A Story of HOPE at East Austin’s Only Farmers Market

A Story Of HOPE at East Austin’s Only Farmers’ Market

We’re a small team of designers on the beginning of our path to understanding interaction design and applying it in real world context. We’ve been conducting research for the past several weeks at a small farmers market in East Austin, Texas. The goal of our project is not to pick out problems or successes within the market but to observe and analyze the way this grassroots operation at Plaza Saltillo in East Austin functions as a whole. Myself and my team-mates, Lauren and Leah have visited the market weekend after weekend to better understand and embed ourselves in this ecosystem. We’ve spoken with the directors of the market, it’s vendors, and its customers. We have learned a wide variety of information from these parties and are reading into each piece with equal value to really get a feel for what it’s like to participate in this market.

As Austin grows in population day by day so do the dynamics of the city. East Austin’s number of multi-level apartments have started to cast a shadow on this once sleepy, sun-soaked market square on Sunday Mornings. As we’ve watched and documented the set-up of the market through tear down in the afternoon, we have seen that the clientele is just as diverse as the vendors themselves. Few farmers markets in the city offer the use of EBT and SNAP benefits like HOPE does. While some come to the market to utilize their SNAP and EBT benefits, others stroll through to purchase CBD products, juice elixirs and listen to eclectic tunes. There’s something special about HOPE that sets it apart from the rest of the farmers markets in Austin.

Through in depth one-on-one conversations with organizers, vendors and customers we’ve gained invaluable information into the happenings of the market. We are at a point where we are putting these people’s stories forward to paint a better picture of what HOPE Farmers Market really is.

CUSTOMERS

Melissa – “What the f*** is turmeric?!” shared this first-time market goer. Melissa and her dog Sunny sat with us for an interview on a balmy 100 degree afternoon. Melissa had googled things to do on Sundays the night before and ended up on a bench in the shade at HOPE. She sat down with us on a bench under the veranda and shared a bit about who she is and how she ended up at the farmers market that day. Melissa credits her sister as being the “farmer’s market person” in the family. She explained to us that she had trouble understanding how to “work a farmers market”, and that she didn’t intend on buying anything that day. She also explained that she usually shops by color. Once she became more comfortable throughout the conversation she openly admitted she was intimidated by the farmers market experience, but that she enjoyed the relaxed vibe of HOPE. She hopes to return once she understands the flow of the market a bit better. To her, HOPE felt laid back and actually appeared to be more of an artist’s market than a true farmers market. She also was interested in finding out more about the dog related products that the vendors had to offer because she leads a “dog-centric lifestyle”.

melissa photo

Lindsay – We spoke with a cyclist passing through the market on her way to Barton springs. She came to visit the kombucha dealer of the market but her voyage was to no avail. She was perplexed at there only being one cold drink vendor on this toasty Austin summer afternoon. She recounted with us the early days of the market and how it has changed from an eclectic warehouse spot to Saltillo Plaza over time. She explained that she usually makes an effort to stop by HOPE. She’s usually just passing through or meeting someone for coffee, but she elaborated that she finds HOPE to be a valuable asset to the community and hopes that it doesn’t die. When we went through her bag with her to see what she brought with her that day, she realized that she had brought a lunch with her to the market. She didn’t plan on buying any food there.

jennifer ss

Bertha – The third customer we spoke with came to the market with intense direction. A resident of the neighborhood for twenty years, Bertha walked through with her sickle in one hand and her son’s hand in the other. Bertha shared that she was coming by to shop for groceries and also to get her sickle sharpened at the knife sharpening stand. She uses her sickle to cut her front lawn and “threaten her neighbors”. Bertha made a few quick comments about the high-rise complexes in the area and her fear of drones delivering groceries to nearby apartment patios. She said that she generally didn’t feel like a part of what was going on in the neighborhood anymore and she generally kept to her own corner. That being the market and her front yard…

Our stories from the field continue with a glimpse into the lives of vendors of the market;
Jessie – We were fortunate enough to meet Jessie, an entrepreneur and immigrant with a personality as sweet as her products. We were able to visit Jessie in her place of preparation at a nearby commissary kitchen to watch her prepare the goods she brings to the market. Jessie shared her heartwarming story of why she uses the ingredients she does to provide a sweet yet health conscious treat to those who seek it.

