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.
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.
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