MIFMA Member Highlight for Fall 2014: Chesaning Market off Broad

Read about the Chesaning Market off Broad in this interview with market manager, Ellen Rodman, for our Fall 2014 member highlight.

Tell us about the Chesaning Market off Broad.

The Chesaning Market off Broad began with a small group of friends that wanted to encourage activities in downtown Chesaning. We thought a farmers market was a natural fit for our small, rural community. In January of this year, we pulled together a board of about 10 people, mostly in their 20s and 30s who wanted to be involved. We incorporated as a nonprofit in Michigan under the name Broad Street Events, and we are in the process of becoming a 501c3. Broad Street is the main drag that runs through town, where the business district and boulevard is located (to give you some background on the name!). Along with the weekly market that ran every Saturday, we also hosted a free outdoor movie series (Movies on Broad) this past summer. Chesaning had a market in the early 2000s, but for a variety of reasons, it didn’t last past 2006. This year, our first season, we had an average of 6 vendors each week and an average of 90 customers each week. We also had a great selection of items, including a wide variety of local produce, baked goods, meats, local honey, fresh eggs, handmade beauty products and some crafts. We were able to accept credit/debit cards, SNAP and Senior Project FRESH coupons this year.

You recently received a USDA FMPP grant for your market – congratulations! Tell us about that project and what your goals are.

We are so excited about the grant!  We were really shocked that we received the funding, honestly. We learned about the grant opportunity, and a few of our board members worked together on the proposal. The grant will help us purchase supplies for promotion and visibility, as well as outreach to vendors and customers via bulk mailings and advertising. Our goals are to increase the number of vendors at our market, as well as the number of customers. Having more vendors and customers will allow us to expand the market to its full potential and also help the producers reach more consumers.

You participated in part of MIFMA’s Market Manager Certification Program last year. How did that program impact you as a market manager? How did it impact your market?

I participated in a number of the Certificate Program webinars. I really don’t know what we would have done without the MIFMA trainings. They were so helpful and allowed us to organize our thoughts and efforts in a systematic way, since all of our board members were new to running a market. They cleared up a lot of questions we had and also answered questions we didn’t even know we should be asking!  I also participated in the SNAP Mentor program and that was very helpful as well. We didn’t have a lot of SNAP usage this year, but we do feel confident with the program and better able to promote it for next year. Altogether, these programs helped us learn the basics of running a market in terms of what the vendors need, what the customers need and what we should be doing to ensure the market’s success. We feel the market did very well for it’s first year because of what we learned though MIFMA programs.

What is one thing that every MIFMA member should know about your market?

We want everyone to know about the excitement behind our market. We have a lot of community support!  While we may have had a small first year, our local government is behind us 100% and many of our residents are excited to see what the next few years will bring.  The business owners are happy with the attention we are bringing to downtown Chesaning.  We expect to grow more next year and every year thereafter!  Also, most of our board members are younger, many are homeowners in the area, some with small families, and we are committed to making our town a fun place for us and other residents to enjoy.

The Chesaning Market off Broad is a MIFMA member market. Why is being a member of MIFMA important to you?

We became MIFMA members as soon as we decided to start a market. We wanted to be members so that we had resources available to us, since no one really knew how to get a market started. The membership gave us access to MIFMA staff who were able to answer any and all questions we had. The membership also offered lower rates on trainings, which helped since we started with no actual budget, let alone a bank account. And of course the networking has been really helpful, in terms of the SNAP mentor program as well as the ability to send notices to the listserv and also get notices and updates from MIFMA and other markets around the state.

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