Jeff welcomed us into his home, which also functions as his lab space, stock room and partner’s art studio. Operating out of a tiny apartment near downtown Jeff, an engineer by trade, shared his real reason for making quality CBD products. He and his mother have sensitive skin, and have always struggled to find products that they could use. He first tests all of his products on his own body. If he is personally happy with the product, only then will he sell it at a market. While he has plans to scale the company, and sell both white-label and wholesale, he says he will never leave the farmers markets behind. He’s in this business for the positive effects he can have on others, and nothing compares to being able to see that pleasure on his customer’s faces. He explained how much he has learned about the CBD industry as well as his excitement for a booming new industry. It’s a time for CBD, he explained, that is very similar to the days of the wild west.

Lastly, we spoke with an employee of the market, Amber. Amber is a roaring ball of energy who openly shared many details of the market, her love of farmers markets in general, and her personal motivation for showing up every Sunday, even in the heat. She and her family come in from their own farm out of town to run the show. Amber brings her shining personality and passion for humans weekend in and out. She sees to it that the front and back end of things are taken care of, so that vendors have the ability to focus on their products. She sees her role in the market as an opportunity to let others flourish.

Through these deep conversations we were able to learn much more about what motivates humans to return to this tiny farmers market on the east side. We shared a few of these stories with our client and we were met with a positive response. The staff of the market works tirelessly, and doesn’t often have time to step back and evaluate. They loved hearing vendor and customer feedback. As we work towards synthesizing the data included here along with 12 other interviews, we hope to find threads and patterns that will generate insight into what the market can do to evolve.

to design for, or to design with, that is the question

SLIDE 2

 

 

Our theory class covered eight authors this section. They were both thick and thin, at times a chore to get through, but equally interesting. I struggled with finding my own two cents on understanding each author initially, but our assignment really made my understanding rather linear (heh heh). We were tasked to place these authors on a design with and design for x, y axis. We were granted the freedom to create our own z axis, I chose scalability going up, and implosive going down…

Chris Ledantec wrote our first reading and he interacted a great deal with persons who were homeless. He approached his research with input from counselors in the community to better establish trust with his participants. Ledantec used the community he aimed to learn more about to extract user created data.

Jodi Forlizzi claimed high importance on the product ecology framework broadens the view of what a product is, she claims many products are much more than functional objects of use. The objects of use’s meaning changes with time. Jodi also elaborates on the importance of frameworks which I found extremely helpful.

Paul Dourish lays out many important yet complex pieces of information that delve into the importance of context. He also delves into how easily context can disappear when you try to define it… Paul goes into the importance of context being developed in a person through everyday “mundane” life. Although his grandiose explanation was hard to get through, Dourish’s adherence to human experience let me to think he’s with them.

William Gaver’s research and writing was my most favorite of the eight. His seemingly positive approach to the peculiar was refreshing. He highlights early on that probes provided him with insights unlike any other in the development of products. He placed creativity in the hands of non-designers, how it should be, if you ask me. Gaver also acknowledges averaging results filters out the peculiar, those of which could be most exciting.

Liz Sanders does not speak much to her own personal research or experiences, however it felt clear that her enthusiasm and references to the human centered approach place her in the design with realm. Sander’s mentions things like “Empathy for the people who will be affected by change is key” She shares her value for co-creation. It puts tools for communication and creativity in the hands of the people who will benefit directly from the research.

Jane Fulton Suri, like Sanders makes important points on .a human centered approach but shares more ideas and theories surrounding it. Suri acknowledges the importance of anomalies and teams developing a common vision of what they’re trying to bring into the world. A sort of hive mentality for designers.

Don Norman, the black sheep, eye-ore type of all these readings was rather provocative, as he intended it to be. Norman seems to be wagging his finger at designers with a harsh reminder that they’re subject to societal parameters as well. From Norman’s point of view innovation is not linear with culture. It can become stagnant and incremental innovations are now the commonplace of new technologies.

Finally, we read a chapter of Jon Kolko’s writing. Jon acknowledges that design problems are had and dealt with by the powers that be…not users. The idea of design synthesis becomes more clear throughout his reading. He highlights synthesis is a sense-making process that helps the designer move from data, to information, and from information to knowledge. Not all can be solved by design research, but more opportunity for new ideas or innovative concepts.

an adherence to humanity scale

Many disciplines analyze and reflect on notable authors. For our theory presentation class this week, design proves to be no different…or does it?

Some organic, great ideas and systems have been sown into our planet by humans before us. Good-for-growth, non-gmo, betterment of humankind, type ideas have put some humans in a very nice, comfortable place.

