In 2012, Vancity Community Foundation (VCF) and the BC Association of Farmers Markets collaborated on the development of a Farmers Market Impact Toolkit that is available on the Demonstrating Value resource page. Over the past few years, the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) in the United States has been embarking on its own measurement project, which builds on our project in many ways. DVRS’s Director and Program Manager of Evaluation at VCF, Bryn Sadownik, is currently serving as an advisor to their project - Indicators for Impact: Farmers Markets as Leaders in Collaborative Food System Data Collection – which they are conducing in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
They recently finished the first year of their pilot, and it is really interesting to look at the similarities and differences in what they are doing and finding.
- They are grouping metrics into four types of benefits that markets provide: economic (i.e. sales or job creation), ecological (land stewardship), social (new relationships) and human (skills gained or knowledge transferred). These benefit areas can also be interpreted as building different forms of community capital. I love the notion of framing impact in terms of different types of capital that are developed in a community. The first three categories are very similar between our toolkits. The fourth differs significantly – the BC toolkit incorporates market management grouping instead, essentially expanding the toolkit to service both impact and performance management needs.
- U.S. Pilots all collected data on four pre-determined indicators and the could select additional indicators from a larger menu. They then received collection tools and guidance developed for those indicators. In contrast, the starting point with the BC toolkit was to administer set surveys to key market stakeholders that result in a comprehensive set of indicators. The added flexibility of the FMC toolkit is a positive move, which could help measurement better match the scale, needs and existing practices of the market, and ultimately make impact measurement much more manageable. For a small-scale pilot, survey and other tools can easily be tailored to collect the desired indicators. It will be more challenging to do this at a large scale, so that volunteers and others can easily administer data collection.
- At the conclusion of the BC toolkit project, I recommended that future efforts focus on making data collection more seamless, and that mobile data collection could be used to this end. Interestingly, while this option was available to the US pilots (and they could receive project mini-iPads for data collection) the majority of markets did not choose to use mobile data collection.
- Data collection in both projects has heavily relied on the goodwill and labour of volunteers. A thanks goes out to volunteers everywhere!!!
The FMC project team is now beginning to examine the data that are coming in and will prepare tailored summary reports for markets to share with their partners and stakeholders and to prepare for next year's data collection. For more observation and learning from the FMC pilot, see Darlene Wolnick’s recent FMC blog post and stay tuned to FMC Farmers Market Metric Page.