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Tribally Owned & Operated Farmers’ Markets

Farmers’ markets can increase your tribal communities’ access to healthy, affordable fruits and vegetables while providing economic development opportunities to tribal community members—from farmers to artists—and intergenerational entrepreneurial lessons to tribal youth!  NC Department of Commerce provides resources and cost-free consultation to NC businesses trying to start, grow, and expand businesses.  A recent report analyzes the contributions of farmers’ market to local economics and job creation.

Check out Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe’s Farmers’ Market!

Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe is a living and local example of all the benefits of a tribally owned and operated farmers’ market.  The tools and topics below explain what a farmers’ market is and provide various food for thought to maximize farmers’ markets but learn first-hand from one of your fellow tribes!  Follow the Haliwa-Saponi Indian Tribe on facebook at “Healthy Sacred Circle” and contact Karen Lynch Harley (252-586-4017 or to learn how your tribe can begin to improve access to healthy foods within your tribal community and provide economic development opportunities for your local farmers!

What is a Farmers’ Market?

Farmers’ markets include a range of ways to creatively sell locally grown foods and beverages.  You can simply have one farmer setting up a certified produce stand at your tribal office or two or more vendors selling agricultural products, ranging from fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy, meat, and baked goods, directly to customers on tribal land.  Farmers may grow on small or large plots in rural or urban areas.


Benefits of a Tribally Owned and Operated Farmers’ Market

  • Healthier tribal members by increasing access to locally, grown produce and low-fat milks and protein options
  • Wealthier tribal members by providing an economic development opportunity for farmer market sellers, distributors, and marketers.  Local artists and non-food vendors can also sell their art work at farmers’ markets.
  • Healthier tribal areas by reducing air pollution generated from multiple trips to and from the distant grocery stores and cultivating local organic, agricultural practices within the tribal community with fewer preservatives, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals.

Intergenerational Entrepreneurs

Improve access to healthy, affordable foods while integrating intergenerational opportunities between elders and youth!  Encourage elders to pass down their agricultural and business knowledge to youth!  Elders also get the benefit of increased access to healthy, affordable foods, physical activity, and social opportunities.
Grow on the Success of “Garden Warriors”
The Dream of Wild Health farmers’ market in the Twin Cities of Minnesota is a great example of a Native youth garden and farmers’ market endeavor! Much of their produce has been grown from heirloom seeds preserved by the late Potawatomi elder Cora Baker.  Cora, known as the Keeper of the Seeds, was gifted seeds from over 90 varieties of Native seed.  Since 2005, Native youth, known as “Garden Warriors”, work on growing organic foods and selling them at the Unci Maka Indian Farmers’ markets three days a week.  Read their inspiring story at:
Internships, Scholarships, & Learning Opportunities
Cultivate in youth agriculture skills and career opportunities by encouraging internships and scholarship opportunities, such as:

  • Center for Environmental Farming Systems, North Carolina State University
  • Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
  • Sodexo Foundation STOP Hunger scholarships
  • Department of Horticulture Sciences, North Carolina State University
  • Organic Growers School

Many school garden programs are illustrating the health and business skill impacts of youth-run farmers’ markets!

Location, Location, Location

Consider the area within your tribal community with the most foot-traffic.

  • Is it your tribal office or other community building or land?
  • When does this area experience the most foot traffic?
  • When are youth getting picked up for cultural or sporting activities?
  • When are elders around the office for social gatherings?

Also, consider if partnering with your local church(es) is something that will help attract farmers and customers or explore teaming with local singers, drum groups, or dancers to integrate cultural activities into your farmers’ market!
Ensure proper zoning laws support your ability to establish and promote your farmers’ market for maximize visibility!  If you run into a zoning issue, call Public Health Law and Policy at 510-302-3380 for free technical assistance around healthy planning and policy initiatives.  The City of Minneapolis recently updated an ordinance to allow flexibility in vendor mix for area farmers’ markets and facilitating growth of more produce and craft markets.  And, the Los Angeles City Council has called for a new law to allow farmer’s markets in residential neighborhoods.

