Road to the Second General Assembly: Our President’s Message

The World Farmers Markets Coalition operates much like the farmers markets that make up the Coalition. Once a year, we gather — just as our community of markets regularly gather their diverse communities.

We cannot wait to see you in person at our second General Assembly in Rome, 12-13 July 2024. As the first year of the mandate I share with the International Secretariat team and board members draws to a close, I am happy to report just how deeply inspired I am by the quality of the discourse and debate evident in our monthly digital consultations – the WorldFMC Academy’s Studio – and our informal discussions that carry forth via various digital channels. 

This month, we launched our first orchestrated Co-Labs with two-dozen members. Whereas the Studio starts important conversations, it is the Co-Lab where you can continue them in depth with peers. Akin to a DIY think tank of market practitioners, we are beginning to sound and feel like a community of practice. After all, this is our goal. 

However, it is not easy to battle time zones, language barriers, and life itself. Far too many of us operate with inadequate budgets, hostile regulatory environments, and woefully weak food systems. Nevertheless, we gather momentum, as we gather. 

It requires skill to gather with intent, with lightness balanced with commerce. In our farmers market theory of change, we deem it important to have governance, transparency, and management in place to deliver recurring events that add up to a combined trio of benefits for farmers, consumers, and the communities who host markets. If we are honest with ourselves, we may acknowledge that this balance is not always achieved, nor is it permanent. It takes discipline and experimentation to achieve this magical formula that balances between the three. 

Herein is the challenge to gather. Each of our organisations are driven by different missions, different settings, and different levels of food system health. However, what we share is a commitment to direct marketing as a step towards reviving local food system health, and towards cultivating other forms of health. It is how we facilitate this form of shared direct marketing that makes our strategy important to achieving the social good to gather different people in shared spaces: old, young, urban, rural, buyer and seller. 

So far, what I describe may sound like text book community organising. It may also remind you of your daily work. Of course we do these things. However, we may not recognise just how rare this skill is to gather people together in a way that feels normal, desired, and natural – even if it is not. Moreover, we must also recognise that there may be techniques that work in various settings, but there is no single strategy to animate public spaces that works everywhere. Why? The expertise and insights are yours: On the ground and within the context of place. 

Why does this matter? As our community of practice flourishes, so too will the expectations from generous and interested investors that we can simply scale-up. Each of us knows that it is just not that simple. This is why we need each other. If you are like me, you look forward to peering into others’ worlds during our Studios each month. However, with the launch of our Co-Labs and the next opportunity to gather in person at the General Assembly, we are beginning to get to that next layer of honesty and transparency within our community of practice to unpack and share the subtle nuances that we all rely upon in order to sustain and cultivate care and community over the long haul. After all, if you do not do this, who will? The larger infrastructure in our lives looks shoddy, out of date, and lacking in the kinds of social ties that will pass the products, the people, and the planet into the future. See you in Rome!

Some pictures from the Inaugural General Assembly in 2023

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