Have you evaluated your farmers market lately?

Growing Hope offers evaluation services to Michigan Farmers Market Association member markets.

After months of planning, countless phone calls and a whole lot of coffee, your farmers market is open. The only question now is, how well is it working? Feedback on a market is essential to make sure customers and vendors are satisfied. It is also critical for the long-term sustainability of the market, as it both tells you how you are doing, how you can do better and what the impacts are. With the chaos of running a market, many managers see self-evaluation as an afterthought. One way to get around this issue is to contract another organization to do the legwork and then use the results to make improvements. One such organization that provides this service is Growing Hope, based in Ypsilanti, Michigan.  

Growing Hope is an organization with roots tracing back to 1999 when the Perry Learning Garden was established. Back then, the goal was to teach young children about gardening. In 2003, they incorporated as Growing Hope with a mission of helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and increasing access to healthy food. Amanda Edmonds, Executive Director of Growing Hope says they realized that one of the best ways to ensure everyone has access to fresh, healthy food is through farmers markets.  Growing Hope founded its Ypsilanti Farmers Market-Downtown in 2006 and now runs two weekly markets and a mobile farm stand. Edmonds reports that they are in process of developing a year-round Ypsilanti Farmers MarketPlace and micro-food hub.

Growing Hope offers a wide range of services to help markets know how they are doing. They can perform surveys of patrons and vendors, evaluate the market facilitates or even send in secret shoppers to see how guests are treated. They aim to build the market’s capacity to track and evaluate the market themselves when possible—with 11 years of on-the-ground experience doing it—and can help markets create evaluation plans, tools and templates. The general evaluation costs are $50-100 per hour. These services are only provided to farmers markets that are members of the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA). MIFMA is an organization that attempts to unify all farmers markets across the state by providing networking and educational opportunities. Edmonds says Growing Hope thinks MIFMA membership is the first step to any market being strong.

Evaluating your farmers market will give you ideas on how to boost sales and customer satisfaction. With the help of organizations like Growing Hope, evaluating your market and building your own capacity to evaluate it can be supported by professionals with years of experience. Looking for more information about farmers markets? Michigan State University Extension has Community Food Systems educators around the state who can help. Contact us at 1-888-678-3464.


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