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The Farmers' Market at Kaiser Permanente, Fresno, California, USA

Not just advising patients to stay healthy but also providing fresh food on a hospital campus

Farmers Markets connect fresh produce with customers, directly through the farmers. It is and age-old concept, still very much prevalent in many parts of the world and is gaining ground in the 21st century. Invariably urban settings, that do not have access to fresh food are ideal locations for these markets. For the farmers, there is the attraction of no middleman, which means more profit to them. Increasingly, in the western world, these are also considered community events where people get to meet the people who grow their food, and meet one another.

Many markets have demonstrations, blood donation drives and even live music, adding to an overall festive atmosphere. (What is a Farmers’ Market?) 

The market covered here makes the cut for the sheer idea of running a fresh food market on a hospital campus! This, along with some 50 other similar markets are part of the fresh food movement started by the Kaiser Permanente Hospitals in the United States of America. Instead of just advising patients to eat healthy and increase consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, one doctor ( Dr. Preston Maring) started a fresh food market on the sidewalk (footpath) outside the hospital he worked in  (Kaiser Permanente, Oakland California) in 2003. This has since caught on and there are now 50 such farmers markets once a week across various Kaiser Permanente facilities in the United States and another non-Kaiser hospitals around the country! 

This is also an interesting case for those with intrapreneurial ambitions, wanting to innovate from within their company, whilst keeping their day job.

These markets have an intrapreneur in the form of a self-appointed Market Champion who plans, organizes and oversees the market. From vendor relationships to market logistics (when, how long, where on the campus, parking for vendors etc.) the market champion at each hospital is responsible for overseeing and managing the market. The hospital does not charge the market vendors a fee, making it beneficial for the vendors. Not having monetary issues to reckon with makes it relatively stress-free for the intrapreneurs (who all have paid day jobs at the hospital).

 

  ‘The market champion is ideally somebody mid level, ideally been with us for about 3-5 years, knows people and people know them. They will know their duties, know how much time and resources they can contribute and basically get the ball rolling' says Dr. Maring.

This is sound advice for those with intrapreneurial ambitions, 3-5 years is enough time to see & be seen, to establish credibility, making ones’ words to be taken seriously. It is also important for intrapreneurs to be knowledgeable about the organization they work for, so as to propose ideas that are viable enough for leadership to consider seriously.

What it is

A farmers’ market within the hospital campus at Fresno, California USA,  serving locally grown fresh food and prepared foods. Patients and visitors, hospital staff and entire community has free access, every market day [Wednesdays 10-1pm]. 

"Running the market is not our day job, we are a hospital, be mindful of your day-job and your company's core activities, it will help shape your venture accordingly', says Meredith Murillo, Market Champion at Fresno, whose day job is as the Communications Manager at the hospital. 'This means we don't take on too much, don't expand for the sake of it and have to be very conscious that this market reflects Kaiser Permanente's values as well. 

 

The details

 

The market works with a direct sourcing operational model, meaning, the hospital (market champion) is responsible for sourcing all the vendors directly.

This takes time and relationship building, says current market champion Meredith Murillo. She and her team (from the public affairs department) put in as much as 10 hours a week (25% of the work week) on the market.

Being with the public affairs department means knowing how to interact with people and cultivating local contacts as part of their job, making the task of running the market easier.

"Use social media. Vendors, farmers etc. nowadays are all very open to being contacted directly; an advantage I did not have in 2004. Do not underestimate its reach" 

Despite an early failure (see graphic below), Murillo and her team have persevered, running this market for over 13 years now, expanding and making it interesting..

From hospital leadership to security, facilities management to planning commission, they have had to interact with everyone within the hospital and city officials, not to mention several farmers and vendors.

Another point to note here is that intrapreneurial activities will have more restrictions. As in, the market on the Fresno campus has issues that might not crop up in a regular market. Patients get top priority, the main activity of the hospital can not be interrupted at any cost. Aisles must be wide enough not just for wheelchairs but for medical staff, gurneys and any medical emergency. While the hospital has a separate emergency entrance, nonetheless, the doorways cannot be blocked. 

Vendor loading/unloading should not clash with patient movement. Vendor parking is allocated on the far side of the parking lot and must be adhered to. Murillo has created maps and time slots for vendors with regards to both these issues. 

It is an extra bit of effort but as Murillo likes to remind us, they are above all a place of care and healing, the market is always secondary to hospital activities. 

Quick Facts

26 vendors hawking fruits, vegetables, other produce like honey and jams, prepared food for a quick lunch

Operational since 2005.

Space for sitting and having a quick bite, entire market is handicap accessible, compliant with the US Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) . This means aisle width and space in front of the market can all easily accommodate a person/s in wheelchairs. 

"Talk not just to leadership and city officials but also others who will be key to making your idea a reality- in my case it was parking and maintenance, facilities and security personnel, anticipate whose help you will need and keep them in the loop. Don't dump your plan on them in the last minute, planning out the logistics is very trying', Murillo on logistics.

Impact

 

These markets have not only increased in number across other locations, exceeding 50, they have spawned a new way of walking the talk, with another 50 (and counting) non-Kaiser hospitals following suit. Internal surveys show patients at locations where markets are run take appointments on market days!

So what does it take to set up a market as an intrapreneurial effort? What are logistics and timelines involved? Who are the people one needs to bring into their team?

Market Champion at Kaiser Fresno, Meredith Murillo helps disseminate the process:

'Running a market is 75% relationship cultivation & maintenance, it is ongoing and ever changing. The same goes with research. Changes and new elements keep coming up. These are tiring, trying things, the both of them, but makes a huge difference ultimately'.

KP Write up

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The Farmers Market at Kaiser Permanente Fresno can be contacted at https://goo.gl/WBN3FP

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