How to Start a Farmers Market

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Jena, Oct 30, 2004.

  1. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,489
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Where does one start?

    I could call up some property owners and set the thing up, but then who's market is it???? I don't want to "own" it. Who does? The city? An organization within the city? Nobody?

    Who's responsible for problems, organization, rules??? Who gets all the complaints??? I'm willing to do the job, but it just seems like there ought to be someone else responsible besides one person.

    Should I make announcements and have a meeting of interested persons? I can do that...then set-up committees so everyone has to fight over everything and it never gets off the ground????

    Set it up a lot of it, then have a meeting to inform and ask for opinions and input????

    I have some good contacts, but just quite don't know where to start.

    Help!

    Jena
     
  2. moopups

    moopups In Remembrance

    Messages:
    7,102
    Joined:
    May 12, 2002
    Location:
    In beautiful downtown Sticks, near Belleview, Fl.
    First, establish that you have enought vendors that would appear when exspected.
    Establish there is enought customer base to make it go.
    Location, location, ect. Parking, traffic, convience, structures?
    Permits needed? Health department regs? Sales tax? Sanatation? Public's attitude? Past failures or successes? Schedual? Seasonability? Advertising? Start up costs? Your profit? Crafts included? Liability conserns? Experience with the public? Debris removal? Compitishion?
     

  3. Ardie/WI

    Ardie/WI Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    15,516
    Joined:
    May 10, 2002
    Research, research and research some more.
     
  4. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    3,143
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2002
    One approach is to use city owned space but have the market supervised by a committee composed of market participants and a representative of the city. Once things get going you would probably want to file as a not-for-profit organization and do the normal things to protect against liability.

    Normally there would be a market manager. That person would be responsible for policing things at the market, being the point of contact, marketing,etc.

    I would go the route of finding a few like minded people and come up with a plan. Once you have a plan to present to city officials you can invite more people to participate.

    As usual, just my 2 cents.

    Mike
     
  5. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

    Messages:
    14,609
    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2002
    Location:
    Dysfunction Junction
    Around here, we have a farmer's market run by the Chamber of Commerce, and one in a different town run by the state ag college Extension Service.

    Both take place on city-owned property (one in a park, the other in a parking lot).

    Your state Extension Service ought to have a lot of helpful information!

    I'd suggest identifying a possible location and rounding up some potential vendors first and establishing a market board ... then approach one of the above organizations. Take them some data on the positive benefits of markets ... availability of fresh produce, stimulates local economy, supports local farmers, brings people downtown, etc. Be prepared for the fact you might have to do a presentation before a board of directors or city council!

    Are you willing to serve as market manager? If not, try to identify someone who is willing and get them on board from the outset ... make it very easy for the sponsoring organization to say "yes" to your proposal. ;)

    As part of your proposal, you might ask the sponsor for a small grant for start-up expenses ... advertising, liability insurance, etc. They will probably be more comfortable with giving a set figure than committing to an open-ended amount. Check to see when their fiscal year begins and ends ... it may be a matter of asking that money be allocated in the next budget. Some groups are relatively willing to dip into the slush fund for things that crop up mid-year, while others are really anal about sticking to the budget and only funding what's already been budgeted for.

    Remember you can always apply for grants elsewhere too ... there was a link on GC the other day about ag-related grants being available through www.sare.gov ... and service clubs often are looking for worthwhile projects to fund.
     
  6. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    46
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2004
    Location:
    Indiana
    One of my online buddies sent me some links. I haven't looked at them all yet, but I will get what he sent and post them.

    http://www.sustainabletable.org/shop/markets/

    http://www.cafarmersmarkets.org/aboutsfma/how2start.shtml

    http://www.cencomfut.com/Farmers_Market.htm

    http://www.worldhungeryear.org/fslc/faqs/ria_047c.asp?section=4&click=4

    I am certainly willing to do what I can here, if we can figure out what needs to be done. All this info makes my head swim and I'm fairly shy so I might need a kick in the rear to go talk to people, or some good moral support.

