According to the USDA, the number of farmers markets in the United States has grown almost 6-fold since 1994—from 1,000 markets to over 6,000 markets in 2010. Americans are getting hungrier for real food (local, organic, delicious), and they want to meet the farmer or chef behind their meals.
If you’re one of the ambitious individuals looking to bring a new market to your neighborhood, you’ve got a large undertaking on the way. You’ll be in charge of bringing a new life force to your town or market, and you’ll be coordinating one of the most powerful acts of community participation we have in our modern lives—all in the name of getting down on good food. Here are seven steps to jumpstarting a farmers market in your town.
Make the plan. As with any business, you’ll need to draft a professional business plan to start your market. Decide what kind of market you’ll be: For inner-city neighborhoods, for organic-only growers and producers, for food and craft vendors alike, etc. This is your mission—you won’t get very far without one. Find a business professional to help you draft a plan that can take you to the streets with a successful agenda.
Divide. You (hopefully) won’t be the only vendor at the market, and you may not even be one of the vendors at all, so choose at least 5 to 10 vendors to be a part of the budding team. Check out Rodale Institute’s New Farm Locator as a tool to search for vendors. According to the University of Missouri Extension, a successful market campaign begins with at least six solid vendors and at least 100 visitors from the launch.
Diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, and don’t choose vendors all selling the same thing. Have an array of fruit, vegetable and animal stuffs at your market, especially if starting small. Refer back to your mission to see that your vendors support your market’s goals, location and audience.
Location. It can make or break your market. Your location should be visible and easy to get to, as well as accessible by all ages and audiences. It should also have ample parking and room for bikes and, ideally, be relatively close to public transportation.
Make the rules. You’ll need to consult your state and city rules and regulations for starting a market, as every town is different. Questions you’ll need to consider include:
- Who are the vendors, and what are their products?
- Where and when will the market operate?
- What are the costs of being a vendor?
- Who is in charge?
Follow the law. You’ve made your own rules for the market, but you also have to follow the law. Taxes, licenses, structures, insurance and health and sanitation are all huge considerations you’ll need to consult with your state and city’s public health office to comply with.
Get some help. Most city extension offices are there to help you jumpstart your market, and part of this includes seeking financial assistance. Search your local program to see what they can do for you.