Volunteer Relations with Tacoma Farmers Market
Written by Samara Elaine Gonzalez, Fresh Express Mobile Market VISTA Y1. Updated by Danyelle Neumann, Fresh Express Mobile Market VISTA Year 2.
Tacoma Farmers Market (TFM) provides volunteer opportunities for all ages, abilities, and comfort levels. There are numerous projects and areas within TFM that are successful because of its volunteers. For instance, TFM’s home delivery program is mostly run by a small group of dedicated volunteer delivery drivers. Their passion to provide food for senior, low-income residents of Tacoma is extraordinary. In the early days of the 2021 season of the Fresh Express Mobile Market, volunteers were essential to successful daily operations. Some of those volunteers had been long-time friends of the Tacoma Farmers Market but many were new recruitments.
Volunteer Match, a well-known organisation posting volunteer opportunities, states that word of mouth is the most popular form of recruitment (learn more by attending a webinar: https://learn.volunteermatch.org). For word of mouth to work for an organisation, positive volunteer experiences are essential. Volunteers want to know why the program or activity they sign up for is important and how it relates to the mission of the organisation. It is just as important for a volunteer to be the right fit for a position, so being honest about the role and expectations should be an organisation’s priority. Partner organisations can also promote each other and share volunteer opportunities. To learn about the variety of organisations that TFM partners with, click here: https://tacomafarmersmarket.com/partners-2/.
The Volunteer Match website has been a valuable tool in the search for volunteers. The Fresh Express Mobile Market VISTA recruits new volunteers for FEMM locations through this website and works to maintain existing volunteers to assist staff throughout the year. Recruiting volunteers has been challenging this year, therefore keeping in touch with current volunteers who helped with the home deliveries has been crucial. Also, the AmeriCorps member is there to recruit volunteers, who use EBT, to be SNAP Ambassadors who assist at other locations.
What motivates a volunteer to give their time to a cause? Motivations can range from professional development, educational experience, gaining required volunteer hours, or a genuine investment in the cause. Knowing these motives can help organisations offer diverse roles that fit each individual. TFM provides educational opportunities to volunteers by allowing them to see the inner workings of a farmers market while also welcoming feedback. Regular check-ins with volunteers can engage and retain current volunteers and provide more context about the program. Be sure to have a solid plan to keep track of volunteers, their contact information, and any notes from conversations.
SNAP Ambassadors with TFM’s Mobile Market are volunteers that have personal experience with how SNAP benefits are used at farmers markets and are passionate about bringing more SNAP users to the market. SNAP Ambassadors can also provide an inside look at what may be missing from market offerings and how market operations could be more inclusive for low-income folks. Retaining a close connection with SNAP users is crucial to providing a well-rounded and inclusive food access program for the low-income population. Some of the programs that SNAP Ambassadors are experts on are summarised in the following link: (https://tacomafarmersmarket.com/food-access/). Acting on their suggestions can create a farmers market experience that is welcoming and more inclusive.
(To volunteer with TFM click here: https://tacomafarmersmarket.com/volunteer/).