Dr. Stacy Neier Beran shares how her students reimagined what farmers’ markets can be. Dr. Beran began teaching in the Department of Marketing for Quinlan School of Business in 2008. Her professional background includes roles in marketing research and consumer insights for Gap Inc. and Euromonitor International. Accordingly, her classes focus on Marketing Research as an essential tool to drive effective marketing strategies. She also teaches Fundamentals of Marketing, Consumer Behavior, Retailing Management, and Microenterprise Consulting. Each course offers opportunities to engage in the Chicagoland business community.
The Chicago Farmers Market Collective (CFMC) exists to unite forty farmers markets for collaboration and operational efficiency in Chicago’s tough municipal landscape.
Chicago farmers markets can be independently operated as city markets. CFMC enables market managers to design a consistent market experience that creates access to nutrient-dense and locally-grown food to all Chicago neighborhoods.
CFMC brought our class grand challenge questions, including how might the farmers market retail format reposition from a special event to an essential business? How might a farmer’s market be perceived as an outdoor grocery store? Understanding that the City of Chicago also instigated a design challenge for restaurants. Our collaboration with CFMC mirrored what our entire city questioned.
Design Thinking to Challenge the Status-Quo
Based on knowledge from their individual projects, our Retail Rulebreakers collectively acted to customize retail format recommendations for CFMC. Market managers had not previously considered the role that convenience plays as the primary purchasing factor for an outdoor market. What might have seemed obvious to the students unlocked a blind spot held by CFMC.
The students’ design thinking mindset – open to divergent ideation and empathetic interviewing – shifted perspective about how the markets might better meet the most basic needs of their end consumers. As such, a new grand challenge question emerged: how might convenience play a role in seasonal market shifts?
In this Topic Insights story, a satisfying ending means an unanswered grand question. With the expert work of Alexis Athena, Alina, Nida, Spencer, and all of their rulebreaker classmates, CFMC’s story presses forward. As the farmers market Fall season begins, the Retail rulebreakers work segues to another class. Through December 2020, CFMC and my Marketing Research students – my Research Rulebreakers – will design, implement, analyze, and report a full primary data collection project, including interviews, observations, and a Qualtrics survey. Farmers and food artisans face a moonshot moment.
Understanding the Why Behind Farmers Markets’ Model
A human-centered design approach to this grand challenge addresses whether the local food supply may halt completely. CFMC recognizes transparency, convenience, and cost drive food purchase decisions. CFMC also believes individual markets offer unique experiences unlike other food purchasing options. This moment is not an ad hoc, quick fix.
Students begin to question their assumptions as they realize that farmers and food artisans face collapse without a re-imagined system. We are called to break default settings on both our mindsets and methods.
The Research Rulebreakers will ask why, why, why do Chicagoans – across the city and within eclectic neighborhoods – need access to locally-grown produce and products. Together we’ll rethink how the farmers markets’ model can shift from what should be to what could be.
Among the many insights captured by students reside the farmers markets’ convenience, transparency, and cost-driven market revenue. These attributes shift the markets’ position from an outdoor experience to an essential business.
With heads for business and hearts for the world, our hands are ready for rule-breaking action.
Chicago farmers market pictures are a courtesy from Sheree Moratto, Chicago Farmers Market Collective