Richmond, VA - March 30, 2017 - Being a farmers market manager means wearing a lot of hats. One day you're recruiting and vetting vendors. The next you're writing newsletters and blog posts to promote your market. The following day you may be booking musicians and planning children's activities. All the while, you field calls about food safety, SNAP benefits and booth fees. And that is all before market day arrives. New market managers quite understandably often feel overwhelmed, especially since they are typically working on their own. Recognizing this, the Virginia Farmers Market Association (VAFMA) and Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) launched a training program for the state's 220+ market managers this year.
The Market Manager Certification Program, sponsored in part by Virginia Grown, is the first of its kind in Virginia. It is a 16-week interactive program that addresses real-world farmers market issues. Through a combination of in-person workshops and online webinars, participants learn tactics for creating markets that are not only profitable for farmers but that also welcome customers with vibrant shopping experiences.
Because it is a pilot program, organizers capped enrollment to 14 students. The spots filled up quickly and a waiting list formed for the session that began February 10th and runs through June 2, 2017. VCE Instructor and VAFMA board member Meredith Ledlie Johnson said "we're very excited that all the planning that went into it seems to have paid off and there is an incredible amount of interest in it from market managers around the state." Participants represent 14 different localities from Tidewater, the Highlands, Southwest Virginia, the Shenandoah region and the Capital area.
"People from all over the state came together because they really value learning from each other" Johnson said. She added, "managing can be a lonely job because you're the only one there in that role."
The course is designed to promote interaction among participants. Justin McKenzie, new market manager of the Charlottesville City Market, praised this aspect of the program. "It's really exciting to collaborate with other Virginia farmers markets. That's where I feel like the real benefit is - you can bounce ideas off each other and see how they have solved problems."
Prior to this training program McKenzie said he relied on scoping through the Internet for information. "I remember when I first took the position, I only found a few write-ups on how to manage a market - what it actually entails. So a lot of it is just you being thrown into the fire. A program like this will actually prepare market managers for what lies ahead."
Kim Usry of the Carytown Farmers Market in Richmond agreed. "Without a training program like this," she said "you have to fly by the seat of your pants. You're adaptable and flexible and just fly by the seat of your pants."
Graduates of the program earn the title of Certified Market Manager and will be prepared to manage the complex and diverse challenges of farmers markets.
Leslie Vanover of the Marion Farmers Market in Southwest Virginia said "I just see nothing but a better market in our future and I believe these are the tools that are going to make it happen."
For more about the program visit http://www.vafma.org/market-manager-certification/
About the Virginia Farmers Market Association
The core mission of VAFMA is to support farmers markets through education initiatives, while building opportunities for collaboration, networking, advocacy and innovation that supports the growth and sustainability of farmers markets statewide. www.vafma.org
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