Last week, Sarah and I headed up to Chicago to attend the Illinois Farmers’ Market Association’s annual conference. We were excited to learn from other various other individuals and organizations that had stakes in the success of farmers’ markets and the local food movement. We heard from from other market managers, from lawyers and farmers about how we could make our market better, about others’ failures and successes, about the new rules for farmers’ markets an FSMA, new projects and tools being developed to strengthen this growing network of different pieces of the local food movement. In short, it was an amazing conference and we learned many ways to improve our second season of the Champaign Farmers’ Market.
I was most inspired by the success that other markets have had building strong relationships and partnerships with individuals in the community. A farmers’ market is nothing without its consumers, and even just in the first year, there were plenty of return customers that we recognized and became quick friends with.
It only made sense then, to work out how we could partner with community members in a more official capacity, considering how much they already were bringing to the table. We already have a sponsorship program for businesses who want to show their support, but what about individuals? So we have decided to create a “Friends of the Market”* membership program, where community members can pay a flat rate or volunteer a certain number of hours to join. In this way, individuals could show their commitment to the market, and we could show our gratitude by offering events, promotions, swag items, and entering members into exclusive raffles! At the end of the season, we will also hold a Friends of the Market party to thank all community members for making the market a success.
I hope this program would work to bring local food lovers, farmers, and vendors even closer together to build a strong foundation for this new market. What do you guys think? What kinds of benefits would you like to see offered? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
*Name and program details still pending.