6 Steps to Creating a Community Farmers Market

| 6/1/2015 12:39:00 PM

Start a Farmers Market 

When I moved to my little town over 11 years ago, there was hardly a farmers market to speak of. The market that did exist took place in a dusty, sun-baked parking lot at the edge of town. Market hours were from 9am to 1pm on a Tuesday—not prime shopping hours for most 9-to-5 working types. Needless to say, consumer participation was low.

Vendors at the market were in short supply. There were five tables: three vegetable growers and two crafters. The growers and crafters that participated were not local (other than one), and the produce they furnished was likely (based off of its appearance) something that didn't sell at the nearby Saturday market and so was trucked back to the farm, reconstituted in water and held until the following Tuesday in marginal refrigeration. Not exactly the awe-inspiring display one wants to see when taking the time to shop local.

Challenges Joining a Farmers Market

In those days, the market that existed was an off-shoot of a larger organization located nearly 25 miles to the East of us. There was an absentee market manager, no advertising, awful signage and the impression that our town’s produce needs really weren't all that important to anyone in charge. It was dismal.

Back then, my husband and I were newbie farmers…well, more like over-producing backyard growers who were tight on cash. On a whim, we contacted the market board to see if it was worth our time to participate in our “local” market. The short answer, after reading through the fine print and seeing the vendor fees, was a resounding “no.” There was no incentive for local small producers to participate in the market process. Discouraged, we searched for a better outlet for our abundance.

Fast forward one year in time: Our small backyard enterprise had since grown into a 1.5-acre mini-farming operation and we were desperate to establish some steady markets for our crops. I attended a farm-to-table event in a nearby town and was introduced to several other young growers, plus a slew of agency staff. As we were departing the venue, one of my new acquaintances hinted at the idea of creating a new farmers market and was actively recruiting participants. This is how, nearly 8 years ago, I was pulled into the market creation process.

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