    I think my phone thinks your phone is long distace b/c I tried calling with the area code, without the area code, and with just a one in front, and it didn't work. I don't have long distance service and I just got my vehicle running after several months of it not running, but I clean up well and am articulate when I'm not freaked out.
     
  7. cafeaulaitinfj

    cafeaulaitinfj Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    46
    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2004
    Location:
    Indiana
    I've been chatting with my online friend who knows about setting stuff up.

    He thinks the first step might be to set up a not-for-profit org.
    You need a board of 3-5 people to do that and it shouldn't make any diff that you don't live in town.

    We will need someone who is good at bookkeeping, I'm not.
    I do write well and enjoy doing it, so I can write promotional stuff newspapers, etc.

    This is jumping ahead, but I think it would be good to set up at Books-a-Million if we could.

    I'll post more as I learn more.

    Heather
     
  8. seedspreader

    seedspreader AFKA ZealYouthGuy

    Messages:
    11,456
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Location:
    NW Pa./NY Border.
    Wow, thanks Heather, Definitely keep us updated, sounds like something that would go well in our town!
     
  9. goatlady

    goatlady Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    1,731
    Joined:
    May 31, 2002
    Location:
    No. Cent. AR
    jena, I helped start 1 in our town about 3 years ago. Three of us got together as a managing committee. We contacted the manager of a big market in another town who was nice enough to come to our first organizational meeting (we fronted a small ad in our weekly paper and flooded bulletin boards with posters and had 22 growers attend). This guy gave us all the rules and regulation they used which we just "lifted" for our group i.e table fees, times, set-ups, and rules of cleanliness, sales tax regs. It's not real hard but you must have organization to pull it together and keep it together. We ask around our town and had the owner of the local car wash donate his extra parking space to us for use. City let us put up signs free ONLY on the day of market. Talk to your City or County offices concerning signs and licenses, the State Tax folks for sales tax licenses, set up a savings account with 2-3 signers necessary in order to deposit table fees and pay for advertising. Your state Ag. offices probably has a brochure outling their rules of what can and cannot be sold. We do not allow out of county vendors in ours. Some do. It's whatever the managing commitee desides and the growers vote on.
     
  10. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Messages:
    13,084
    Joined:
    May 9, 2002
    Location:
    Ontario
    All great advcie so far, except I can't see why you'd want a govt rep at any level on your board. They do their thing, you do yours and when you need their help ask then to get involved and then go away. Too much opportunity for political meddling if you ask me. We have a Province wide association that deals with the feds and provincial govt. for us. They also arrange our liability insurance at a group rate. It's about $600 per year for 5 million general liability. Our board of directors is all volunteer, some larger markets do hire a market manager. We just do it ourselves and have volunteer market day coordinators to collect fees or pass out newsletters etc. I actually end up doing alot of the paper passing out as it gives all the vendors a chance to talk to me and bring up concerns semi privately instead of at board meetings or officially in writing. There is very little fuss to deal with so I prefer to handle it at a personal level. Do have rules, I think I sent you a copy of ours. It simply helps things stay organized, and gives the board some clout to resolve things quickly and consistantly. As for enforcing govt. regs, that shouldn't be your job. Its up to the individual vendor to have what they need. We just rent space. Ok we do have a reasource function as well, we tell them what they should be doing to meet health regs and licencing but you are opening yourself up to being partly responcible if a vendor is in violation. Perhaps the USA is different but I say let the govt. do the work they're supposed to. Some markets do jury vendors items and if you want to try and police that kind of market your welcome to it. We insist on 60% self produced in all categories, and reserve the right to remove any item that may harm our traditonal market image. No Mary Kay cosmetics for example and no flea market items. We are a "not for profit organization", but do plan a carry over fund when setting fees, and I'm pushing for a contingency fund too. In your start up years you'll need more than you have coming in so it shouldn't be a huge issue. Apply for grants but they have a habit of disappearing so be prepared to do without. You'll want a kiosk of some sort where people can get market event info and where customers can get directions etc. Market owned tables that you can rent out for a nominal fee also help alot. We hold special event days and bring in live entertainment or clowns and balloons for the kids or do craft or farm demonstrations etc. We hold a community day too and let local church groups, historical societies, scouting packs etc. pass out info for free space rental. Nice huh? Ok all these groups bring hordes of family that shop too. Sounds pretty commercial but it isn't like that at all, we keep it themed country! Plan to advertise to the hilt, and you will need signage. Signage is expensive, and yes there are lots of local laws regarding placement. We simply break the rules and do as we please. I'm not really advocating breaking the law but it is easier to ask for forgivness than permision, if you try to obey every law you'll go nutz. INVOLVE LOCAL NEWSPAPERS MEDIA etc. They luv farmers markets usually and we have offers of free article space too if we want. Be nice to your vendors, and be nice to patrons which sounds obvious but as you know it isn't always the case. Don't over extend yourself either, get help and keep your vendor numbers high! A half empty market is disapointing and hurts sales for everyone. We ranged from 25-45 this season. Anonomous earnings slips are a requirement at our market (hard to get 100% returns but we're very close) so you can track market performance. Share this complied info with your vendors so they know what sells when. So far this year running 20 Saturday mornings we totalled $97k in reported earnings and I know we're missing about $3k from one vendor who didn't report properly at the start. That's a simple average of $5k per week in sales divided between about 35 vendors is around $145 each. A uselss stat like that but broken down between foods produce crafts and art it shows what sector makes money. I do far better than that, but some of the children's booths might only pull in $15 which is a little sad but still their space rental is only $5 per day.
     
