Starting a Farmers' Market
Farmers' markets and other direct marketing venues make locally grown produce available to consumers. Buying local has positive impacts on farmers, consumers, and communities.
The following eight steps can guide you in creating a strong farmers' market.
1. Find community resources.
Community support is absolutely necessary for a strong farmers' market. "Buy-in" from residents, government, and businesses will help the market contribute to the community.
2. Select a location.
Selecting a spot is tricky, but find a location with the following characteristics:
- Close to customers
- Available parking
- Cover from weather
- Seating for socializing or other activities
3. Solicit vendors.
Successful markets need a mix of products and services to attract regular customers. Many county UF/IFAS Extension offices keep a list of small farmers. Your chamber of commerce may be another resource for potential vendors.
You then need to convince farmers and other potential vendors that spending a few hours a week at the market is worth their time.
4. Market the market.
Advertise the market to the public, especially when it first opens. Public radio and local newspaper ads are less expensive than commercial radio or TV ads.
Of course, free publicity is the best of all. Investigate community information sources such as newsletters and public event boards.
5. Develop bylaws and market rules.
There are some general points to consider when developing market rules and bylaws. See "Starting a Farmer's Market" for examples.
6. Apply for non-profit status.
Visit Non-profit Organizations on the Florida Department of Revenue website for more information.
7. Hire a market manager.
You and other market leaders will need to consider the kind of market you want to create, which will guide the decision on the type of market manager you'll need to hire. At first the manager may be a volunteer, but successful markets sometimes grow big enough to require full-time management.
8. Get the right market insurance.
The market's insurance needs will depend on a variety of factors. You should consult an insurance specialist to determine what type of insurance your market will need.
The following organizations provide insurance and assistance to farmers:
The USDA's Local Food Research & Development page includes statistics and facts, as well as information about farmers' markets, resources, and a national farmers' market directory.
Food Stamps & Other Public Assistance
The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) provides access to food and nutrition education to children, seniors, and low-income people. Farmers and farmers' markets can participate in FNS programs in three ways:
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, which provides supplemental assistance to eligible families with young children.
- Senior Farmers' Market Nutrition Program.
- Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system, which accepts food stamp benefits.
The following resources address legal concerns for farmers' markets:
- The Legal Guide to Direct Farm Marketing by Neil Hamilton.
- Local Food Systems--The National Agricultural Law Center
Health Department Licensure
Many counties and states have health laws concerning meat and poultry products as well as processed, value-added food items. Check with your county UF/IFAS Extension office and/or county health department about licensing requirements in your area.
Excerpted and adapted from:
M.E. Swisher, et al., "Starting a Farmers' Market" (FCS5257-Eng), Family Youth and Community Sciences (rev. 07/2012).