A Bittersweet End to an Amazing Summer with the Omaha Farmers Market

It’s officially been a week since I finished my internship with the Omaha Farmers Market. While I am looking forward to returning to Brandeis, I will miss all of the people I worked with over the course of the last couple of months. I worked with people from a variety of different backgrounds, from Health Department workers to local farmers; the people I met this summer really expanded my horizons. Without the help of these people I would not have been able to accomplish the goals I set out for myself at the beginning of my internship.

First among those goals was my intention to improve myself academically and learn more about how local farmers impact their local economies. I set about accomplishing this goal by surveying market customers on-site at the market as well as through an alternative online survey. On these surveys I asked about the customer’s spending tendencies and some demographic information. I also gathered information from the market vendors about their experience with the Farmers Market. From the data I collected interviewing market customers and vendors I was able to generate a report using Market Umbrella’s Sticky Economic Evaluation Device. Annually the Omaha Farmers Market has an impact of over $23 million between its two locations. The results, while not unexpected, were certainly welcomed by the higher ups.

Overview of the Aksarben Village market – Source: Me

This leads in to my career goal for the summer, which was to apply the knowledge I had gained at Brandeis in the real world. I worked with a couple of professors from the Economics Department at the University of Nebraska Omaha; they were helpful in organizing the Economic Impact Study and I was able to complete it on time with great results. I was able to use the economic knowledge I learned at Brandeis to produce a professional study that the Omaha Farmers Market will use when they are applying for grants.

My final and possibly most important goal was one I set for myself and that was to improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the Omaha Farmers Market. Originally, this was supposed to be just researching different methods to improve the program and apply them to the market. However, as projects often do, this grew to include more than just research papers, talking to other markets and SNAP. I spent many hours working to improve awareness of one of our smaller, lesser known markets. The Omaha Farmers Market works with the Charles Drew Health Center to put on a small market for six weeks during prime market season. This market is different because a majority of the transactions involve WIC checks. This program (Women, Infants, and Children) is a special supplemental nutrition program which provides federal grants for low income women and children. The vendors at this market do not really make a profit due to the structure of this particular supplement program, but they are committed to providing fresh, local produce to an area that does not typically have access to produce. In recent years, the attendance at this market has declined, which was most likely a result of lack of promotion. As part of my internship I went around to local churches and community centers, as well as most of the WIC clinics in Omaha. I created flyers for the various facilities to hand out to their clients to bring more awareness of the market at the Charles Drew Health Center. This small market even got attention from the local news station on opening day – Link. Also, as a result of my study, the Omaha Farmers Market extended their SNAP match program for an additional two months to benefit more users.

The Office Building where I worked – Source: http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/45865/300-South-19th-Street-Omaha-NE/

I do not know if this position will be available in the near future, but I would recommend it to anyone interested in economics or even event management. It does involve a lot of early mornings on the weekends and a general knowledge of Supplemental Nutrition programs. It is a great position to learn how market vendors and people can come together and impact their local communities for the better. While there is still plenty to do at the Omaha Farmers Market my time is unfortunately over, I just hope the work I did will continue to benefit the Market for years to come.


-Luke Bredensteiner ’17

Social Justice WOW Recipient

Omaha Farmer’s Market – Midpoint Update


As I am finishing up my sixth week interning for the Omaha Farmer’s Market, I wonder where the time has gone. Working with the market to conduct an economic impact study and improve the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has seemed to consume life lately. SNAP at the Omaha Farmers’ Markets is gaining more attention every week, in fact it made the front page of the money section of the Omaha World Herald last week. And this weekend I begin to get more hands-on with the impact study when I conduct a population count of the markets at Aksarben Village and the Old Market. Seeing the progress I have made toward achieving my goals in the workplace has been more of a rewarding experience than I expected.

Link to the the Original Article

The last few weeks have been markedly different than my life at Brandeis; working with people from a variety of age groups or having to commute to work seem like some obvious differences. A not so obvious aspect that I have noticed recently is the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself. While being a student does involve working with peers and helping others,  the results are not often as visible and can sometimes be discouraging. With this internship however, I’ve found being part of an organization that seeks to improve the lives of others and doing work that affects more than just yourself to be a motivating factor in my day to day activities.

