How is a Farmers' Market Different than a Supermarket?
Vancity Community Foundation and the BC Association of Farmers Markets (BCAFM) have collaborated on the development of a Farmers Market Impact Toolkit that gives farmers market managers the means to collect, analyze and communicate the value that their farmers markets bring to their communities. The Toolkit materials and guides are now available for download!
The toolkit describes how farmers' markets impact three major outcomes:
- Farmers' Markets build strong local economies
- Farmers' Markets increase food security & ecosystem health
- Farmers' Markets build community
Critics of our modern agri-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 Supported Agriculture), produce delivery services, urban farms, and farmers markets are providing a growing portion of many 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?
Twenty farmers’ markets throughout BC have pilot-tested a collection of 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.
The Impact Toolkit pilot project complements a province-wide study on the economic benefits of farmers’ markets conducted this year by the BCAFM and Dr. David Connell, a food systems expert at UNBC. The toolkit complements the economic benefits study and with information about 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 Vancity Community Foundation 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 pilot project was officially announced to the BCAFM members.