Starting a Farmers’ Market

If your area lacks local food options, consider starting a farmers’ market yourself.

| September 2015

Farmers' market

A good example of a double booth. The plants are large and take up quite a bit of space. Doubling the booth space makes an attractive and accessible display.

Photo courtesy Voyageur Press

Janet Hurst is a farmer who teaches other farmers how to market their products, and The Farm to Market Handbook (Voyageur Press, 2014) is a guide to creating a successful and sustainable business out of your small farm. From farmers’ markets and CSA programs to selling to schools and restaurants, you can find venues for your products with a little foresight. The following excerpt is from chapter 5, “Starting a Farmers’ Market.”

You can purchase this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: The Farm to Market Handbook.

If there is not a viable market in your area, consider starting one. The best way to begin is to contact friends and neighbors who grow, bake, or make quality handmade items. Plan a meeting and see what kind of community interest there is. If there are enough (four to eight people can start a market), then you can move forward.

First Steps

There will have to be some kind of governing body—either a board or one person as the market master—to give structure, answer questions, talk to the press: in other words, present a united front. It is also advisable to have the vendors sign an agreement stating what can and cannot be sold, hours of participation, cost of and payment for the booth fee, etc. Will you require product liability insurance? Depending upon your location, the landowner may require liability insurance. It is definitely advisable to have liability insurance on the site.

Start your planning sessions in the fall before your spring opening. It takes a surprising amount of time and preparation to get started. Established and successful markets prove that this forecasting is time well spent. You do not want to start the first day without a pretty good idea of how things are going to run. First impressions are lasting to your customers. After a few weeks, it will become natural, although there are always unanticipated events when you are dealing with the public.

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