Source: UNIV OF WISCONSIN submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Jan 15, 2023
Project End Date
Jan 14, 2026
Grant Year
Project Director
Recipient Organization
21 N PARK ST STE 6401
MADISON,WI 53715-1218
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
The overarching goal of this project is to strengthen the capacity of farmers markets to attract new consumers to purchase products from small and medium sized farms. To accomplish this, the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) partnered with communication researchers who specialize in food systems. Our first objective is to identify current and potential farmers market consumer segments with an emphasis on individuals underrepresented at farmers markets. We will do this by conducting a national survey. Informed by those findings, we will test messaging strategies on social media through partnerships with diverse farmers markets. This innovative approach will allow us to examine the efficacy of message frames at increasing interest in farmers markets among audience segments. Thirdly, we will incorporate our findings into an expansion of FMC's free evaluation resources and messaging resources (a new communications toolkit and an updated National Farmers Market week toolkit). Lastly, we will conduct a series of webinars to allow for regional dissemination of our findings and resources through partnerships with Extension's national Community, Local, and Regional Food Systems Team and the North American Food System Network. Our project addresses the "small and medium sized farms" program priority area because it will encourage a new generation of customers to purchase food directly from small and medium sized farms at farmers markets. Many farms rely on farmers markets to provide this kind of high-level marketing support.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
The overarching goal of this project is to strengthen the capacity of farmers markets to understand and attract new consumers to purchase products from small and medium size-farms. This project will help direct-to-market farmers prepare for the next generation of consumers. We aim to empower markets to cultivate relationships with new consumers to small and medium size-farms who sell at the markets. To accomplish this, we have four main objectives:1) Identify and describe new consumer segments for direct-market channels through a national survey.2) Work with market operators and state associations to test the efficacy of different message frames based on audience segmentation using readily actionable targeting variables from dominant social media platforms.3) Expand evaluation and messaging resources for market operators and farm vendors.4) Encourage regional adoption of these strategies through strategic partnerships.
Project Methods
1) Identify and describe new consumer segments for direct-market channels through a national survey.Activity: Our national survey will ask individuals questions about online shopping preferences, preferences for different types of markets, motivations and challenges to shopping at farmers markets, communication behaviors, lifestyle factors, and background characteristics to segment consumers into current or potential farmers market shoppers.Techniques: We will work with NORC at the University of Chicago to use their nationally representative panel of Americans. We will also create an electronic version of the survey to share with farmers market managers to share with their customers.Data analysis: We will examine current and potential consumer segments with two approaches -- a deductive and inductive approach. Deductively, we will compare and contrast responses of survey participants who are younger and from more diverse groups. In addition, we will use an inductive segmentation technique called cluster analysis to validate and refine our audience segmentation framework. Once individuals have been assigned a cluster, other differences between clusters will be examined with ANOVA. Lastly, we will use regression analysis to uncover other trends in the data.Milestones & evaluation: We will evaluate this part of the project based on the identification of at least five distinct consumer segments from the data, with additional insights relevant to younger and diverse audiences.2) Work with market operators and state associations to test the efficacy of different message frames based on audience segmentation using readily actionable targeting variables from dominant social media platforms.Activity: Facebook and Instagram will be used as the message platforms for this project.Our study will be conducted by administering the social media accounts of participating farmers market managers to track a variety of outcome metrics.Techniques: We will partner with 12 farmers market managers in Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Participating farmers market managers will temporarily share administrative access to their accounts and receive our expertise and a set amount of funds ($12,000 total) to use for testing messages in their locations.Then, we will run two types of social media message tests:(1) Compare key messages for shopping at farmers markets: Based on our survey, we will test what messages resonate most with potential farmers market shoppers in generalas well as by demographics.(2) Targeted audience comparison: Using audience segmentation, we will identify audience targeting variables and test their efficacy with messages crafted for each audience segment.Stakeholder involvement: The leaders on our advisory team will help recruit 12 diverse farmers markets to work with. We will select markets that already actively collect data about visitors (e.g., customer surveys and customer counts). The recruitedmanagers will be involved with planning and implementation of the social media tests. Managers will give feedback on the messagesand then they will help to implement the tests as the messages will be posted through their social media accounts. They will also supply data about on-the-ground changes at their markets through customer counts and surveys to help us connect the social media ads to actual market participation.Data analysis: We will compare the performance of each ad tested based on ad effectiveness and engagement metrics. We willalso compare performance based on the type of community the ads ran in. We will havemarkets track customer traffic before, during, and after our social media campaigns, and conduct customer surveys to learn if new customers heard about the market via the social media posts.Milestones & evaluation: We will evaluate our social media tests as a success if 12 farmers market managers are recruited and our ads result in at least 100,000 social media engagements. A boost in market attendance will also be measured, with a target of 15%.3) Expand evaluation and messaging resources for market operators.Activity: With strategic insights from tour research, the FMC evaluation resources will be updated. FMC will provide a set of worksheets for each market type in the project to a) gather data on their reach, b) to make their own selection of the available metrics that are most useful for their market and c) to support their evaluation of this type of messaging for their market.Techniques: The new evaluation resources will include new metrics that prioritize messages that appeal to customers and include data collection methodsfor the markets to measure the frequency and average shopping level of the new shoppers. The content for the National Farmers Market Week toolkit will focus on social media, and for the new communication toolkit will include short videos, graphics, and fact sheets.Stakeholder involvement: We will collect feedback from our advisors and invite managers to provide feedback on drafts of the new content through an online meeting. Their feedback will be incorporated into the final content and we will share the content at our webinars.Milestones & evaluation: We expect at least 1,000 downloads of materials from the new evaluation and messaging resources. We will also track website visits to the resources, communication toolkit, and updated National Farmers Week toolkit. We will conduct an online survey by sharing a link to market managers to evaluate this part of the project. We will include questions about the utility of the new resources, and we will ask whether managers have used or will use the contentand ways to improve the content.4) Encourage regional adoption of these strategies through strategic partnerships.Activity: We will focus on three strategic partnerships: Extension, the North American Food Systems Network, and state farmers market associations in six states. One webinar will be aimed at Extension educators, and the style will be train-the-trainer. During the webinar, we will provide a curriculum that includes lessons learned from our survey and social media tests, how this data informs communication strategies for farmers market managers, techniques to use these strategies in social media, and a ready-made slide deck that educators can use for their own training. The next two webinars will share similar content but will be tailored to scholars, direct-to-market farmers, and food systems entrepreneurs.Technique: We will recruit participants for the webinars via the Community, Local & Regional Food Systems Extension listserv, the Extension Foundation listserv, the NAFSN listserv, and additional contacts cultivated by NAFSN. We will ensure that the content is also helpful for viewers to use asynchronously and archived as well for future use.Stakeholder involvement: We will seek input from advisors about the webinars. Participants will provide feedback about our materials.Milestones & Evaluation: We anticipate at least 225 participants between the three webinars and an additional 450 webinar views using the archived versions of the webinars. We will conduct a brief survey of webinar participants to learn if they feel prepared to use the content. For the Extension educators, we will also ask about their preparedness to offer their own training.