When you Build It, They will Come

Increasingly, farmers’ markets are building temporary or permanent shelters to help them weather any weather and to help promote the farmers’ market.  Consider available resources, building materials, and volunteer labor to help construct an appropriate sized and placed farmers’ market shelter.  Tables and chairs work too!  Explore things that would be built around the farmers’ market or where the farmers’ market should be placed/built to attract customers, including dedicated children’s play areas, basketball courts, or softball fields.
Also consider how to facilitate transportation to and from your farmers market.  The Columbia Farmers Market, a non-for-profit farmers markets in Missouri, was able to secure funding from the US Department of Agriculture’s Farmers’ Market Promotion Program to fund a Saturday morning bus route from under-served areas to the farmers’ market.

Teach Them to Fish and They will Eat Fish Forever

Encourage participating farmers to let you know what they might be selling and work with local chefs and dietitians to create effective sampling and cooking demonstrations.  Often folks do not attend or purchase from farmers’ markets because they don’t know what an eggplant is let alone what to do with it!  Encourage Native foods and Native traditions to be incorporated in healthy and feasible cooking recipes and samplings!  In Phoenix, farmers work with local health professionals and chefs to provide programs to adults and children on healthy cooking and food preservation.  Create and share recipes and consider compiling your very own tribal cookbook to complement agricultural products sold at your farmers’ market.  Recipes can also be posted regularly to your website, encouraging regular linking to your site and other informational resources.  Encourage local restaurants and stores to sell and sample your recipes too!  Check out free resources at:

  • Farmers’ Market Coalition offers technical assistance and features resources from across the United States
  • NC Fruits and Veggies Nutrition Coalition includes over 200 members and provides links to relevant government, non-for-profit, and industry resources for promoting fruit and vegetable consumption in communities
  • Eat Smart Move More North Carolina provides a guide on developing partnerships necessary to bring fresh produce to your tribal area
  • Edible Piedmont Online Magazine promotes local foods in the greater Piedmont areas of North Carolina and provides delicious recipe ideas
  • The Produce Lady, a component of the NC Cooperative Extension program, offers resources that can be shared at farmers’ market, including healthy recipes featuring NC produce

Connect with a Community Garden

Community or backyard gardens may even be able to generate sellable stuff!  Plan with community members to design your most feasible community foods projects!  Community gardens might blossom into farmers’ markets or vice versa!  The Dream of the Wild Health Farmers’ Market in the Twin Cities of Minnesota is a great example of a Native youth garden and farmers’ market endeavor!

Encourage SNAP and WIC Participation

SNAP and WIC participants who receive farmers’ market vouchers are more likely to participate in farmers’ markets!
SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps.  As a federal food assistance program, SNAP puts healthy food on the table for over 40 million people each month!  Unfortunately, not all eligible families and children participate in SNAP.  Encourage your staff to promote SNAP participation and help connect eligible families and children with local SNAP offices.  Go to SNAP to learn more about how this program can help alleviate hunger and promote nutrition in your tribal families and children.  USDA routinely awards grants to local governments and non-for-profit organizations to develop SNAP application and eligibility systems that encourage participation.  Consider applying!
Similarly, ensure pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and mothers of infants and children under 5 years old who are found to be at nutritional risk are aware of resources available through another federal food assistance program, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).  WIC offers supplemental foods, promotes breastfeeding, provides health care referrals, and coordinates a variety of nutrition education and counseling activities.  Go to WIC to learn more!  Work with your local SNAP and WIC offices to ensure as a tribal office you are doing all you can to increase participation of eligible families and children and to help reduce any possible administrative burdens.  Download and print copies of the free How to Get Food Help.
As a farmers’ market operator, you can promote SNAP and WIC by ensuring your farmers’ market can be accessed and utilized by both SNAP and WIC participants.  A number of programs and technological devices help facilitate an electronic benefits transfer system into farmers’ markets, ranging from Smart Phones to tribally-designed tokens.

