The California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets is a newly formed coalition of farmers’ markets from around the state of California, committed to working together for the betterment of our industry. The Alliance has five main activity areas:
Access & Equity
This working group is focused on increasing access to fresh fruits and vegetables for low-income communities and communities of color through programs such as Market Match, Fruit and Vegetable Rx, and increased EBT and WIC access at farmers’ markets. This group is also looking at the larger questions of finding the best access solutions for fresh produce in low-income communities, and building the local capacity to create and sustain them. This group is also studying various alternatives such as food hubs, produce stands, and mobile markets.
Policy & Advocacy
Even as it was forming, the Alliance was engaged in the process of reviewing and revising California’s Direct Marketing regulations. Part of the process that led to the formation of the Alliance included rapidly gathering input from market managers and operators, building the Policy Working Group, and developing a report with recommendations for CDFA. We were actively engaged in the development of A.B. 996 and expect to be engaged in the political process in 2014. This Working Group will continue to assess and respond to policies such as this and will also begin to make new policy recommendations.
Best Practices & Professional Development
In spite of rapid growth and over three decades of accumulated best practices and expertise, no formal training or unifying certification for market management exists. Policies, practices, and regulatory enforcement vary greatly among farmers’ markets. For example, shoppers have no consistent and credible way of knowing if they are buying directly from a grower or if they are illegally being sold Washington-grown apples snuck in by an unscrupulous vendor. The California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets wants to create a foundation for best practices, professional development, and industry self-regulation.
Marketing & Consumer Education
The California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets wants shoppers to understand how purchasing directly from farmers is fundamentally different and inherently better than buying from large retailers. Developing a clear brand, value proposition, and media strategy is critical to the long-term success of the sector. Through the Alliance, farmers’ market managers can collaborate to create a statewide marketing campaign that conveys the benefits of shopping at farmers’ markets. These days, stores like Albertsons and Safeway are capitalizing on the popularity of farmers’ markets by calling their produce sections “Farmers’ Markets.” Educating consumers about the distinctions is crucial.
From their inception, farmers’ markets have been a place for farmers to sell the agricultural products that they have grown directly to urban consumers. This relationship was codified into law in 1978 and over time has only become more important. The trust that consumers place in farmers selling at farmers’ markets is vital to the industry. The California Alliance of Farmers’ Markets is dedicated to preserving and improving the integrity of farmers’ markets throughout the state.