Start a Farmers' Market

in Your Own Area

 

Written By Brenda A. Butterfield

Our Old Farmhouse-early 1900’s

 

Meet the publisher:   Brenda A. Butterfield
This booklet is written for those of you who wish to start a farmers market. Many years ago, I was successful in starting one in my area. Through the pages here (30 in all ) you will find important tips on how you can start a successful market of your own.

Thank you for downloading, printing and reading this publication.

Here’s to a successful future in your field!

CHAPTER 1

When Starting a farmers market in your area, one of the first choices to make is who will plan it, why and how it will it be planned?

WHO WILL PLAN YOUR MARKET?

In our town it was started by a private person-me and one other local farmer and good friend who agreed to let me use her phone number as a second contact. Being a dairy farmer and taking care of over 100 cows, she did not have too much time to help but planned to be a market vendor from the start, selling sweet corn as her family had in the past in another state.

As our first year got underway, I remember wishing I had grown sweet corn! It was a great seller at the market that first year.

Your new market can be planned by a public organization of people already formed or by a town or private group. Your most important choice is WHO can take charge to get it done right.

WHY IS A MARKET PLANNED?

I grew up in the country and my Dad, who had to feed us all on a teachers budget always grew vegetables in a garden off to the right of our house. When they came in excess, he would give away grocery bags of garden produce to relatives and friends who came to visit around that time of the year.

Keeping this in mind, I thought of the many retiring or work at home folks growing their own food too. I thought of the extra money this market could bring them. I was reminded of how many of us do not leave the farm hardly at all and the social atmosphere it would bring to us.

But mainly it was the lack of fresh, in season produce at one location, in the area and I felt it would fill that need in the local community. We had our scattered roadside stands and seasonal apple orchard stores but there was not an open market where you could choose vegetables or fruits from the quality, price or grower.

Nowadays some markets are planned in order to be able to help more people use the Farmers Market WIC coupons, a federal and state program which most of our vendors are participating in.

HOW OUR MARKET WAS PLANNED

After the growing season, my friend and I got together a few more times to discuss starting a farmers market. Finding a market site and vendors was the only way this market was going to begin.

I decided to put a notice in the local paper to see if any one else was interested in being in an outdoor farmers market. I knew that getting the farmers to find the time to participate could be difficult.

In our area of the United States, the New England Area, there is more time to plan in the early winter for many of us. The cold winter weather helps to keep us inside where it is warmer.

In mid January and for two months thereafter a notice was posted.

Our public news notice looked something like this:

NOTICE
There is a farmers market starting in the local area and we are looking for interested growers who wish to sell at the market. We are also looking for a local business or sponsor to provide an area for the new farmers market. Anyone interested in being in the new market or willing to provide an outdoor location for this market should please call (
our two phone contact numbers were here) for more information.

The local paper did not charge us for the notice. We did get responses. There were three locations to choose from. There were at least five farmers who wanted to join up. Some of the locations were not free. I decided to meet with the owner of the best one– a private restaurant with an outdoor order window and tables, besides the indoor seating area. There was a large parking lot for people and customers. It was visible from a main road and the cleaned out, former outdoor miniature golf area was offered to us for our market for free.

In choosing a market site, these were our issues:

Was there a large enough area for customers and market members? The vendor area was adequate, and we could pull in and back up to our “spot”. There was room for plenty of sellers! Here also there was plenty of room for customers to park but it was not a great location for people who wanted to walk to our market. Not perfect but it would do.

Was it safe for people, especially those with young children when they were parking or walking to the market? Did they have to park their vehicles beside or cross a busy road? Not here-I would not have looked at any area that was not safe for all people, especially the young children whom I had two of myself.

Was it easily accessible? How far did our sellers need to travel to get here? Could they pull right in and set up easily? Could handicapped people be able to access our market? Was there a place for them to sit down and rest? Was the ground smooth and free of rocks or other items that could make a person stumble?