  • US Department of Agriculture offers a how-to handbook for SNAP at farmers’ markets.
  • US Department of Agriculture’s Farmer Market Nutrition Program helps connect WIC and Nutrition Assistance Program for Seniors to farmers’ markets.
  • Contact Diane Beth ( or 919-707-5221) at the NC Division of Public Health to learn more about a statewide initiative called the 21st Century Farmers’ markets Program.
  • To enroll in this SNAP Farmers’ market program, email to request an application and begin the eligibility evaluation process.

Coupons and incentives can also encourage WIC and SNAP participants to redeem their vouchers at your farmers’ market.  These fresh buck type programs usually work with partners in government, agricultural, and non-for-profits to market these incentive programs.  A number utilize volunteers and grassroots-efforts to initiate and sustain these successful programs.  In Minnesota, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield offers SNAP recipents $5 in matching vounchers for a local farmers’ markets.  These vouchers doubled the number of SNAP participants attending the local farmer’s market.  Voucher recipients were also more likely to use their vouchers to purchase produce than meat, cheese, or bread.  In Connecticut, Putnam Farmers Market partners with Day Kimball Healthcare and the Wholesome Wave Foundation to allow federal food assistance vounchers to be doubled in value to buy fresh produce. The number of vouchers used since the program began in September 2011 has quadrupled.
Work with local universities to market these incentive programs while communicating with consumers that even without the incentive the farmers’ markets are economically viable options for low-income families and community members.  Contact Margaret Gifford to learn more about NC’s Farmer Foodshare programs.
NYC’s Success:  The city’s greenmarkets are managed by a non-for-profit and work to improve EBT access at the city’s farmers’ markets.  From 2010-2011, SNAP purchases increased 23 percent, up to $620.000.
USDA also offers a host of educational and promotional materials you can utilize at your farmers’ market:

  • Farmers’ Market Game
  • From Our Farms
  • The Garden Grocery: Food Safety & Selection at the Farmers’ Market
  • USDA Farmers’ Market Coloring Book

Communicate Farmers’ Market Savings

Besides savings in time and transportation expenses, attending a local farmers’ market is usually cheaper than purchasing similar projects at a convenience or grocery store.  A recent report from Bard College’s Center for Environmental Policy determined prices at a farmer’s markets were lower than local supermarkets.

Protect and Prevent Land Loss

Currently, all tribes participating in the American Indian Healthy Eating Project have potential land to cultivate for community gardening or farmers’ market!  Land potential is detailed in each tribe’s economic assessment report.  Work with tribal members to maximize this vital resource for short and long term uses!  Consider legal support and technical assistance provided by The Land Loss Prevention Project.  This non-for-profit project aims to help financially distressed and limited resource farmers and landowners in North Carolina.

Understand Your Risks & Opportunities

Work with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and sustainable agriculture non-for-profits to understand your best options for crop insurance and disaster assistance.  Unlike major commodities, such as corn, wheat, and soybeans, fruit and vegetable farmers usually do not have strong safety nets against natural disasters.  In addition, explore various loan programs and ensure you have unbiased financial advisors helping you make the best short and long term choices. Explore various opportunities at the US Department of Agriculture, such as community facilities program, business and industry guaranteed loan program, value-added producer grant program, and community food project grants.

Facilitate Donations to Local Food Banks or Charities

Build relationships between farmers and food providers, such as local churches, charities, and food banks.  Help willing farmers donate unsold products to charities.  Come to the Table is a North Carolina guide illustrating how local farms and people of faith have worked together to alleviate hunger in North Carolina.  Another example is the Sacramento Food Bank that partnered with local farmers to supply more local foods to its participating customers.

Consider even becoming a small food bank to help connect and distribute farmers’ and local food industries’ products to at-risk families within the community.  Over 200 federally-recognized tribes administer the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.  Tribal members participating in the USDA Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations repeatedly express enjoyment in picking up food while they socialize with tribal workers and customers.  Tribal members also enjoy learning about traditional recipes using available food products.  A tribally-owned and operated food bank or one operated in partnership with a local church or charity can instill similar tribal connections and promote the sharing of traditional recipes and food preparation approaches.  Contact Share our Strength to learn more about community-based programs to eliminate hunger.