  11. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    Messages:
    6,844
    Joined:
    May 11, 2002
    Don't overlook a commerical parking lot. Say it is a Wal-Mart without a supermarket or another good sized (non-grocery) store. In return for their letting you use part of their parking lot one morning a week, they benefit from increased traffic flow. You might also be covered by their liability insurance. Sign a former sub-lease, if required, and be sure to cover you will leave the lot cleaner than you found it.

    I have also seen drive-in movie lots used in this manner. Theater benefits in they get to run the snack stand.

    I would recommend finding a farmer's market which has operated for some time and adopting their rules and procedures pretty well to the letter. They have been there, done that. After you gain some experience you can then consider changes.

    There is a very successful flea/farmers market in Huntingdon, TN. It is located at the county fairgrounds. Nice aspect of it is only one entrance. Everyone who wants to set up pays $6.00 at the gate. If you want to drive in to park, it is $3.00 (although it is free just to pick up a large purchase). Mix of flea market and farmers' market vendors. Many have set up by dawn and it is pretty well over by 10 AM.
     
  12. southerngurl

    southerngurl le person Supporter

    Messages:
    6,244
    Joined:
    May 11, 2003
    Location:
    Arkansas
    Ours doesn't cost anything. You can just show up and set up. :)

    At least that is what I have been told...
     
  13. havellostmywings

    havellostmywings Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    592
    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2003
    Location:
    Texas
    San Antonio.. has a farmers Market in one of the Walmart Parking lots.. they have between 15 to 20 vendors, depending on time of year....


    this little town where I am at............. has a farmers market, that they do not advertise at all. I talked to the guy.. its 30 dollars a year to join, and you can sell on tuesdays, thursdays and saturdays in front of the court house. the only thing negative he said was you could only sell things grown in our county... but HE is the only one i ever see show up at the market and the other day he was selling some items that didnt appear to be grown here.. but I havent investigated... I think he would do better if he would advertise some.. but.. oh well..

    Lynn in Texas
     
  14. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,489
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Heather,

    I had the same problem with my phone when I lived in Terre Haute. I could not call a Paris cell number. Call Verizon and they will discover it's a "programming error" and they can fix it. You usually can call with no "1" and it's not a toll call for some reason...

    I have not forgotton you, just trying to get ideas in order...

    Jena
     
  15. Jena

    Jena Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    2,489
    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2003
    Thanks for all the advice.

