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Farmer’s Markets: Ripe for Organizing

By Kelly Henderson

Talking to voters about a ballot question is much easier when there’s bushels of kale involved.  I’ve been setting up a table and chatting with folks about the Save Our Public Schools campaign, and it’s been fruitful.IMG_5144

The trip to the local farmer’s market is a growing staple in many Massachusetts residents’ summer days. Bring the kids, bring the dog, bring your reusable tote bags. May I suggest, also bring your local community organizer. The farmer’s market is a great place to talk to local folks about issues that impact them as members of the community. They are also more likely to be chatty, since it’s expected that the trip will involve running into others in the community and exchanging pleasantries about crops this season with the farmers. In the past two visits to my local market, I’ve had about 100 little conversations with people about how charters affect local schools, and over 30 folks have signed commitment cards.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. Make friends with the boss

There’s always a farmer’s market boss, and this person is usually very busy and unlikely to be excited for a long chat. This person is also not going to want to jeopardize any business, so a political campaign presence in the farmer’s market won’t be welcome. Your job is to be super nice, brief, and as non-political as possible. When you ask for space, ask for a little corner or something where you can set up a table and hand out information. Like you’re a little old lady who just wants to spread the word about the church garage sale.  You will probably get a spot just outside the actual market – in our case, a patch of shady grass that turned out to be just delightful.

  1. Be prepared

It will be a long day outside, and you won’t stick it out if you’re uncomfortable. Bring sunscreen, an umbrella or raincoat, water, snacks, comfortable shoes, and a folding chair.

  1. Stock up on campaign materials

The last thing you want is to hear someone say, “Great can I have a bumper sticker” only to find you’ve run out. A big part of campaigning is visibility, so the more stickers, buttons, t shirts, and yard signs out there the better. Your MTA rep or local Save Our Public Schools organizer should be able to set you up with as much as you need. Don’t forget pens and clipboards so people can sign on to the campaign!

  1. You’re a teacher – act like it

You know how to explain stuff to people without being too wordy, too intimidating, too alienating – it’s what we do! So when you’re talking to people about the campaign, just explain in your best teachery way how the cap would affect you and your students. There’s no need to bash charters or throw around hyperbole; we are on the sensible side of things and when people are informed, they’re with us. Hopefully, you’re also a teacher in the same community the market is in, so you can talk about schools people know and count on.

  1. Actually go to the farmer’s market!

Support the market that’s invited you to be there. Buy some local produce, chat up the campaign with the vendors, and make the boss happy he/she gave you the go ahead to be there.


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