Market your Market

  • Use your tribal website, local media, and social media to market where, when, and what your farmers’ market is!
  • Send text messages to your tribal members and farmers’ market regulars!
  • Make sure you are registered with your local, state, and federal government agencies tracking farmers’ markets and local organizations promoting sustainable agriculture!
  • Create and sell farmers’ market calendars integrating farmers’ markets dates, coupons, and recipes!  Calendars can also be great gifts to vendors or potential vendors or local media.  Check out an example of a healthy and homemade calendar.  Haliwa-Saponi used a 2012-2013 calender to promote their Farmers’ Market!
  • Take advantage of the 10% campaign awareness and resources.  This campaign encourages customers to buy at least 10% of their food locally.
  • Consider marketing cultivation options through Small Farm Marketing.
  • The US Department of Agriculture Farmers’ Market Promotion Program offers grants to promote farmers’ markets and has learned a lot from previous and existing grantees on how to develop a market, implement Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards for federal food assistance participants, and promote markets.

Safety First

A number of cooperative extension resources are available within North Carolina and at the federal level to help ensure food safety at farmers’ markets.  NC Department of Agriculture & Customer Services encourages any potential farmers’ markets to contact them for guidance on getting started.  Usually, the Department only inspects farmers’ markets or roadside produce stands on a complaint-basis only, if a farmers’ market or roadside stand is simply retailing a small volume of whole fruit or other agricultural products.  Food preparation is usually prohibited.  Review information and forums at NC Food Safety.
Encourage safety first by leading by example!

  • As a host, provide appropriate food washing stations and waste disposable areas.
  • Offer appropriate restrooms and breastfeeding facilities.
  • Make sure live animals (except for service dogs) are kept anyway from food areas.
  • Make sure farmers understand your food safety expectations and keep all foods stored in appropriate storage bins, at appropriate temperatures, and off of the ground.
  • Work with the state department of agriculture to ensure your sampling stations and cooking demonstrations are approved and incorporating good food handling practices.
  • Google Healthy Foods Here Produce Guide to download a user-friendly resource on how to handle, store, and display fruits and vegetables from the US Department of Health and Human Services and Public Health-Seattle & King County.
  • To limit your legal liability if a customer gets sick from a food purchased at your farmers’ market, keep up-to-date and complete records of all your food safety practices.
  • Provide sufficient clean water, washing stations, and waste disposable areas are very important.
  • Make sure all your vendors label their products.
  • Review your insurance coverage to ensure you have adequate coverage, specifically are food-borne illness covered?
  • Work with your local and state agencies to understand all relevant federal, state, and local laws.

Increasingly, states like Illinois, Oregon, and California are enacting or considering exempting foods sold at farmers’ markets or even grocery stores.  For instance, a bill introduced in Illinois in 2011 would allow sales of home-baked goods at farmers’ markets and community events if bakers have a sanitation-management certificate and the food would be labeled with information about the baker and the products and include the following:  “homemade and not subject to state inspection.”  The City of Chicago also permits some “low-risk” food sellers to certify themselves.  Oregon legislators are considering exempting smaller farmers of a range of non-meat or poultry agricultural products from state food safety regulations and inspections.  In total, over 30 states have some form of home-made food sales law encouraging chefs to make and sell their items.  Keep abreast of food safety issues and legislative initiatives at the Center for Food Safety.

Certified Organic

The US Department of Agriculture has recently implemented a cost-share program to help organic growers become certified under the National Organic Program.  North Carolina has received a grant to help North Carolina farmers with the certification process and will do so on a first come-first serve basis through September 30, 2011.  If you gross less than $5,000 per year from organic farming, you are encouraged to follow organic production standards but you do not have to be certified under the National Organic Standards.  Learn more about the financial and technical assistance provided from the state at the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services or contact

Where’s the Beef?

