To celebrate Pride Month in June, a Utah State Today series is highlighting university employees and students who are conducting research, academic pursuits and other projects related to or that benefit the LGBTQIA+ community.
Sustainable Communities Extension Specialist
Utah Farmers Market Network Coordinator
Area of work
Facilitating inclusion in Utah’s farmers markets
Why is this work important?
Farmers markets in Utah provide community connection, boost local agriculture, support economic development and offer nutritious food options. Diverse income, racial and LGBTQIA+ communities face barriers that prevent them from participating fully, and visitor and vendor demographics in these spaces don’t yet reflect the communities they serve.
To help foster more welcoming markets to all, the Utah Farmers Market Network convened a community of practice to explore how markets could become more welcoming and inclusive to historically excluded members of their communities, including LGBTQIA+ vendors and consumers.
Summary of research
Roslynn McCann observed that participants at many of the community events she organized to promote local foods lacked the diversity that a true cross-section of the community should have reflected. She wanted to find a way to diversify market audiences and vendors, and through a USDA grant, McCann and Regan Emmons invited members from seven Utah farmers markets to explore basic diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) concepts and to create strategic plans to further those goals.
“These are hard issues, talking about privilege and explicit and implicit bias; it requires a deep dive internally into our own biases and how we display them,” McCann said. “That’s a large obstacle to overcome, to shift your views on how to operate on that level.”
The groups convened at least twice monthly between May and November of 2021. By addressing issues on a local level, raising awareness, fostering empathy and exploring barriers, this project empowered market leadership to make change. Issues raised included universal design, an organizational scan to assess operations of the market (vendor, booth, visitor, signage, programming and amenities), and a community scan to assess the population and demographics where the market is located, Emmons said.
Participants in the group reported an increased understanding of DEI principles and experience for underrepresented communities. They developed more appreciation for the accountability around equity work and an increased commitment to centering on DEI principles in policies and procedures.
Participants developed goals for recruiting a diverse cohort of vendors and performers from marginalized communities, to ensure their vendor application process was both equitable and accessible, and to improve market location to ensure accessibility.
The participants set goals to solicit input from farmers, vendors and the community at large to make decisions about improving market accessibility and experience. They’ve further set organizational goals to recruit and hire candidates from diverse backgrounds and to rewrite their mission statements to reflect their commitment to DEI principles.
“Farmer’s markets can be a place where meaningful conversations and connections can happen across political lines,” McCann said. “This project was designed — not just to talk about inclusion — but to go deeper and make real changes to create a better environment for people who are LGBTQIA+, underrepresented, and often unheard.”
Learn more about this work:
Public Relations Specialist
Quinney College of Natural Resources
Sustainable Communities Specialist
Environment & Society Dept., USU Extension
TOPICSSociety 403stories Agriculture 167stories Diversity & Inclusion 146stories LGBTQIA+ 34stories
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