Project Plan: Farmers Market Experience
Revision Information
Date
Author
Revision
10/17/2016
Eric Schaefer
Initial draft
10/26/2016
Eric Schaefer
Incorporated feedback from
peers and instructor
Contents
Revision Information .................................................................................................................................... 1
Purpose of study ........................................................................................................................................... 2
Who are the participants? ............................................................................................................................ 2
Sellers ....................................................................................................................................................... 2
Farmers and their agents ...................................................................................................................... 2
Distributors ........................................................................................................................................... 3
Other sellers .......................................................................................................................................... 3
Buyers ....................................................................................................................................................... 3
Market Managers ..................................................................................................................................... 4
The Farmers Market ..................................................................................................................................... 4
Initial Project Specification ........................................................................................................................... 5
Project Constraints ....................................................................................................................................... 5
Competitive Experiences .............................................................................................................................. 5
Existing web and mobile applications ...................................................................................................... 5
Experience Goals .......................................................................................................................................... 6
Sub-Goal 1 ................................................................................................................................................ 6
Objectives for Sub-Goal 1 ......................................................................................................................... 6
Sub-Goal 2 ................................................................................................................................................ 6
Objectives for Sub-Goal 2 ......................................................................................................................... 7
Sub-Goal 3 ................................................................................................................................................ 7
Objectives for Sub-Goal 3 ......................................................................................................................... 7
Purpose of study
Farmers markets bring farmers and consumers together to sell and buy food products. At a typical
market, the participants meet face to face in a real physical location. The food products are available for
costumers to inspect and purchase--as long as supplies last.
Could the buyer's experience be improved? Would an improved buyer's experience drive more sales for
the farmer? What kind of web or mobile device application might facilitate an improved experience?
This document is an initial attempt to answer those questions and identify an appropriate project scope.
Who are the participants?
Some guesswork and initial investigation suggests three main participants at a Santa Clara Valley farmers
market: sellers, buyers, and market managers.
The participants are sketched from the author’s past experience at several Santa Clara Valley farmers
markets and from recent quick interviews with participants at 3 farmers markets. Some interview data
is available in the 4 Quarters shared document Quick interviews with farmers market participants.
Sellers
For the purpose of this study, the sellers are further divided into three categories.
Farmers and their agents
Farmers grow, transport, and sell the products in face-to-face interactions with the buyers at the market.
Most farmers at a market are “local”, which means that the farmers and their products are within a
couple of hours’ driving distance of the market. Products are sold as the farmer’s brand.
The market provides an opportunity for sales directly to consumers, which perhaps increases the
farmer’s profit. The market also provides an opportunity to build brand loyalty by direct, positive
interaction with customers. Farmers often cite the high percentage of return customers and customers
that they have known for several years.
“Farmer” is a broad term for the business owner, his family, employees, and contractors that conduct
business on the farmer’s behalf. More affluent business owners typically don’t attend the market but
send their agents. The agents might not have any decision-making powers beyond how to conduct the
market activities.
Some agents at a market are skilled salespeople, and some are clearly not. Interacting with customers
might be the primary job of some agents, and it is clear that working the fields is the primary job of
others.
English language proficiency varies.
A variety of ethnic backgrounds are represented.
The sellers at the market typically suffer a lower socio-economic status than the buyers.
Knowledge and use of mobile devices and information systems varies widely. Most farmers have a web
site, but some do not. Some use social forums. Most belong to a farmers market association that might
do limited outreach on the web. For the vast majority, the cost of publishing accurate market inventory
is prohibitive when compared with the potential ROI.
Distributors
Distributors purchase food from the farmers and then transport and sell the food at the market.
Products are sold as the distributor’s brand.
Some customers are aware of the difference between farmers and distributors, and tend to prefer
dealing with farmers.
Other sellers
It is not uncommon to find processed meat and nut products or fresh fish at a market. There are
typically processed foods for immediate consumption (e.g., hot dogs, popcorn, beverages). Very rarely a
market contains a seller of non-food items. Because these other sellers are a minority at most markets,
and to provide an appropriate scope of the project, the other sellers are not considered in this study.
