West Virginia Farmers Market Training Network: A Case Study in Connecting Markets and Resources
Keywords:Farmers Markets, Market Development, Producer Development, Training Program, Business Planning
Farmers markets provide social and economic benefits to farmers and communities. In West Virginia, local food, farm, and community development organizations are collaborating to strengthen local food networks. In this reflective essay we discuss the development and execution of a statewide pilot training program for market managers and volunteer leaders and provide results from first year evaluations. Launched in 2012, the West Virginia Farmers Market Training Network Pilot Program (FMTNPP) was designed to address the needs of 10 markets in various stages of development across the state. Originally envisioned as a direct technical assistance model, the program organizers rapidly recognized the benefits of peer-to-peer learning and shifted its focus to a hybrid model that embraced both expert and practitioner knowledge. Today, the program emphasizes shared knowledge creation and problem solving, along with strong networking and data collection components. We believe the lessons and strategies learned during the program's implementation will be valuable for food system organizers and service providers trying to encourage the growth and sustainability of small, rural farmers markets.
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