Convention Sessions

We have an exciting lineup of sessions for the 2018 convention. In addition to several roundtable discussions and the keynote address, attendees will be able to choose from many topics. (It’s only a 1 day conference, though, so plan to attend with a friend and tag team on the topics that are of interest!) There will be a drop-in USDA SNAP room available all day, plus WIC farmer training (time TBA).

We’ll be posting the schedule in early December, but in the meantime, here is the list of session topics:

Keynote: “Hacking the Local Foodshed: Why Farmers’ Markets Matter More Than Ever”
Farmers’ markets are more than places where farmers and food entrepreneurs simply hone their competitive edges. They are also our society’s best representations of “food democracy” and “living economies.” As we hack our way toward local foodsheds that are more profitable, equitable, nimble, and resilient, it is imperative that we capitalize upon the anchor role that farmers’ markets play in linking economic value to democratic values. We’ll explore how farmers markets can advance bold moves on a local level.


A Holistic Approach to Branding Your Farmers’ Market. This workshop will dig into the details of what makes for a robust, organized promotional strategy by looking at a variety of materials submitted by current Maine farmers’markets. Arielle Bywater of Pica (a brand, strategy, and design firm in Belfast) will review real-time website, newsletter, and social media promotional messages from markets, suggesting changes that would improve their effectiveness. Turning a critical eye to your own market’s material will help determine weaknesses – and strengths – and areas where minor adjustments could have major results. Most markets rely on volunteers, often several, for outreach efforts, making this kind of assessment and planning even more crucial.


Planning Events that Attract Families, Energy andAttention to the Market Kids’ passports, live music, cooking demos, sea-creature touch tanks and more…. There are many creative, manageable ways to make farmers’ markets more enticing for families and inviting for everyone in the community. Panelists will share their work in enhancing the community vibrancy at Maine markets and address the challenges and logistics to organizing high quality activities.


Law and Order: Farmers’ Market Unit – A Walk Through the Legal Issues That May Impact Your Market Do you ever sign on the dotted line on behalf of your farmers’ market? Do you own your own farm or business, and sometimes stop to think about the legal implications if something happened at one of your markets? Or maybe you’ve heard someone is starting a new farmers’ market in the same town as yours, and there is suddenly confusion about the name. If your farmers’ market has an attorney on its advisory board who freely gives advice, you can skip this session. Otherwise, this could be the most valuable hour you spend all week. There will be plenty of time for Q&A, so bring your questions!


New Apps and Digital Tools for Market Management and Direct Marketing The list of new digital tools grows longer each year, which can be both promising and confusing. This session will explore a few digital apps that can help streamline your farmers’ market work.


Fundraising, Friendraising, and Finding Sponsors in Your Community and Beyond Successful fundraising isn’t about selling raffle tickets, nor is it about writing magical grant proposals. For most farmers’ markets, it’s about finding donors and business sponsors in the local community. There is tremendous fundraising opportunity even in small towns, but it’s essential to plan carefully, and use all the tools available.


Keeping Our Farmers’ Markets Strong Ronda Stone from DACF’s Quality Assurance and Regulations will talk about ways to keep Maine’s Farmers’ Markets strong by focusing on consumer confidence. Consumers want to be sure that food purchased from the markets are safe and presented honestly. Market food safety practices, licensing, food sovereignty and FSMA will be the key topics of discussion.


Lowering Barriers to Market Farming with No-till Techniques Andrew Mefford, editor and publisher of Growing for Market and author of The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook, will talk about no-till farming techniques. Beginning farmers often turn to farmers’ markets early on as an important venue for selling their products. Can the no-till approach help the beginning market farmer scale up production and grow their market presence?


Local Food Pricing: Historical, Regional, and Market Based Differences Through the Lens of Organic In this session, Omand will share the initial results of her analysis of organic pricing over the past decade in Maine – looking at price changes at a variety of farmers’ markets and as relates to inflation and specific products/crops . She will also discuss 2017 pricing at farmers’ markets as it relates to different market types, seasons, and regions of the state. There will be ample time for questions and group discussion to address the presentation and also – what is the future of pricing as it relates to the national market increase in demand and supply?


Is Everyone Welcome at Your Market? Strategies for Making the Market More Navigable for All Take a closer look around your market: Are there obstacles that may prevent some people from feeling comfortable and being able to move around safely? Markets often can’t change the infrastructre of their space (such as curb placement or slopes. However, there are usually simple steps that will make the market more accessible to more people, and safer for all visitors. Being accessible to individuals with mobility challenges, vision problems, hearing loss, and other obstacles makes a farmers’ market more welcoming, and also broadens the shopper base. Jill S. Johanning, AIA, of Access Design, and Ketra Crosson of Alpha One Now will explore practical steps farmers’ markets of all sizes can take to be more accessible to shoppers.


Feeding More Mainers Through FINI and Beyond: A SNAP Round-table Discussion Join MFFM and members of the Maine Local Food Access Network for a conversation on SNAP programming, funding, and what your market should be doing to sustain its program in the long-term.


Getting Started with Maine Harvest Bucks: An Overview for 1st Year and Prospective Markets This is the opportunity for markets new to SNAP and/or Maine Harvest Bucks to get a basic overview and have your questions answered. Note- this session is only for markets entering their first year with Maine Harvest Bucks in 2018, or considering launching a SNAP/EBT program.


Legislative Update Staff from the Maine Farm Bureau and Representative Chellie Pingree’s office will provide updates on recent developments in state and local law that pertain to agriculture, as well as an overview of what to expect in 2018 and key areas for advocacy. This half hour session will get you up to speed legislation that could impact your farm, small business, or farmers’ market.