An exciting project for the Upper Valley Farmers’ Market Collaborative is helping markets identify areas to improve or strengthen. A market might decide to improve sales, customer traffic, vendor recruitment, governance structure, or other priorities, developing a plan to address the issue or reach the goal. One tool we are using to help markets prioritize their goals is market assessments. Market assessments can come in many forms depending on what you want to measure/track, and this summer we are working with the Royalton, Newport, and Claremont markets to measure customer visitation and the markets’ impact on the local economy.
On July 20 I spent the afternoon at the Newport Farmers’ Market working with Richard Scheuer, the market manager, and six volunteers to perform just this type of assessment. The day was perfect (sunny and 80 degrees) and the volunteers were eager to help the market. Counting customers sounds like and easy task, but many markets are in open locations with many entrances making counting everyone a challenge. Survey tape to block off all but a couple entrances, signage, and notifying vendors and customers what is going solved this problem. With clickers in hand, four volunteers counted every adult entering the market- there were 386!
Polling or surveying customers as they finished shopping was the other part of the Newport assessment. The eight-question poll asked about market shopping habits, amount spent at the market, and zip code, along with a few other qualitative questions.
I’m still compiling the results, and when I do, a report will be shared with the Newport Farmers’ Market. This data will inform the decisions/actions the market makes – which is the goal of assessments. This data will also provide a baseline. Strengthening markets means knowing where they’re at now (baseline), where they want to go (goal), and measuring to see if they are moving toward their goals. So, we’ll be back at Newport next year and beyond performing a similar market assessment to track the progress as they work to improve the overall market and sales for the vendors.
We’ll be at the Claremont Farmers’ Market Saturday September 8 from 9am – 1 pm counting customers and asking them about their market experience – hope to see you there!