    I have, on my list of contacts, a lady from Purdue who wants me to call, a lady from a non-profit center for "eco-justice" (they run an organic CSA), the mayor (but I don't think I'm ready for him yet) and two consumers who want to see a market. So far everyone has a different idea of a location...Heather, I talked to a lady who suggested the Meadows shopping center. That's a good one too, though somewhere near Books-a-million is good too.

    I think the city being involved would be nice because maybe they would spring for advertising funds. I'm sure the paper and radio stations will help with freebies, but if we can get funds for more ads, that's great. I do agree that the city folks ought to stay doing city stuff though. We just come to them when we want money :)

    I have organized events in the past, including conventions for thousands of people. I've served on committees to plan these things and have an idea of how it works well. First thing...but a copy of "Robert's Rules of Order" hehehe.

    Double signed accounts are always good. Double counted and verified cash deposits are good. I've seen people run off with funds before too....dirty rats.

    I'm very good at getting free stuff for good causes :)

    I will call the Purdue lady and the CSA lady and see what they have to say. I will call a market manager I know in a nearby town and see what he has to say. I think the next step would be to get a meeting of producers. Newspaper ad, radio ads, check with the Farm Bureau and see if they will publicize or have a list of subscribers I can contact. Don't know how else to reach the producers...maybe people who go to the fair with produce entries???? If the paper will write up a big spot on the idea, we'll get more interest.

    I do know a few vendors, but they are all in Illinois. They'd probably come to the market, but I need actual area producers. So far everyone has been very welcome to me being involved and agree that just because there's a state line in the way...I'm still local. I go to this town for everything...doctors, the mall, even going to the movies. I only live 25 miles away.

    I do know to start that it's important to keep fees low and get as many vendors as possible. I shy away from markets that charge $25 or more a week. It makes me nervous that I won't make any money.

    I also need to find a place that will allow us to hold the meeting...easy enough as I have organized meetings in that town before. Church basements or maybe the Chamber has something we can use.

    This is a big project, but one that someone needs to do. This town has a large population in a farming area with no market. It's just not right....

    Thanks for the help and keep it coming.

    Jena
     
  16. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    510
    Joined:
    Aug 18, 2004
    Location:
    SE PA, zone 6b
    I was part of the Mt Vernon, WA, farmer's mkt. We spent several meetings learning from mkt managers from successful markets. Imperative from all of them was to get a non-vendor market manager. We hired one part-time for seven months a year. We met early with the mayor of the city. He had funds available for promotions that gave us $5K per year on an annual renewal basis. Many cities are trying to bolster the downtown area and have funds for that purpose. We held our mkt one day a week, on Saturdays, from 8-1 on a city parking lot. (It bordered the river that ran thru town, lucky us!) The market manager had sandwich boards with arrows and no parking, etc. that she placed on Friday evening. She also wrote weekly mkt articles with the occasional picture for the local paper. Usually she wrote about a particular veggie or fruit that was in abundance at that time. Always with a recipe, of course. We had a set of by-laws, condensed from those from several other mkts. We belonged to the state farmers mkt assn. and purchased our liability insurance thru them. We were non-profit. The difficulty lies in getting a number of vendors who would show up on a consistent basis. Many growers had developed regular customers that made a point of getting to the market early. I loved being a vendor, except when it both rained and blew. It only happened a few times in the several years I was there. But this was in WA state, and rain is not an obstacle there. If you stayed in when it rained, you would become a hermit!

    I think you are started off in the right direction. This can be a lot of fun, as well as profitable.

    To vendors, I would say that you need to smile a lot, present attractively, and BE PATIENT. It takes up to 3 years to build up your share of the market to be beyond breakeven. One visit to the market simply is not enough. You need to commit to the market for one whole season at minimum.

