Dear Friends of VAFMA,

This has been a pivotal year for the Virginia Farmers Market Association. We have launched and expanded initiatives that have been brewing for years.

It is with the deepest gratitude that I share these 2023 highlights with you — our members, partners, and supporters. These accomplishments are the result of your combined support.

This month we were thrilled to launch the Farmers Market University, our online learning platform. After years of hearing from folks from around the US, we realized there was national interest in our courses. While our priority is Virginia’s markets, we are happy to share our classes beyond the state. Our site currently hosts two on demand courses — Market Management 101 and Market Management 201. And, of course the class that started it all, our live, instructor-led Market Manager Certification Course begins its 8th season in January. There is still space available if you want to join us.

In March our food safety education offerings took a leap forward with our new Virginia Farmers Market Food Safety Summit. This day long online training provided market managers and food growers/vendors with a better understanding of the food laws in Virginia. Thanks to your feedback, we are transitioning the way we present this info in 2024. We are working with VSU and our incredible state agency partners at VDACS, VDH, and VCE to streamline the info to cut down the time it takes to view the content. Phew! Right?

After several years in development, the Virginia Certified Farmers Market System is ready for markets to apply! We worked with our first group of applicants to fine tune the program and are very excited to announce our first certified farmers markets in January. This program, funded by a USDA FMPP grant, is a way to bring new shoppers to your markets. Be sure to check out our promotional video linked below.

Another way we are getting more folks to your markets and more dollars in farmers pockets is by expanding the Senior & WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program. Through our partnership with the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) and VSU, this federal food assistance program is now available to low-income seniors and WIC recipients at 150 Virginia farmers markets. 270 farms participate in the program, an increase of 96 farms this year alone. We will continue to expand the program in 2024.

The best part of our jobs has always been visiting farms and farmers markets. This year we set the intention to increase our farmers market promotion efforts and we followed through! We visited 121 markets and 31 farms. Visit VAFMA’s Instagram page to follow our adventures.

In addition to distributing 30,000 Virginia Farmers Market Trail brochures through Virginia Tourism’s welcome centers, we expanded the Trail’s market map and mobile apps so that new shoppers can find your markets. Thanks to VSU’s Computer Science Department and Farmspread, we now have two mobile apps – one for iPhone and one for Android. Updating your market’s information on Farmspread shares it with our websites, mobile apps, and our partners’ websites. VSU is also conducting consumer research to give us insights into how to attract more market shoppers.

You may have noticed I mentioned VSU a lot. Our partnership with Virginia State University has been transformational for VAFMA. From the very beginning when Dr. Theresa Nartea wrote and was awarded the Farmers Market Promotion Program grant that helped create our organization, to our many vendor trainings with Michael Carter Jr of the Small Farm Outreach Program (SFOP), to the farm visit support of William Crutchfield and his team at SFOP, to the Spanish translation services of Leonel Castillo, to the mobile app development of Dr. Wei-Bang Chen and his Computer Science students, to Dr. Janine Woods and Dr. Nartea involving us in the 1890s HBCU Farmers Market Pilot Project, and, most especially to the leadership of Dr. Omar Faison, our Board President. Dr. Faison and VSU’s partnership with us enabled us to receive grants from the USDA and Virginia Tourism that funded the creation of the Virginia Certified Farmers Market System, the Farmers Market University, and the Virginia Farmers Market Trail.

I am also excited to announce one more VSU-VAFMA project … drum roll please … the 2024 Virginia Farmers Market Conference! It will be IN PERSON, November 13-15, 2024. I cannot thank Dr. Faison, Dr. Woods, and Dr. Nartea enough for agreeing to help us make this event happen. More details to come.

As I said, this has been a pivotal year, and we are beyond excited for 2024. Please help us keep the momentum going by making a year-end contribution. When renewing your membership, add an additional $50 or $100. If you’re not already a member, please consider joining our association.

VAFMA is the only organization in the state completely focused on the success of farmers markets. The only way we can continue to offer the level of service you have come to expect is through your support.

Thank you and I wish you and yours a fabulous holiday season,

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More Updates and Program Links

VAFMA Staff Changes:

  • Mary Delicate will be solely focused on coordinating Farmers Market University.
  • Meredith Ledlie Johnson is coordinating the Virginia Certified Farmers Market System and Market Management 201. She is also chairing the Conference Committee.
  • Lanae Hood of Virginia Fresh Match is now leading our Market Manager Certification class.
  • Navi Johnson and Markia Baker of NM Legaci Marketing are taking over VAFMA’s social media.
  • We are hiring a Food Safety Programming Coordinator

Program Links

Funding for this publication was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant 21FMPPVA1084. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.