8 tips to make farmers markets successful

Small Towns

Are you a part of your local farmers market, as a customer, vendor, manager, cheerleader, or funder? Markets carry great tradition, and whatever your current or future role is, here are some tips and experiences from managers and staff, for National Farmers Market Week, Aug. 2 to 8.

1. Markets need to be dependable and well-advertised—day of week, time of market, and location should be established, well-known, and consistent.

2. A core group of vendors is important; customers want to know what to expect, and vendors see more consistent sales if they stick to a steady schedule.

3. There’s such a thing as too much product duplication—unique and value-added products are important for customer interest and demand, and for vendor revenue.

4. Markets are often more successful when there are reasonable rules in place and enforced. Vendors and customers know what to expect, and any potential conflicts can be handled with respectful communication.

5. Everyone should feel welcome at the market. Take steps to ensure race, religion, age, and income level don’t discourage anyone from participating.

6. Programs such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and the Seniors’ Farmer Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) can play a crucial role in access to healthy local food, and can be taken advantage of at farmers markets.

7. A great opportunity exists when small towns are in close vicinity to one another. Market managers can collaborate (not compete) for the greater good. Think about forming a coalition made up of multiple small town markets; schedule market times so they don’t overlap; hire one marketing coordinator for multiple markets to standardize messaging.

8. Likewise, consider innovative partnerships that could help distribute the workload and make markets successful. We’ve seen markets partner with hospitals to provide nutrition information and demonstrations, and other markets invite the public library and local nonprofits to occupy a booth once a season.