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How Exceptional Markets Can Get Even Better

This fall we’re calling on farmers markets and grocers to Level Up and get a higher ranking in our three-tier Guide to Exceptional Markets (GEMs).
Tier 1 market managers are encouraged to raise the bar for growing practices at your market and take steps to prefer vendors who hold a certification. You’ll boost customer confidence when you encourage vendors to get certified and verify their claims about production practices.
Your market will get a boost too, by receiving a visibly higher ranking in our Guide to Exceptional Markets and all the standard perks awarded to Tier 2 markets:

  • free banner design,
  • free press release,
  • free temporary tattoos of the Exceptional Market badge, and
  • priority assistance involving your community stakeholders in CNG farm inspections as Observers.
    Take the first step to level up and register here today

Why take this step?

There’s increasing customer demand for local food that’s produced without harmful synthetic chemicals or GMOs. Not all local farms meet these standards, but it’s difficult for customers to distinguish the more ecologically minded farmers, without visible signs of certification. Self-descriptions by farmers are not reliable indicators of actual farming practices. By giving preference to vendors who take the extra steps to obtain certification, the market will have higher quality vendors, and better serve their customers. Over time, this will benefit the market in a number of ways:

  • Greater loyalty and enthusiasm from customers who want farmers to meet high standards that are verified
  • Ease of communicating which vendors are farming sustainably; and
  • Greater market recognition and perks from a Tier 2 GEMs listing

How to Level Up to Tier 2

In short, the market must demonstrate they have a preference for vendors who hold a certification, and include Certified Naturally Grown as one of the options. (They must continue to have at least one CNG vendor participating in the market, as is required for Tier 1 status). 
Markets can demonstrate this commitment in a variety of ways. Here’s how current Tier 2 participants are signifying their preference for CNG producers. 
Option A: State on the vendor application that you prefer vendors hold a certification, ask them to indicate their certification, and list Certified Naturally Grown as one option.  

  • “We place priority on vendors who hold at least one of the following certifications: Certified Naturally Grown, certified organic or humane certified. Please indicate if you hold a certification, and provide a copy of your most recent certificate with your application.”
  • Crescent City Farmer’s Market, New Orleans, Louisianna
    Option B. State prominently on your website that you prefer vendors with certification, including Certified Naturally Grown as one option. 
  • “Preference is given to farmers and vendors who are Certified Naturally Grown.”

– -Norcross Farmer’s Market, Norcross, GA

  • “The market standard incorporates the principles embodied under the Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) guidelines. Farmers that have received their CNG certification or USDA Organic certification will be given preference as well as those located in Forsyth County and within a 50 mile radius of Vickery Village.”
  • -Vickery Village Farmers Market, Cumming, GA
  • “We place priority on growers and farmers who hold one of the following certifications: Certified Naturally Grown, certified Organic or Humane certified.”
  • -The Oregon City Year-Round Farmer’s Market states at the top of their Vendors page
    Option C. Create a Rating System of your Local Growers
    Dawson’s Market in Rockville, MD has a three-tier scale of Local-Good, Local-Better, Local-Best. Below is a screenshot of their website where this scale is posted, and the description of “Local-Best”. 
    -⠀“LOCAL – BEST  This refers to family-owned farms located withing 100 miles of our store that are USDA Certified Organic or Certified Naturally Grown.” 


Checklist: Level Up & Qualify for Extra Perks

1.⠀Register your interest here by November 1st. We’ll keep you posted with tips for success and new perks to be announced. 

  1. Choose which approach above best fits your market – whether Option A, and/or B and/or C and make the necessary changes. 
  2. Contact Abbe [abbe at] with proof of your updated policy by January 30, 2020*
    Once these steps are completed, we’ll start promoting your new status as a Tier 2 GEMs market, and send you all the Tier 2 perks!
    * Markets can qualify for Tier 2 at any time of year, but those who meet this timeline are eligible for extra social media promotion as participants in our Level Up campaign. 

Background Explanation of GEMs Tiers

When a market publicly recognizes CNG producers, they qualify for Tier 1 in the Guide to Exceptional Markets. This might look like an online list of vendors and their certifications on the market website, a map that labels where CNG vendors are, or a sign at the market info tent or produce aisle. At grocery stores and food co-ops, for example, Certified Naturally Grown products might be labeled as such. When food co-ops, grocers, and farmers markets affirm their CNG producers that take the extra steps to highlight and verify their practices, they build trust and transparency in our local food system.
Tier 2 Markets build on this by preferring to work with farms and producers who are certified, listing CNG as a certification which they prioritize. These markets have a clearly stated and publicly visible policy, found on their website or vendor application. 
Tier 3 Markets go the greatest distance. They require all their farmer vendors to hold a certification. 
Our Tier Guide provides detailed information about the GEMs Tiers and the increased benefits of qualifying for a higher Tier. Print and share with market managers you know. 
Ready to get started? Register your interest here by November 1st.

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