon!  The veggies were harvested Sunday and Monday, the boxes were packed Tuesday in Houston at the fabulous Common Market food hub, and they arrived at Elgin‚Äôs Firewild on Main St. on Wednesday morning. Prepaid orders were picked up curbside at designated pickup times to maintain social distancing and keep everyone healthy. Every ten boxes sold enabled us to donate a box to a vulnerable family.

Thanks to the support from the community, we were able to fund a donation of 10 boxes to the Elgin Community Health Center! Their wonderful staff identified 10 families with children who have diet-related illness to receive them.  The staff picked up their boxes Wednesday morning and got them to families that day. True to our mission during these difficult times, we plan to continue to grow this program and our capacity to provide increasing numbers of vulnerable families with fresh, nutrient rich food grown by Texas farmers. Every child who is healthier because of our collective work with you is a win for all of us.

This week’s Texas Farms Veggie Boxes this week included healthy portions of beautiful fresh broccoli, heirloom lettuce, green curly kale, green cabbage and sweet potatoes. Yum!  Each week, the farmers will select the best of seasonal vegetables and harvest them for Texas families.

This program is made possible in part by The Common Market, a mission-driven distributor of sustainable, local farm foods.  They typically sell wholesale to schools and restaurants, all of which are now closed, as you know. Veggie Box purchases ensure that many Texas farmers will continue to have income and that our Texas food system can withstand the economic impacts of COVID-19. 

Every Thursday,, we will be opening up orders for the following Wednesday‚Äôs veggie delivery and pick-up. For Wednesday, April 1, we have increased the total amount of boxes available for sale to 170.  We are currently working to make boxes available to SNAP (Lone Star Card) recipients.

To order, please visit the Texas Local Food Store.

Texas farmers who sell to restaurants, schools, hospitals have seen their orders vanish due to the COVID-19 crisis.  Meanwhile, plenty of fresh vegetables are in the fields and plenty of people need fresh food!  The Texas Center for Local Food is partnering with The Common Market food hub, Elgin Local Food Action Team, and FireWild Catering to pack these yummy vegetables into family size produce boxes and get them to you.  

The Texas Farm Veggie Boxes will be sold online and available for pick up in downtown Elgin, Texas once each week for the next 10 weeks (through May 27).  No delivery is available.  This is a pilot project so we might have some kinks!  We’re doing our best, as you are, to come together for our families and those most vulnerable.

Box price is $32 and the proceeds will go toward providing Texas Farm Veggie boxes to the most vulnerable families in the Elgin area.

As of March 22, only 80 boxes per week are available. Order yours today!  If this week is a success, we can get more boxes each week.  Should we get more? Add a comment below and let us know.

Order your Texas Veggie Box here 

Together.. we are moving forward!

Farmers and Ranchers: Here are software resources for taking pre-orders online and either delivering or having your customers pickup at the market or another location. Some of this software is pretty good and some is not great at all. Check reviews and be clear about what your farm business needs. Please add comments below to share information.

WEBINAR: APRIL 24, 2020 E-Commerce During COVID-19: Opportunities for Food Producers to Make Direct Market Sales Online – from the Northeastern Agricultural and Resource Economics Association.

Software

Local Food Marketplace – comprehensive including farm management, traceability and sales. Well tested software used by many many farmers.

Vinder – Plenty of potential here for quick low cost startup for farmers. Add your product availability, sell it and distribute it pre-paid at pickup locations of your choice including your farmers market. New and getting better.

SnackShare – Austin Texas only. delivers CSAs for GreenGate Farms and New Leaf Farm (both near Austin). Delivers to selected Austin zip codes only as of March 2020.

Barn2Door.com newish, very well funded; they seem to have done a thorough needs analysis prior to launch. We’ll keep watching and would like to hear your comments below.

Harvie.com from the fabulous Small Farm Central, a leader in CSA management software for over a decade.

Open Food Network

www.FarmersWeb.com

Software information in general

From Oregon Tilth webinar March 2020. Online Sales Platforms for Farmers

Direct Sales Platforms for Farmers (PDF) – National Young Farmers Coalition

Selling Real Farm Products in a Virtual Marketplace (2009) – Cornell

Additional Resources (thank you Oregon Tilth for the summary)