Initiated and led by Coldiretti, the Italian Farmers Market Association, WFMC comprises international farmers market networks. Representatives from Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Georgia, Ghana, Italy, Norway, the UK, and the United States also joined the launch event at the summit to inaugurate the new network of global farmers markets.
The inauguration of this new coalition comes amidst rising risks to food security as a result of the climate crisis, political conflict, and COVID-19-related supply disruptions, according to the World Bank. The prices of maize, wheat, and rice, for instance, have surged by 43 percent, 12 percent, and 10 percent, respectively, in the past year and a half.
Despite the “dual crises of climate and COVID-19,” a growing number of regional communities have “found their voice for collaboration via the many farmers market organizations that are flourishing,” Richard McCarthy, member of the USA Research Group for the World Farmers Market Coalition, tells Food Tank. “In many cases, to simply exist is itself the great victory. To exist is not enough.”
The Coalition aims to address the barriers that prevent farmers markets from flourishing, and to strengthen existing markets through the exchange of knowledge and experience. Since the “20th century’s rush to speed and scale,” McCarthy notes, farmers markets have faced a myriad of internal and external challenges: from urban planning policies that have displaced and demolished farmers markets, to policies preventing increased accessibility for low-income shoppers, to issues of building long-term trust between urban and rural communities.
The Coalition hopes to achieve a level of impact that is both “wide and deep,” says McCarthy. The Coalition plans to assemble a learning partnership among organizations and individuals. This will involve research reports, including the First World Farmers Markets Report, distance learning, and campaigns that address opportunities for replication in markets around the world.
The Coalition also plans to provide a method for mapping ecosystems and their markets, along with the legal and public health landscape. McCarthy explains that this “ecosystem approach” falls in line with the Market Cities Initiative of the Project for Public Spaces. This plan will focus research on best practices for creating new infrastructure, policies, and investments in public market systems at the citywide, regional, and national levels.
For global farmers markets to become “steady yet agile springboards for regional cooperation, entrepreneurial innovation and leadership cultivation,” McCarthy tells Food Tank there must be “transparency and predictable and fair management that balances the interests of farmers, communities, and consumers.”
“Without this level of governance and management, markets can go the way of many wildflowers—emerge with great excitement, provide sensory learning, and then wither quickly when the environment or seasons shift,” says McCarthy.
McCarthy cautions against a “one-size-fits-all model,” and instead explains that the Coalition wishes to “build a community of practice who recognize that, first, we must improve and share evidence-based means to manage markets.” With a focus on long-term viability, the Coalition hopes that markets will be leveraged as platforms for further initiatives, including nutritional behavior change, cooperative development, and community-driven programs to revitalize downtown areas.
The Coalition is poised to receive strategic support from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). According to McCarthy, this will enable the Coalition to set up the wide-reaching work of internal and external communications, develop a manifesto, and conduct programmatic capacity-building work around the world.
“If markets come to be recognized by local, regional, national and international players as strategic points of intervention, then we’re reaching our long-term goals,” McCarthy tells Food Tank.