“Diversity is our strength” is Brown Deer Farmers Market’s slogan. Unfortunately, farmers markets are not always thought of as hosting a diverse patronage. A large part of this is due to the perception of farmers markets as unaffordable or non-welcoming to people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.
In 2018, Farm 2 Facts began our project to improve the accessibility of the Brown Deer Farmers Market in Brown Deer, WI in North Milwaukee. A student and key part of the F2F team, Chloe Green, received a Wisconsin Idea Fellowship through the Morgridge Center for Public Service for a project she created titled “A Farmers Market for All? A look into the true accessibility of farmers markets.” She sought to study the effective affordability and accessibility of markets in Wisconsin, especially in low income communities and communities of color.
Chloe and the rest of the Farm 2 Facts team created a “Model Market” program for the Brown Deer Market, which was chosen for its racially diverse and relatively lower income population. Farm2Facts built a marketing campaign with inclusive graphic designs for Brown Deer which featured people using SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education) and EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) at the market, and hired a Market Access Coordinator (MAC). The F2F team also created and distributed flyers, postcards, business cards, and had a road sign custom-made for the Brown Deer Farmers Markets. This marketing material won the Best EBT/ Nutrition Incentive category of the Farmers Market Coalitions 2019 national poster contest.
Chloe chose the MAC from the Brown Deer Community so the market shoppers would see a friendly and familiar face at the market.The MAC connected the market to its surrounding community, and attempted to target populations which are often underserved by farmers markets. She frequented places with locals such as daycares, senior homes, and low-income apartments to increase SNAP and WIC participation at the market. She also worked with the Brown Deer manager to spread awareness of the SNAP benefits that were being offered at the market and did outreach at the Department of Public Health and other locations where mothers receive their WIC checks. The Children’s Community Health Plan, a local healthcare organization in North Milwaukee, matched the market’s funds for an unlimited amount. Therefore, SNAP dollars used by the shoppers were worth twice as much.
The project garnered natural publicity, and people and organizations stepped in to help by themselves. FoodWIse, an organization funded by SNAP-Ed and EFNEP which seeks to help Wisconsin residents with limited incomes have healthy lifestyles, did a photoshoot at the market promoting the Model Market program. The WI Department of Health Services helped Farm2Facts send out mailers of promotional materials.
This work clearly paid off because SNAP benefit usage at the Brown Deer market increased by 500% from the 2018 to the 2019 market season and SNAP sales increased by over 750%! This had an impact not only on market vendors and customers, but also a significant impact on the local economy. The Brown Deer Market has even managed to expand its accessibility during this unpredictable year- the SNAP sales in 2019-2020 have increased by 250% from the 2018-2019 season!
The strength of Brown Deer and Farm 2 Facts comes from our diversity, and the support of the community and the organizations that work with us. We hope that Brown Deer continues its amazing success, and plan to spread our model market concept to other markets in the Milwaukee metropolitan area. Please follow and work with us on this journey.