Ideas to Strengthen Your Farmers Market or Help Get One Started

| 1/16/2015 3:31:00 PM

Tags: sustainable farming, farmers market, Oregon, John Clark Vincent,

Active farmers markets seem to be everywhere these days, but many communities have either tried and failed to get a market going or seem to continually remain in the planning stages. To help those who are still getting started, I asked a couple friends — who happen to be Portland Farmers Market pros — for a few pointers.

Anna Curtin and Amber Holland of Portland Farmers Market

Anna Curtin and Amber Holland have been working with the Portland Farmers Market (PFM) organization for the past decade and had this to say about launching a new market.

“It takes a lot to put together a farmers market,” said Anna, “because farmers markets are for everyone, right? But while there are many different stakeholders to take care of, there are three primary components… the vendors, the customers, and the market organization that speaks to the general public. The setup needs to work well for everyone, and that takes a lot of flexibility and the ability to listen really well. Plus, you have to understand that markets don’t mean the same thing to all people or all communities. A farmers market can serve different roles, depending on what a community needs it to be.”

Anna pointed to the eight PFM markets to demonstrate some differences. PFM’s Buckman market is a typical neighborhood market, much like my neighborhood’s market, the Moreland Farmers Market. Like the majority of Portland’s markets, Moreland is not associated with PFM. But both Buckman and Moreland have several farms selling vegetables, meats, and fruit, combined with value-added products, specialty items, bakeries, and hot food vendors. Plus there usually are entertainment and kids activities that often feature neighborhood schools and organizations. At the other end of the farmers market spectrum, there’s PFM’s Saturday market at Portland State University, which serves thousands of tourists, shoppers, and entertainment seekers.

“What happens at Buckman is certainly different from what’s going to be happening at our King or Pioneer Courthouse Square markets,” said Anna, “because they’re in different parts of town. And then, of course, PSU is just a completely different scale of event. But in my mind, the most important thing any market can do is bring farmers and customers together. They all do that.”

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