Increasingly, farmers’ markets are selling meat off their farms.  To sell meat, a farmer must slaughter, package, and label at a US Department of Agriculture or NC Department of Agriculture and Customer Services Facility.   The farmer must also be licensed as a meat handler from the NC Department of Agriculture, Meat & Poultry Division.  Encourage farmers to begin the free licensing process by calling:  919-733-4136.  The inspectors will be ensuring the meat handler has clean, functional, and dedicated meat and poultry products storage units (can’t be used for personal food use), such as coolers and freezers, capable of keeping products at a safe temperature.  Inspectors will also review each meat handler’s pest control measures and protocols for disposing of damaged or returned products.  Licensed meat handlers are permitted to sell anywhere in North Carolina while individual farmers’ market can set their own standards for who and what can be sold at their markets. Learn more about Carolina meat products, processing, and possibilities at The Carolina Meat Conference.
If fish is of interest, explore how the The Ecotrust and Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission used a US Department of Agriculture Community Foods Project grant to develop a Tribal Fish Market Connection Project in Portland, OR.  Another protein product of interest is increasingly eggs.  As one example, the University of Tennessee raises chickens for eggs to sell to the campus community.

Plan for Year Round Access

Encourage participating farmers to produce and sell products year-around!  In the US, over 900 farmers’ markets operate during the winter months, providing year-around access to fresh produce and year-around income potential to participating farmers (US Department of Agriculture.  USDA highlights nearly 900 operating winter farmers markets; many markets located in cold-weather states.  Release No. 064010.)!  North Carolina is one of the leading states offering winter markets!  Learn more about how over 21 farmers’ markets operate year-round in Greenmarkets throughout New York City.

Think Outside the Market

Brainstorm with your local farmers, artists, musicians, and other local resources how to map out a farm tour to help promote farm-to-customer connections and promote cultural tourism.  A number of local farms have great examples, such as the Piedmont Farm Tour and the Clayton Farm & Community Market.  The American Indian Center at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill can also help you kick-off your first tour: or 919-843-4189.

Go Mobile!

Food trucks are expanding their business uses to mobile markets.  A number of cooperative community food partnerships have helped put these innovative ideas on the road:

  • Community Food Co-Op of Utah
  • Veggie Van and Green Carts in New York City
  • Indiana University Health recently launched “Garden on the Go”, which uses trucks to bring fresh produce to under-served areas.
  • In Oregon, a flatbed truck teamed up with a local convenience store during summer 2011 to offer customers fresh produce.
  • The Food Desert Action grassroots organization in Chicago recently unveiled a Fresh Moves bus, which is a renovated city bus turned mobile produce stand.  Fresh Moves is serving an under-served community in the city.
  • Neighborhood Restaurant Group in Washington, DC plans to launch a Mobile Market using a decommissioned school bus retrofitted as a farmers’ markets on wheels.
  • Nourishing NYC hands out 500 to 1,000 pounds of donated fresh produce once a week to people on high-trafficked corners, along with free nutritional education.  They’ve reached about 100,000 people since 2008 in Harlem and the Bronx.
  • The Westgate Green Market Express in Florida brings farm vegetables to an under-served neighborhood.  The owner is working with the county health department and will have a Registered Dietitian aboard the mobile truck at least once a month to help promote healthy eating.
  • “Garden on the go” is a delivery mobile produce truck program through Indiana University Health and Green B.E.A.N.  The route continues to expand its 16 stop route and has over 5000 transactions.  The truck provides fresh, affordable fruits and vegetables to low-income Marion County neighborhoods.

In North Carolina, a mobile farmers’ market will start in April 2011 linking at-risk communities in Mecklenburg County to local farmers through churches.  North Carolina state legislators are revising their food truck laws, but at least for mobilizing access to fresh produce, especially in under-served areas, mobile markets should be safe.

Farm-to-Consumer is NOT Limited to Farmers’ Markets

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA):  Consider working with local farmers and consumers to establish a system where the tribal office receives food directly from farmers and helps promote, sell, and distribute local farmer’s produces to community members.  In this system, customers pay in advance for a portion of the farmer’s total crop.

  • Explore how the Prairieland Community Supported Agriculture system works
  • In North Carolina, a CSA project helps connect local farmers with low-income families.  Learn more from Dr. Susan L. Andreatta, or 336-256-1165.
  • Using Community-Based Participatory Research, the Lummi community and the Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington have designed a lifestyle intervention that integrates a weekly CSA and instills in participating families how to access and use healthy, local, and traditional foods on a regular basis.  Cooking classes demonstrate how to use the weekly CSA products, preserve foods, shop on a fixed budget, and use traditional foods on a regular basis in a healthy way.  Contact Vanessa Cooper, the Traditional Plants Program Coordinator, at or 360-392-4343.