In the shadow of those nice comfortable places are some dark not so nice places. Post-mortem consequences. Maybe the idea got too big too fast, perhaps it worked in one place on earth and not the other. No matter what facet of design you’re in; change is constant.

Edward Bernays or the granddaddy of propaganda falls furthest to the left as he highlights the use of public manipulation to influence idea. That’s scary. The miseducation of a group of humans intentionally runs far too many parallels to a certain modern-day scenario we have here in the United States right now…

 

Vitta falls just to the right of Bernays on my axis…. He’s aware that design is critical, there was a time for true innovation, whereas at the time of his writing I took away that he felt objects were a lackluster extension of self. There’s not much reflection on the process or materials, rather I heard a stress on the importance of practice, no real solutions.

Mass consumption had already well engrained itself throughout design at this point and is further reinforced in later readings from Neil Postman and Victor Papanek. This idea of making without ethics or thorough examination is of poor use. Edward Bernays writing felt the most dense however contained some of the most empathetic things I’ve read amongst the five. I found these three authors to be the most socially apt. Their ability to identify past and present, and the importance that each human carries is vital.

IDSE102- D.OHalloran Theorist Polygon Project.001

 

Understanding Farmers Markets Role In Our Community

It’s our first week here at the Austin Center for Design. We are a three-person team from the 2020 class and we are knee deep into our first project. Last Monday, we were provided a list of non-profit organizations to partner with to utilize design strategy in a real-world context.

Lauren, Leah and I (Dan) were instructed to choose five of twenty something non profits we wanted to partner with.  We called, emailed, and stopped by various organizations around Austin trying to pitch the value of a potential partnership on this project. Due to intense time con-straits we were forced to look outside our choices. With a helping hand from a fellow classmate we were put in contact with HOPE Farmers Market. HOPE farmers market has been meeting every Sunday in Austin since 2009. HOPE provides a space for farmers and the local community of East Austin to come together to experience a growing local food system. Over the next three weeks we’ll be using the tools shown to us in class and putting them to use, for real.

Similar to the classes before us, we are taking a deep dive into the unknown. We’re surrounded by driven, intelligent classmates and a strong network of supportive teachers and alumni. There are hundreds of questions but there are no real answers. 

 We’ve met for several hours over the past few days and have developed a research plan containing vital tools we’ll need in order to execute our plan. We hope to better understand the workings of farmers markets and aim to use contextual inquiry and participatory design to observe everyone’s place in the operation. This will allow the research to focus on the true behavior of the participants.

We are going to position ourselves to view these persons lives. We are going to build rapport, conduct an interview and take photos. We want and try to feel an understanding of everyone’s roles. By speaking directly with these humans we’re going to develop insights.

Below is our research plan:

HOPE Farmers Market Community Impact Research Plan

HOPE Farmers Market was on the list provided by AC4D. Our group chose this business because we are passionate about the work they are doing and the impact and the impact a market can have on the broader community.  Crystal, the Market Director for the market has agreed to partner with us.

This document details our research plan, and includes our focus, goals of the research, planned methodology, profiles of individuals we plan to interview, and scripts to be used when engaging with each of those individuals. 

Focus Statement 

To better understand the role a farmers market plays in connecting our community.

Goals

The goals of this research are:

  • Establish an empathic relationship with the persons involved in the market
  • Identify the motivating factors for participation in the market
  • Observe the logistics involved in organizing and attending the market
  • Determine the perceived value of the farmers market to the community

Research Methodology

This research uses contextual inquiry and hands-on exercises which will allow us to focus on the true behavior of the participants.  Our methodology for focusing on behavior will include:

  • Attending the farmer’s market on the day of the market to observe the way the multiple players interact (pre-market, during market, post market)
  • Conducting inquisitive informational interviews with the participants described below in order to better understand his or her motivation and behavior
  • Conversations will be augmented by exercises and corresponding materials, to spur conversations about an individual’s actions, thoughts, and feelings as they pertain to parts of the participant’s role that we cannot directly observe.

Based on our basic understanding of farmers markets we have pulled together three main groups of event stakeholders that make up the broader community.  We have broken these groups down in more details by a few key but differentiating attributes.  To be sure, it is a diverse, but not scientifically significant sample size.

