Carlisle Central Farmers Market: A Social Enterprise Start-Up Facing Failure

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Shortly before the Carlisle Central Farmers Market (CCFM) Board of Directors convened on Thursday evening, February 12, 2009, Eric Kleindinst, a founding member and one of the six remaining (CCFM) directors, met a close friend and business partner for dinner at a local tavern. As they sat around the table of the dimly lit establishment, their conversation soon turned to the rise and fall of the farmers’ market. Eric pondered the board choices and actions during a three-year period that led to the troubled status of the community farmers’ market. A final decision on the future of the CCFM was planned for the board meeting that evening. Could the current failing state of the market enterprise be traced to an overreach by market promoters? Is it possible to balance economic, social, and environmental goals within an enterprise? What actions and decisions are necessary for a community organization representing all three sectors to collaborate for overall community good? Chastened but not defeated, Eric knew there were valuable lessons to be learned from this experience regardless of the final decision on the CCFM operations. This decision-based case documents the history of a failing tri-sector social enterprise. The complex processes associated with enterprise development detailed in the case provide students with insights into the challenges of securing the commitment of multi-sector stakeholders; organizing stakeholders; and, finally, implementing a venture grounded in a multifaceted vision and mission aimed at increasing and sustaining overall community benefit.

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