Reimagining farmers markets


Wild Coyote Farm produce stand at a Chicago farmers market
Wild Coyote Farm and many other farms and food artisans sell their produce and goods at Chicago-area farmers markets.

This summer and fall, students in Senior Ignatian Lecturer Stacy Neier Beran’s courses are partnering with the Chicago Farmers Market Collective to re-imagine the role of farmers markets during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

The collective, which represents 40 markets, seeks to provide all Chicagoans with access to locally grown food.

“What makes this partnership exciting is the shared potential to address a grand challenge – a wicked problem – that has impact in all neighborhoods in Chicago,” says Neier Beran. “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 partnership launched with the summer Marketing Retail writing intensive course. In just six weeks, the undergraduate students met virtually with market managers from the Chicago Farmers Market Collective, visited farmers markets in-person, and conducted audits of retail strategy and formats.  

Among the students’ insights: convenience, transparency, and cost drive market revenue. These attributes shift the markets’ position from an outdoor experience to an essential business.

This fall, Marketing Research classes are taking these insights and are collecting primary data to understand how markets can operate during the fall and winter. Data collection will also address promotional strategies focused on uniting the collective’s mission.  

“I’ve witnessed the incredible impact of the work of Dr. Stacy Neier Beran and her student-consultants over the past five years. I had always dreamed of having the experience first-hand,” says Sheree Moratto, manager of the Glenwood Sunday Market. “I am thrilled that the CFMC project meets the needs of the curriculum, provides a real-life challenge to help the students hone their expertise, and will guide CFMC on its path. Thank you, Stacy and students!”

Students reflect

Students in the summer Marketing Research course reflected on how Neier Beran’s course pushed them to be stronger marketers, strategists, and writers, and how the course proved that online learning can be very effective. Read their words below.

Eduardo Aleman

I absolutely loved Stacy’s MARK 360 online class! I’m usually very shy in a lot of my classes, and as a result I would feel unheard. But Stacy would reach out to me and encourage me to ask questions. As a result, I would engage in class, asking industry guests as well as classmates questions. Stacy has made the class very open to discussion as well as open to talking to her during her office hours. I wish this class wasn’t so short since I've learned so much in a short period of time while also being remote.

Spencer Bailey

I was initially afraid to take an online summer course with three-hour class sessions because I thought it would drag on. However, Retailing Management quickly became the highlight of my summer. Not only am I more confident in my writing, but I am more confident in myself. Dr. Neier Beran proved to my classmates and me that the format of a class does not determine its worth. Whether in-person or online, one’s attitude and outlook will ultimately determine how good an experience is regardless of its format. As long as you utilize the features at your disposal and think in new ways, the experience can be better than you ever imagined. 

Jason Janiga

Retailing Management was one of the most impactful classes of my college experience. This class, which met twice a week for around three-and-a-half hours each, provided more than enough time to learn the concepts while Professor Neier’s teaching style made me feel comfortable and fully engaged during class. The course was writing-intensive, which benefited me as I learned much more about decluttering my words to sound more professional. We had a portion of our final project, which was a retail strategy audit, due almost every class. This set-up held me accountable with minimal pressure. Additionally, following this schedule and accepting her advice on my writing, I didn't have to work on anything for the final. Professor Neier worked to decrease stress and was incredibly accommodating and fully listened to the students' input. I recommend taking a class over the summer to reduce the number of courses you have to take during the year, especially if it is this class.

Alexis Meyer

Stacy’s Marketing Retailing course was the best online experience I have ever had. It was engaging, lively, and full of curiosity. The highlight included Stacy hosting guest speakers almost every class. We gained insights from such an elite group of diverse individuals, something truly special. Fun fact: me and one of my group members met up at our client’s farmers market to get real-life observations! Finally, I saw a huge improvement in my writing (in only a short six weeks) thanks to my stellar team and Stacy. MARK 360 made me a better student, marketer, and businesswoman.

Alina Prioteasa

The online Retail Management experience taught me how to work with diverse clients, while writing well-detailed audits. Although courses did not meet in person, Professor Stacy Neier Beran ensured enough criteria and feedback to engage us all while constructing an experience of marketing careers. I learned how to individually conduct research and present criteria for clients to improve in. The course prepared me for future classes and careers through decluttering my writing, putting together a professional portfolio, and learning how to begin a personal podcast. The course helped improve my writing and marketing skills, preparing me for a successful future. 

Abby Wiechman

When my plan of an in-person internship came crashing down, I went into a panic. Looking for a way to continue building my resume, I took a chance on summer classes and it turned into one of the best choices I ever made. Having a routine and a sense of normalcy is more important and valued than ever right now. Class gave me something to look forward to and allowed me to see faces beyond who I lived with. I was able to explore without a 15-hour course load and social obligations. In Retailing Management, I created new pieces for my portfolio and made connections with guest speakers. I discovered a passion for writing and learned skills that will follow me through my career. All of this came from simply saying yes to a summer class.

Learn more