One aspect of my work that has been not that different from my academic life is the amount of research I have done so far. A lot of my time has been consumed by reading market evaluations and conversing with other markets about SNAP via email, which in turn has made me well-informed about SNAP and the methods other markets have used to make it successful. It has not been just research and emails, however. There have been obstacles that I have learned to overcome, most prominently with the Economic Impact Study portion of my internship. The study was initially going to be conducted by collecting revenue data from businesses local to the markets and compare them to similar businesses that did not have a Farmer’s Market. While it seemed like a good plan on paper, I quickly found out that businesses are not too keen on giving out that kind of information. This forced me to find an alternative way of measuring the economic impact of the markets, so I decided to get the data from the market customers rather than the businesses. This led me to marketumbrella.org, which provided me with the tools to accomplish the impact study using non-intrusive and efficient methods. While I did not anticipate this sort of dilemma in my internship, it has prepared me to deal with unforeseen consequences that I will face in my career after Brandeis.

– Luke Bredensteiner


Impacting the Community with the Omaha Farmers Market


It was a strange, but oddly fulfilling experience walking through the doors of a new University, because while I was still there to learn, I was there to do more than just better myself; I came to make a difference in my local community. Last Tuesday my Internship with the Omaha Farmers Market began with a meeting between two University of Nebraska-Omaha Professors and the President of the coordinating organization for the Farmers Markets, VGA (Vic Gutman & Assoc.). At this meeting the professors laid out a plan for the economic impact study I will be doing in the coming months, where I will be analyzing the impact the farmers market has on the local community. The immediate impression I was given was that it will involve a lot of data collecting through surveys and other means of communication. Beyond that we discussed the models that will be used to analyze the impact the farmers market has on the local community. It was an interesting experience discussing the various aspects of the market that I will be analyzing; while I have studied and researched many of these topics before, I have never actually had the opportunity to put them into practice. I am rather excited to receive a first-hand experience of market analysis, and while my responsibilities involve more data collection and entry than anything else, everyone needs to start somewhere.

Omaha Farmers Market – Old Market (Source: OFM Facebook Page)
Omaha Farmers Market- Aksarben Village
Omaha Farmers Market- Aksarben Village (Source: OFM Facebook Page)

Another aspect of my internship that I am eager to begin is the improvement of SNAP at the Omaha Farmers Markets. SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, is available at the Omaha Farmers Markets and the produce vendors on-site are required to participate in the program. My first meeting on improving SNAP at the Farmers Market is scheduled for tomorrow morning; I will be meeting with the President of VGA and the Project Coordinator for the markets to discuss what plans and ideas we have to improve the program.

Market Customers are able to use their SNAP benefits through of use Market Tokens.
Market customers are able to use their SNAP benefits through the use of tokens. (Source: Personal Photo)

I have spent a lot time so far doing research about surveys, head-counting, SNAP, impact studies, etc. and so far the tool that has proved invaluable to me is the resource library on the Farmers Market Coalition Website. This database of resources covers every topic that I have needed to learn about thus far such as: SNAP, effective head-counting methods, survey examples, etc., and while it has been my only reference site, it has provided the most useful information I have encountered. One study involving SBIP (SNAP-based Incentive Programs) utilizes research data from over a hundred different markets from across the country, analyzes the various aspects of SNAP at farmers markets and how it can be improved. This document will be rather helpful at my meeting tomorrow. 

As far as my ‘site’ goes, there is not one place that I spend a majority of my time for this internship. So far it has involved different meetings around Omaha, some research on my own time and data entry at VGA headquarters. Even though I am suppose to get an office this week, I still do not plan on spending a great deal of time there, because I will be out collecting data from local businesses, spending time on-site at the farmers market, visiting with local community centers to improve SNAP, or a variety of other things. While this may involve a little more work than I was planning on, I prefer it this way; considering my internship is designed to benefit the community it makes sense I would be spending my time working with that community rather than behind a desk.


– Luke Bredensteiner

Social Justice WOW Recipient