Buyers
The buyers at a market are almost exclusively end consumers. The buyers typically do not travel far to
attend a market. The market offers several solutions to the consumers:
The joy of connecting with the farmer
The joy of participating in a community event, perhaps connecting with neighbors
The opportunity to “haggle” (negotiate) with the seller for a better price
Good prices by eliminating “middle men” (all of the agents that get food to a typical grocery
story).
Fresh produce
Healthy produce (pesticide-free, certified organic)
Some solutions are more important to certain customers. For example, some customers enjoy the
connection solutions. Attending the market is an event that they share with family or friends. They
enjoy the atmosphere and talking with the farmers while they complete their shopping tasks. The
market is leisurely adventure.
As a contrasting example, some customers look for inexpensive, healthy food during the limited time of
their lunch break. They don’t have time to chit-chat, but want to get the best food, at a good price,
quickly and efficiently. Accurate, timely information might be helpful to this customer.
Another attribute of consumers that might be significant for the project is a shopper’s familiarity with a
market. A shopper that is familiar with a given market and sellers probably does not face the challenges
of somebody that doesn’t know a market well or somebody that is wondering whether to attend a
farmers market for the first time.
Many buyers are proficient English speakers, but some are not.
Many shoppers at Santa Clara County markets are usersand in some cases developersof
information-enhancing technologies.
Many buyers enjoy elevated socio-economic status.
Market Managers
A market typically has a manager at the market whose primary job is to see that the market operates
smoothly. The manager gives warnings when appropriate, and can remove people that interfere with
sales transactions and disturb the market atmosphere. The manager assures the legitimacy of the
sellers by verifying their certifications. The market manager typically has a staff of several helpers.
The Farmers Market
Markets are located in many neighborhoods in Santa Clara County. Each market operates one day each
week for a few hours in the morning or the evening. Some markets are open all year, others close
during the severest months of the winter. For a list of the markets, see the County of Santa Clara’s list of
certified farmer’s markets at https://www.sccgov.org/sites/ag/markets/pages/fm.aspx
Sales occur in face-to-face transactions and no digital infrastructure is required. Information is
communicated via signage and spoken word. Signs typically communicate the farm, simple branding
information, certification (i.e., organic) on a banner, and occasionally includes product names and prices
on the tables of produce. The written prices are an indicator, but a seller might speak a lower price. In
the latter hour of the market, the sellers often offer products at a reduced rate.
The basic sales script is almost universal (“How much?” “One pound 2 dollars.”) and minimal language
proficiency is required to complete a basic sale. More language proficiency is required for a buyer to
inquire about farm, product specifics (growing method, level of ripeness), how to cook a product.
Given the opportunity, sellers and buyers can engage in lengthy and detailed monologues about issues
that touch their lives. Sometimes a discussion ensues. Common topics are the consequences and
politics of drought, sustainable land use and food distribution techniques, health, and diet.
A seller’s legitimacy is verified by the paper certificate that he presents. The agricultural agency of the
county certifies that a farmer grows particular products. The farmer must offer proof of certification to
the market manager. The growing methodwhether a product is organicis also subject to
certification. Farmers advertise their growing method, but very rarely display their certification
prominently for all costumers to see. Some farmers show their certification when a customer asks. The
certification provides a detailed list of the products that the farmer grows and the typical month when
the products are sold. The certification is updated typically once per year. The certification does not
indicate which of the products are available at a given market on a given day.
Initial Project Specification
A community-building web or mobile application project is suggested with the following specification:
Code Name: No Doubt
Users can check what is available in their local farmers market
Users can read reviews about the farmers to inform their purchasing process
Users can post reviews about the farmers to inform their colleagues
Farmers post their weekly produce before the market day
Summary: A community-building web application
Project Constraints
The project is limited by time, human resources, and financial resources.
The project must be completed during 10 class meetings. The final class meeting is near the end of
November. The project team consists of unpaid students with limited skills and competing
commitments. There is no project budget: the project team can hire no help for researching, designing,
administering, managing, or supporting a tool.
Competitive Experiences
Existing web and mobile applications
Most existing applications are designed to help a potential buyer or seller become involved at the
market.
Some applications provide general information about healthy foods, organic certification, typical
ripening seasons.
Some applications allow users to post information, but the information is typically not a review of a
seller. The information is only as good as the reviewers.