Meet Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant, New Leaf Consulting.
Deborah Cavanaugh-Grant (shown in the photo above, Deborah stands in the middle between two of her 2018 market staff) has extensive experience working in the field of sustainable agriculture and local food systems. Working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign for nearly 25 years in the area of small farms and organic and sustainable agriculture, Deborah also provided leadership through various other food and farming organizations including Central Illinois Farm Beginnings, Slow Food Springfield, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, Illinois Organic Growers Association and many others.Her work with Extension also led her to join the board of Illinois Farmers Market Association (ILFMA) in 2013. However, her noteworthy background didn’t include filling the shoes of a Farmers Market Manager until the 2018 market season when Illinois Stewardship Alliance staff reached out to her about managing the Old Capitol Farmers Market.
As a board member of ILFMA, Deborah has been a huge asset to the organization by planning educational webinars, writing a guide for farmers market managers and contributing to the strategic plan. Little did she know that her intimate knowledge of the organization would pay off when she took on the role of Farmers Market Manager. Deborah spoke with us about her role with ILFMA, tackling her first season as a market manager and which resources were the most invaluable to her:
Q & A With Deborah
Now that you are a Market Manager, what are the most useful parts of ILFMA’s work?
“Continuing education opportunities are really helpful. For example, Molly Gleason from Illinois Stewardship Alliance will be doing a webinar Feb. 18 ‘Getting Started with Cottage Food: New Law, New Foods, New Businesses’. I also enjoy attending the annual statewide conference (COMING UP ON APRIL 4 IN MONTICELLO) to meet other farmers market managers and learn from them.
Being familiar with the organization was really invaluable because I had a resource and knew where to go when I had questions. Natalie Kenny-Marquez (another board member and former Market Manager of the Urbana Market at the Square) provided a lot of guidance. I would tell anyone who is a farmers market manager that the connections ILFMA offers are a great resource!”
What would you say to a new market manager?
“When you are managing a market, it’s really important to have clear guidance and policies. During the first year, there are a lot of opportunities for frustration and confusion and you are just one person trying to manage so many different things that are happening. ILFMA’s manual is a great resource. When I have a question, it’s the first place I go.
When you are a member of ILFMA, you have a network and you know where to look. I also talked to market managers and went on their websites to look at their policies. Even as an established market, in 2018, there were issues with dogs so now we are going to have clear policies about appropriate behavior. Articulating policies is important for everyone. Dogs are allowed at our market but vendors were getting frustrated so we are making sure to communicate the new policies with our vendors and customers.”
Why do you serve as an ILFMA board member?
“During my career, I found collaboration and networking integral to success, both to me as an individual as well as the project that I would be working on. I was part of developing a lot of networks for learning and sharing. I gravitated towards ILFMA because that it is the role that ILFMA plays in the farmers market community — to network farmers market managers, local government representatives, non-profit organizations, farmers, vendors, and others with a stake in farmers markets. When I joined the board, I was working for Extension and we had educational programs and capacity on campus that made a mutually beneficial partnership. We had resources to do the webinars and hosted those in partnership with ILFMA and spread the word through our networks. I joined the board to serve the farmers market community in Illinois but I’ve gained a lot both personally and professionally from being a part of this wonderful network.”