    Hopefully helpfully,

    Sandi
     
  17. Gayle in KY

    Gayle in KY Gadabout

    Messages:
    2,470
    Joined:
    May 13, 2002
    The extension office oversees the farmers' market here, but it is run by one person, not affiliated with the extension office. The way it works is, farmers who choose to participate, pay a $15 fee for a space for the entire summer. It's open on Fridays and produce must be picked either Thursday evening or Friday morning. The vendors all accept WIC vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables (special coupons WIC participants are issued once a year), although they are, also, allowed to sell crafts and homemade foods (such as baked goods, jams and jellies, honey, sorghum, etc.) They can, of course, also accept cash and checks, if they choose.
     
  18. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,576
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Canada
    This district has had a successful community supported Farmer's market for many years now. The group has a regular structure of officers and board to give direction on the needs and to collect fees to pay expenses. I believe also they have government grants to support the site and expenses of where the market is located. The market started probably 20 years ago with a 'roving' site, wherever a group could afford or commercial space was donated to have producer vendors and consumers to gather. Some vendors are long established that contract with the orgainzers under certain conditions of what they'll supply.
    Each vendor agrees to the amount of space allowed them to offer their products, and they must assure a reasonable supply for each day the market is in session. The market operates May to October from late morning hours to about 2 p.m. and it's generally busy as the community is aware of the 'routine' and come around expecting best of the selections. The other day the market opens is on Thursday evenings. No other times is the market available, and it works well for the producers not having to commit beyond that and know what they can sell in the alloted days the market operates.

    The market has about half a dozen large supply vendors including a honey producer, a meat producer (maybe 2), a supplier of spices and bulk items for baking, a plant nursery, and fresh produce vendor, and a woodworker. These vendors are regular weekly attendees offering product as their main business interest. The rest are lesser vendors that contract are on a variable basis for showing up. These are a variety of vendors selling baked goods, homemade products like jams, craftspeople of several types. All in all the new building and permanent site attracts maybe 30 different vendors and the steady stream of customers over about 4 hours on Saturday and same amount of time approximately on Thursdays. Weekly themes advertised in the local paper attracts interest. This varies from 'bring your own container for bulk honey cheaper' to talent contests.

    Basically from what I remember is a group of about half a dozen (the largest vendors now) started the market by approaching the regional business development agency to help funding, advertising, and kick it off with officers and they meet regularly to keep track of the needs of the market, community, customers, and vendors. I haven't 'vended' at the market in years, we sold bedding plants there for a spring committment over period of 5 weeks or so. Days we sold out of certain plants that another vendor didn't have and sometimes stuck with lot of plants that other vendors had in excess. It was unpredicatable, but quite an experience. I think it might be difficult to commit with them now as they limit the number of vendors to the space, which is generally pre sold for the season, and some spots are sold years ahead. The outside leaves some extra space for a few vendors like furnature (bigger stuff), crafts and maybe like fall pumpkin truckload, etc.

    There's beurocracy in setting out with a community Farmer's market, and expense for vendors. Judging whether it's worth your time and effort is something to seriously consider.
     
  19. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    19,807
    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2003
    Something I would consider when setting up a market is to have it juried in some way. There was the start of a nice little farmer's market near our land in WI, but eventually it became nothing more than a flea market -- and the goods were lookin' pretty flea-bitten.

    We became disappointed fairly quickly, even though there is one woman who sells great eggs and occasionally nice veggies. We'd even had hopes of perhaps joining the market when we move up there, but would prefer not to be associated with what has essentially become a junk sale.
     
  20. moonwolf

    moonwolf Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    7,576
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2004
    Location:
    Canada
    Pony, Yes. That's a good idea. The market here sometimes would judge and encourage quality of the products. They organizing committee, or officers, also monitor customer complaints...as well as the vendor complaints. In early spring it was very cold in the building and complaints was the best way to get funds for heating it eventually. Made a big difference for getting customers back and not seeing 'shiverring' vendors. :haha: When we sold plants, the nursery big vendor wasn't too keen with the competition, but the plants were high quality and were not sold cheap because they were worth it for size and different strains that we had compared to what the nursery sold to avoid some duplication. I can still remember the huge compliments we got for the serious tomato plants people bought at the time for $1 each. That was pretty good for a plant about 15 years ago. So, yes...quality is important.