Our research will be conducted with representatives from the HOPE Farmers Market nonprofit organization as well as other farmers markets in the region so that we can gain a comprehensive understanding about the space, and the impact similar markets are having on the community. It will also include various customers and vendors with a wide range of attributes.

Participant Profiles

LDL Research Proposal 1

Script / Research Protocol – Event Organizers

Goals specific to members of an organization that organizes farmers markets (staff, board member, volunteer)

  • To understand the “back of house” work and day-to-day operations that go into putting on a farmers market
  • To understand the structure of the “presenting” entity, including staffing structure and revenue model
  • To understand the motivation for initiating and continuing a market
  1. Introduction

Thank you so much for meeting with us today.  As we mentioned in our previous email, we are students at the Austin Center for Design.  We are here to learn more about the [Name] farmers market.  We are hoping to learn everything we can about [org name], your role with the organization, and your day to day activities here. We’ll start with a few questions and then transition into some exercises to learn even more about the market and its impact in the community.

First, I have a one-page consent form for you and I to both sign. This basically states that everything you say in this interview will be completely anonymous. I will, with your permission, be recording the interview and taking pictures as we talk. The recording will only be used for internal purposes. It helps me focus on our conversation today instead of having to feverishly take notes for fear of missing something you say.  We’ll talk through quite a bit today, but the time should fly right by.

  1. Introductory questions
    1. Will you tell me a little about the market?
    2. What is your role with the farmer’s market?
    3. How did you come to learn about this market?
    4. What kind of an impact do you hope the market has in the community in Austin?
    5. What are some of your favorite elements about the market?
    6. What are some of the most challenging elements of organizing the market?
    7. How have you seen the market evolve since you first became involved with it?
    8. How was the location of the market chosen? 
  1. Exercise: Tool Walkthrough

We want to understand what tools the market is using to attract both vendors and customers.

Do you have any software tools, marketing tools, or databases that help you find and invite new vendors or customers?

  • Can you show them to us and walk us through how you use them?
  • Why do you use these?

Dig into what they like most about the tool, what they find challenging, what they wish the tools did, etc.

Do you have any physical tools you use to attract vendors or customers to the market, like posters or mailings?

  • Can you show them to us and walk us through how you use them?
  • Why do you use these?

Dig into what they like most about each over these materials, what they find challenging, what they wish these materials did, etc.

  1. Exercise: Shadow your work

We want to see you in your element at the farmers market. Do you mind if we follow you around on Sunday to see what you do and who you talk to? (Take note of who they talk to, why they talk to them, and the impact that work has on the overall event.)

  1. Exercise: The Market’s Ecosystem

We know there is a lot that goes into planning and hosting a farmer’s market every week for over ten years.  We would like to understand all of the players that come together each Sunday.  I have a blank sheet of paper here with some sample concentric circles. The farmers market is the center of the circle. Can you draw all of the different players that participate in the event in the outer circles. The more important they are to the core operation of the farmer’s market, the closer to the middle circle.

  1. Conclusion

Thank you so much for talking with us today.  We really learned a lot about [NAME] farmer’s market. Would you mind if we reached out to you by email with additional questions, if they arise? Thanks again!

Script / Research Protocol – Customers 

Goals specific to the customers attending the farmers market

  • To understand who the customers are
  • To understand why customers choose to attend farmers markets
  • To understand how customers spend their time and money at farmers markets
  • To understand what the value of the farmers market is to the customer
  1. Introduction

Thanks for taking the time to work with us today. This meeting should take about 2 hours. Before we get started, I have a brief consent form that I would like you to review and sign. This describes that we will be audio recording the session for our own notes and recollection, and, with your permission, taking pictures. Your name, face, and any other identifying information will be removed so you will be completely anonymous. The recording won’t be shared with anyone else and then I won’t be distracted taking notes for fear of missing something you say.

Let me explain how our session today will work. First, we’re going to ask you some brief questions about yourself and your experiences at farmers markets. Next, we’ll work through several exercises and worksheets about your experiences as you think about what food and community mean to you.

We’ll talk through quite a bit today, but the time should fly right by!

  1. Introductory questions
    1. Where are you from?
    2. What part of town do you live in?
    3. Can you tell me a little bit about your typical week?
    4. What do you like to do in Austin? What are some of your hobbies?
    5. Who are some important people in your life? Can you tell me about them?
    6. When did you start coming to this farmers market?
    7. How often do you come to this market?
    8. What are some of your favorite things to do at the market?
    9. How do you feel at the farmers’ market? Why?
    10. When you’re not shopping at the farmers market, where are some places around town that you like to shop?
  1. Exercise: What’s in your bag?

