Farmers Markets

Specialty Crop Block Grants Offered for Alternative Selling Methods

The COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges for local food systems around the nation. Arkansas farmers and farmers market managers have met these challenges with innovation and resilience, adapting their operations in order to continue to meet the needs of their communities.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture recognizes the exceptional efforts our farmers and farmers market managers have made during these challenges.  Through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Alternative Selling Methods campaign, the Department invites Arkansas farmers and farmers market managers to submit self-produced videos demonstrating the new selling methods they developed during COVID-19. Ten farmers and farmers market managers will be selected by a review committee and awarded a $400 grant each for their Alternative Selling Methods. Deadline for submissions is September 30, 2020.

The Department will visit each of the selected farms and markets to video their Alternative Selling Methods on-site. The Department will produce a video promoting these methods, which will be housed on the Arkansas Department of Agriculture and Arkansas Grown websites for online training. Each of the ten farmers and farmers market managers will be included as a panelist for a virtual meeting to discuss Alternative Selling Methods.

Arkansas, like many other states and nations, has been affected by COVID-19. Our farmers and farmers market managers struggled to adjust to the closure of wholesale and retail markets such as schools and restaurants. This project will highlight the innovative selling methods developed by specialty crop farmers and farmers market managers to adapt to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the spread of COVID-19, changes affecting schools, restaurants, and institutions resulted in the possibility of a revenue loss for numerous farmers and farmers market managers. These situations created the demand for specialty crop farmers and farmers market managers to innovate and develop alternative methods to sell their products quickly to avoid spoilage. These new methods may result in restructuring the business model for specialty crop farmers permanently, attracting new customers with creative, new products, and services. These include, but are not limited to, online sales, farm pick up, delivery services, drive-thru service, and more.

To address those challenges, this project aims

  • to increase participation in future farm to school programs
  • and to support and highlight farmers and farmers market managers who are finding successful alternative markets for their specialty crop products.

In the early days of the outbreak, a significant increase in demand for food, particularly for fruits and vegetables, was seen. By empowering families to make informed food choices while supporting local farmers, this project aims to strengthen the local economy and contribute to vibrant communities.

The Department is hosting a campaign for specialty crop farmers and farmers market managers to submit a self-produced video of their alternative selling method in action, paying $400 to ten farmers and farmers market managers selected by a review committee. The ten awardees will be featured in a professionally produced video to be utilized by the Department for online training. The ten awardees will also be included in a panel for an online training event, describing their innovative, alternative method and answering questions. The online event will be recorded and available for future reference.

Entry Forms can be found here.

Deadline for submission is September 30, 2020.


First, farmers markets are essential businesses. Local food systems with short supply chains are resilient and dependable in making food available to their communities, and provide an essential service to the communities they feed as well as the farmers and ranchers that rely on them.

Second, farmers market operators are local food heroes. When the pandemic hit, market managers were some of the first to implement innovative strategies to change their operations around public health protocols. Despite that fact, market operators are often left out of relief efforts for food systems workers.

Third, farmers markets are safe. Emerging research supports that outdoor marketplaces like farmers markets can be safer than alternative indoor retailers due to unlimited air circulation, sunlight, the flexibility to enforce social distancing by spreading out vendors and products. Farmers Market operators continue to implement new strategies to keep their communities, staff, and vendors safe.

The Arkansas Farmers Market Association partnered with the Arkansas Center for Obesity Prevention in early 2020.  Increasing access to healthy, local foods is a vital part of the mission of AFMA, ArCOP and the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.  No one does that better than our state's Farmers Markets.  It's why ArCOP and the AFMA are a great fit.  

ArCOP encourages all of our Arkansas Farmers Market Association members, along with our partners and friends to let the public know what a vital role our markets play in our state economy. 

For the Farmers Market Vendor Guide, click here.

For more information on the Arkansas Farmers Markets Association, visit their website.

The Arkansas Department of Health Directives for Outdoor Venues and Indoor Venues are helpful.

The Arkansas Department of Agriculture website offers printable, shareable graphics for your farmers markets to help follow these Directives. Click here.

For a list of farmers markets in Arkansas, click here.

Specialty Crop Block Grant Alternative Selling Methods Campaign entry forms can be found here.