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Farmers Markets Selected for Innovative Statewide Training Network

On July 16, 2012, The West Virginia Farmers Market Association announced that it has selected ten markets for participation in its Farmers Market Training Network Pilot Program.

With the number of farmers markets in West Virginia roughly tripling over the past decade, interest in local foods is on the rise. In order to support the efforts of markets and co-ops around the state, the West Virginia Farmers Market Association is launching a pilot program aimed at forming a training network for markets in all stages of development. This program, the Farmers Market Training Network Pilot Program, is designed to provide training, networking opportunities and technical assistance to selected farmers markets. The end goal of the project is to keep more money circulating in local communities by boosting the long-term success of farmers markets and the profitability of their vendors.

Developed in partnership with the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, WVU Extension Service and the West Virginia Community Development Hub, the purpose of the program is to strengthen the long-term viability of farmers markets and the income-earning capacity of their vendors through targeted technical assistance and peer networking. Funding is provided through a grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

The process was competitive, with the Farmers Market Association selecting ten applicants from a larger pool for a spot in the Training Network. The following markets were identified as the best fits for the program: Berkeley Springs Farmers Market; Buckhannon-Upshur Farmers Market; Fayette County Farmers Market; Lewisburg Farmers Market; Mineral County Famers Market; Monroe County Farmers Market; Pocahontas County Farmers Market; Putnam County Farmers Market; The Wild Ramp (a new local foods outlet in Huntington); and the Williamson Farmers Market. “We had a great pool of applicants to choose from, and I think we have done a good job of selecting markets from all over the state that can really get maximum impact from this program,” said Larry Lower, WVFMA President.

Over the course of the 2012 and 2013 market seasons, these selected markets will attend four training and networking events with other market managers, will receive assistance from a qualified consultant on a topic of their choosing and will be eligible to apply for a mini-grant of up to $1,000 to address their needs. Participants will have access to expert advice on topics such as risk management, long term business planning and producer development. “In talking with market managers, we often hear that they feel isolated and that they want to learn what makes other markets successful,” stated Savanna Lyons, Program Manager of the West Virginia Food and Farms Coalition. “This program is a great, participant-driven way for market managers to learn from each other while getting that little kick of cash and technical assistance to help them move to the next level. Strong markets will make farmers more profitable as well, especially now that more and more West Virginia farmers are selling directly to consumers.”

Participants will also become part of a statewide learning community and build relationships with other markets so that they can share knowledge and collaborate. Said Lower, “We believe that this sort of training and peer networking is crucial to the development of a robust foodshed in our state. We look forward to seeing great results from this program.”

The Farmers Market Training Network Pilot Program is a West Virginia Farmers Market Association intiative funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and coordinated in partnership with the the West Virginia Food & Farm Coalition, WVU Extension Service, and the West Virginia Community Development Hub

For more information, contact Kelly Crane, West Virginia Farmers Market Association, coordinator@wvfarmers.org