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K-State Today

May 15, 2019

Evaluation reveals USDA's Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program more than doubles federal investment

Submitted by Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation

U.S. Department of Agriculture grants to farmers markets and local food programs in 2014 returned an economic benefit of 2 1/2 times the initial $27 million investment and expanded the producers' customer base, according to an evaluation conducted by Kansas State University for the USDA.

The Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation, a part of the Kansas State University College of Education, completed an external evaluation of the USDA's 2014 Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The grants — provided to 376 grant recipients in communities across the nation — were sponsored and funded by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service. The evaluation report outlined project successes and impact as well as barriers grantees experienced in improving access and consumption of local and regional foods.

The USDA grants support important aspects of farmers markets such as improving consumer access to local and regional foods, promotion and marketing, training for producers, improved infrastructure for storage and distribution, as well as economic planning and business development support.

Some of the key findings of the evaluation:

• More than 2 1/2 times return on grant investment, benefiting local economies.

• Growth and expansion of domestic markets by expanding the consumer base.

• Improvement of local agricultural businesses in the form of technology, market research, and equipment that enables producers to scale up.

• USDA grant funds led to an additional $20 million investment for project growth and sustainment.

The comprehensive evaluation applied recently developed performance metrics by manually reviewing performance reports and grant proposals, and also designing and administering a national survey to project managers. The analysis highlighted return on investment and the impact of projects on local food systems. The evaluation report provides findings related to sustainability of local food systems projects and recommendations for increasing success.

The complete evaluation report, "Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program 2014 Grant Program Evaluation: Final Report," is available through the K-State Research Exchange, which is known as K-REx. The evaluation was led by Cindy Shuman, acting associate dean of research, and conducted by the team at the Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation, including graduate and undergraduate research assistants.

The office was contracted by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service to conduct the evaluation of the 2014 Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The research was conducted from September 2017-September 2018. The office conducts program evaluations of both large and small-scale projects for a broad range of clientele in educational institutions, governmental agencies and foundations for project funded by the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense, the Kansas State Department of Education, USDA and many others.

For more information, please visit k-state.edu/oeie/.