The students are conducting best practices research on existing, successful farmers markets serving food insecure areas, as well as primary research to determine need and fit for the Argenta community.
“The team has basically collected data on best practices for farmers markets in the region and beyond, actually,” said Chris Kent, ADC Executive Director and project supervisor. “A couple of the international students have looked at this from the standpoint of their countries of origin, Japan and Ghana.”
Shelby Morrow (Dallas, Texas), Reiko Muranaka (Yokosuka-shi, Kanagawa, Japan), Eric Osei (Nkawkaw, Ghana), and Sean Street (Hot Springs, Ark.) have spoken with individuals from numerous existing markets. In the coming weeks, the team will survey members of the North Little Rock community to collect their insight.
“We have heard everything from advice on encouraging farmers to grow a variety of vegetables to understanding the need for social space at a farmers market,” Muranaka said.
Speaking with representatives from successful markets, the team has received feedback noting the importance of creating a community within the market and, specifically, appreciating the relationships between market vendors and customers.
“So many of the consumers at farmers markets are repeat customers,” Muranaka said.
Other early feedback includes the importance of patience – understanding the time it takes to build a sustainable market. Additionally, several experienced vendors have noted that farmers markets are much more than place to buy food, that they are a space for the community to grow in size and strength through social interaction.
The team will present its findings to the Argenta Downtown Council in April. Representatives from the City of North Little Rock, North Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, and North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce will also be in attendance.
“Their eyes keep getting more and more open as they talk to more people, especially at the larger farmers markets,” Kent said. “We’d like to bring in all the stakeholders in the area to hear what they are talking about.”