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- Farmers Market Series: Determining the Need
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Thursday, December 21, 2017
All farmers markets look different. When you factor in time, day of week, location, customers, vendors, and other parameters, a farmers market's purpose and type will be transformed. While your market may have similar vendors as other markets, your location and purpose will unique.
Try early on to determine the type of market you will be. If your market is to provide the community with a gathering space and also sell produce, then lead with that. If your market is to be a place that customers can get in and get out, then make that your type. I've sold at farmers markets where my customers came for produce and left 10 minutes later. I've also sold at farmers markets where my customers remained for 3-4 hours.
How can you differentiate your market? Is it regional produce only? Will your market have no craft vendors? Will you have kids' activities every week? Will there be a community booth for nonprofits? Will you have a breakfast deal every week? Through all of this, work with your county health department to help guide you in understanding what your potential vendors may run into.
Accept that you may not be a "farmers only" farmers market. There are only so many farmers in a given area. Having a ratio to start the season can be useful. You could say that you will have 4 farmers per 1 craft vendor or 2 value added stands per 3 farmers. A mixture of farmers, crafts, baked goods, food trucks, and other local food entrepreneurs can be beneficial in increasing the foot traffic but also having customers linger.
Location and visibility is crucial for a successful farmers market. As most markets can attest, the closer to people the better. This may mean your market is on the campus of a large employer in town. Your market may be downtown where there is always foot traffic. Your market may be in the parking lot of a busy shopping center where there is a lot of car traffic.
Consider the ease of vendors to get to and unload their booth. Consider also how easy it will be for customers to walk to or park at the market. Signage can sometimes overcome the visibility issue but it may be hard to do if there are other challenges your market is dealing with.
Address parking challenges…and perceived parking challenges early on. Sometimes communities want a farmers market downtown but there is an impression that there is no parking and/or hard to find a parking space. Even if you think parking is not an issue, customers may think it is. There are solutions, which can include working with the local municipality to offer free parking for the first hour or free parking during the farmers market. If you are doing this, make this a part of your marketing material.
Other location needs may include:
Electricity for vendors
Liability Insurance/Other policy insurance
Vendors may need electricity for what they are selling. Many of them are also using card readers in order to sell their produce and could benefit from internet connectivity. Depending on your location, you may need a much more robust insurance/liability policy that the market covers. Much of that will be based on where the market is located. A city owned parking lot vs. a privately owned shopping center may have different insurance policy needs.
Finally, I would suggest a location you can control. It is inevitable that you might be dealing with a problem during the farmers market season. This could be a group of disorderly visitors to the market or dogs/pets being brought in. Are you able to put into place farmers market rules that allow you to control a problem that arises? The more public a space is, the less control you may have.
Grant McCarty and Nikki Keltner