Were there restrooms and a nearby place to get cool water or a hot beverage? Not a necessity for a market but sure appreciated by the vendors!

Was there any shade or shelter from the wind, sun or rain? If there are no trees around or pavilion type buildings you may use, plan on having your sellers be prepared to bring umbrellas or tarps! Produce such as fruits and greens especially do not tolerate the hot sun well and may wilt or dry up on your table very quickly. We have moved our market location four times over the past eight years. This first location had no trees or natural shade.

Picking a Name for your Farmers Market

 

Do you need to have a name for your Farmers Market?

YES, I believe it is important to have a name.

A name is important for your market identity and to help people find your location. Many markets use a town name such as “THE DUBLIN FARMERS MARKET” or “THE BOSTON AREA FARMERS MARKET”

In forming our market, the farmers and growers came together as a group, and our first meeting discussed picking a name. We decided to have potential members come up with names for our next meeting. By our second meeting it was voted and decided by everyone there to choose “The Sunrise Farmers Market”. A few years later, when we had the extra money, we registered this name with the state of New Hampshire so that another market picking and registering the same name would not be able to tell us we couldn’t use it anymore. It was a good way to keep our name for eternity, and as long as the name was renewed every five years, we were all set.


Picking a Time and Day

Many locations may only allow you to set up at certain times and days, such as bank parking lots, churches or business that have no room for your market until the weekends. Do you want to be there all day or just three or four hours? Is morning or afternoon better ? Ask your new group of potential members what is best for them. Bakers like the afternoons and flower growers like the mornings. It is hard to please everyone, growers, customers and location owners, but I have found over the years that your regular and best customers will be there no matter what your day or hours may be. Be open at least 3 hours per week and stay consistent!

We discussed in detail, at our very first meeting, what time and day (s) we were to be open to the public. Was it a reasonable hour for us and our customers and what days were we available to set up? Our market area owner did not mind whatever day or hours we decided to be open for business, which was very lucky for us.

Many meetings later we finalized these plans so our market could be advertised BEFORE we opened.

We decided (in early March) when we opened in June, it would be two days-one in the morning and one in the evening. We picked Saturday mornings from 8:00AM to NOON and Wednesday afternoons from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM.

 Realize how important it is to keep the same hours and days the first year even if it doesn’t work out well for your vendors! A customer that shows up five minutes before you close and finds no one there will not come back!

Did our days and hours work for us?


Changes to our hours were eventually made. Most customers did not really come to the market until 9:00 AM on Saturday. So why open at 8:00 AM when we needed that extra time to pick produce! Most vendors at the Saturday morning market said “no matter what time I get up I still do not have enough time to pick everything!” The very next year in March we voted to open in June at 9:00 AM on Saturdays, instead of 8:00 AM.

Finding out the hard way and by experience, Saturdays were now going to easier and less stressful for us vendors in the coming years.

Now Wednesdays, we realized in the first year, by early fall it was dark at our outdoor area! There were no outdoor lights. We also noted that not many customers came after 6:00 PM throughout the growing and selling season. We also found it was difficult for us to stay until 7:00 PM . Some vendors had children and had dinners to cook at home. I was glad to vote by the next year to change the Wednesday hours to 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM.

These hours may work for you or may not depending on your members. We found they worked well for us. Are three hours of being open enough? For us the answer is YES! Most customers now come the first hour and 1/2 we are open to get what they need before it is sold out!

Now what about the day of the market?

You may choose to be open only one day a week instead of two. Note:

When fresh produce is ready to be picked... once a week may find it overripe! Other “unsold fresh produce” will not usually keep long, especially another week!

BUT Then again

We decided after six years that two days a week was too much time spent at the market or getting ready for our market. I wanted to have my weekends back again even though business was good Saturday mornings. There were so many other things going on for people on that day! We had a few vendors that were not happy about this. But the most committed people who showed up every time were very pleased with the new schedule.

OR how about forming or joining two markets on different days?

(This concludes these 7 printable pages- click here to go on to the next chapter)