We want to understand what sort of person our customer is as related to how they prepare for their day.

  1. Will you show me some of the things that you brought with you today. Can you tell me about why you have these things?
  2. What do you never leave home without?
  1. Exercise: Your Market Journey

Present a long straight line on a piece of paper with a sunrise image on the left end and an arrow pointing to the right on the other.

We want to understand how you spend your time at the farmers market. Can you mark on this timeline as many things as you want that you did before and during the farmers market in order.

  • When you leave the farmers’ market where do you go?
  • How do you get to and from the market?
  • Did you take any photos the last time you were at the market? Can we see them?
  1. Exercise: Draw a simple map of a farmers market

There are so many great things about attending farmers’ markets in Austin.

Here’s you (draw a stick figure on a sheet of paper).

Will you draw me a map of where you go first, second, third, etc.  What vendors do you go to? Who do you talk to?  What other activities will you engage in at the farmer’s market?

  1. Completion

Thank you so much for being willing to talk to us today. It was really interesting to talk to you and we learned a lot. We’ll be interviewing several other people over the next few weeks, and those conversations might prompt some more ideas. Would you mind if we reached out to you by email with additional questions, if they arise?

Thank you!

Script / Research Protocol – Vendors

Goals:

  • To understand what vendors gain by coming to the farmers market. Is there a bigger takeaway other than sales driving their return week after week?
  • To understand how vendors view themselves at HOPE Farmer’s market, and the Austin Farmers market ecosystem 
  1. Introduction

Thanks for taking the time to work with us today. This meeting should take about 2 hours. Before we get started, I have a brief consent form that I would like you to review and sign. This describes that we will be audio recording the session for our own notes and recollection, and, with your permission, taking pictures. Your name, face, and any other identifying information will be removed so you will be completely anonymous. The recording won’t be shared with anyone else and then I won’t be distracted taking notes for fear of missing something you say.

Let me explain how our session today will work. First, we’re going to ask you some brief questions about yourself and your experiences at farmers markets. Next, we’ll work through several exercises and worksheets about your experiences as you think about what food and community mean to you.

We’ll talk through quite a bit today, but the time should fly right by!

  1. Introductory Questions:
    1. Where do you come from?
    2. What do you bring to the market?
    3. Can you tell me about your product(s)? – (Where is farm/shop?)
    4. Why HOPE Farmers market?
    5. Can you tell me about your Sunday morning?
    6. What do you want your customers to know?
    7. Can we walk through a transaction? (What do you use to sell? i.e. square, venmo, cash)
    8. Do you sell anywhere else?
    9. Who else is part of the process?
    10. Why do you do this?
  1. Exercise: What’s behind the table or Where is the truck?

We know product is important, but we’re interested in learning about everything it takes for you to present and sell your product here. We want to see what tools you need in order to make this happen.

  • Can you bring me behind your table?
  • What tools do you use?
  1. Exercise: Timeline exercise; the power of now?

Here we are, we’re here. I know this strawberry didn’t come out of the ground in two days…

Can you please take this pen and mark for me where you feel you are now, and what it took for you to get here?

Materials to prepare

Consent forms

  • Audio recorder (i.e. phone)
  • Phone charger
  • Pen and paper

Through this project we hope to deliver actionable insights to HOPE.

 

An AC4D Orientation Week Musing

Freedom is hard to navigate if you have never had it before. During freedoms of my own I’ve felt myself discovering that there is no north or south anymore. Right or wrong is out the window, and questions may make your freedom harder to navigate. Throughout the week we’ve been asked to act on unfamiliarity on the spot. It reminds of times where people shout, “Do a kickflip!” at skateboarders as they drive by in a car.

One of our teachers suggested to bid farewell to family and friends for the next while as we will be swallowed with the program. Upon hearing that I feel that I felt that I am supposed to be here. I feel relieved to be somewhere that asks you to bring and use what you know already to a situation but forget all of it at the same time.

I learned you can’t please everyone. Especially employees of food trucks, at two o clock in the afternoon, in Austin, Texas during the month of August. I learned I have to practice silence, listening and comfort. I’m scared, un-prepared, excited, and ready. I learned that a Tuesday afternoon can generate a whole bunch of post it’s, and some really amazing (and not so amazing) ideas.