Institutional Purchasing & Procurement:  As a tribe, your office, programs, and schools purchase food.  Consider a tribal resolution and specific opportunities to establish and apply a healthy and sustainable food purchasing policy!  Follow the lead of The US General Services Administration and The White House Offices of Management and Budget and Health Reform who recently established a national template for food service requirements to provide healthy and sustainable options in federal food service facilities.  A number of guides are available to help you maximize your purchases and procurements of local, health, sustainable foods, including:

  • Improving the Food Environment through Nutrition Standards: A Guide for Government Procurement. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. February 2011.
  • Understanding Healthy Procurement: Using Government\’s Purchasing Power to Increase Access to Healthy Foods.  National Policy and Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity.

Evaluate your Efforts

Learn to maximize your resources and share your process and progress with your community and other interested communities!  Work with research partners to help develop a feasible and meaningful evaluation of your farmers’ market.  Explore the free assessments tools at the National Collaborative on Childhood Obesity Research:  Few studies evaluate the nutrition or economic-related outcomes of farmers’ markets (McCormack LA, Laska MN, Larson NI, Story M.  Review of the Nutritional Implications of Farmers’ markets and Community Gardens:  A Call for Evaluation and Research Efforts.  J Am Diet Assoc. 2010;110:399-408).  A lack of evidence on community gardens hinders communities from maximizing their health and economic potential and also limits advocacy efforts for supportive legislative and funding efforts.

Share your Story

Media buzz attracts customers!  Maximize traditional and social media outlets to ensure all potential consumers know where, when, and how to get to your farmers’ market!  Feature both farmers and customers!  Circulate traditional recipes and showcase samples, cooking demonstrations, and other entertainment options available at your farmers’ market.  Also disseminate your process and progress at various levels, including state (e.g., Unity Conference and Sustainable Agriculture Conference by Carolina Farm Stewards), regional (e.g., Southern Obesity Summit), and national (e.g. American Public Health Association Annual Conference).  Share American Indian initiatives with other American Indian health and agricultural research groups and the two leading ethnic minority research organizations, African American Collaborative Obesity Research Network and the Salud America!

Get Started

  • Consider drumming up interest on the potential of a tribally owned and operated farmers’ market by using your tribe’s list_serv and member email blasts.  Invite tribal community members—potential farmers and customers—to a community forum about a tribally owned and operated farmers’ market!  Plant seeds of how a tribally owned and operated farmers’ markets can work and watch the initiative grow!
  • Take advantage of a step-by-step guide on how to start a food business in North Carolina and other agribusiness development technical and financial resources to help farm-based entrepreneurs enter the market and increase profits at:

Learn from other Local Farmers’ Markets

North Carolina offers over 120 farmers’ markets.  Use this tool to locate and visit a farmers’ market nearby.  A recent survey also provides detail on a few NC Farmers’ Markets, including rent structure and amount.  Ask the farmers’ market organizers and farmers to help share their knowledge on how to start and sustain a successful farmers’ markets!   Here are just a few North Carolina farm-based markets and programs:

  • Holly Springs
  • Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project
  • Breeze Farm Incubator Program
  • Chatham Mills
  • Piedmont

Join a North Carolina Local Foods List_serv

The Local Foods Action Plan Listserv is a statewide listserv to facilitate a local food economy moderated by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS),  The listserv is open to the public and members are encouraged to post on any topic dealing with the cultivation of local food, farms, and sustainable agriculture by emailing Posters are responsible for the content they submit.   To receive the digest version or for questions about the listserv, please e-mail

Join a North Carolina Farmers’ market List_serv

Send an email to and ask to be on the nc-farmers-market list_serv and indicate you want a weekly summary.

Explore Growing Resources on Farmers’ markets

University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cooperative Extension
Local Harvest
South Carolina’s Farmers’ Market
Project for Public Spaces