The success of a farmers market will depend on a proper balance of supply and demand.
Having easy access to a farmers’ market is just one of the many advantages of living in an agricultural region. If your neighborhood does not yet have the benefit of a nearby farmers market, don’t worry: there are ways to bring them closer.
As an economic activity, the success of a farmers market will depend on a proper balance of supply and demand. To this effect, you should hear from at least 100 people in your town who would be interested in purchasing from regional producers. Ideally, there should be a positive response from 100 households. The next step is to hear from about 10 farmers interested in the idea; they should be county producers or at least from the region.
A farmers market is a business that requires planning. If you don’t have experience in drafting business plans, you may want to retain a financial professional to assist you. Another idea would be to talk to a farming cooperative whose members are already engaged in farmers markets in your state; they may allow you to copy an existing plan. The importance of the business plan should not be understated, particularly if there is a need for funding.
One section of the business plan will mention some basics related to logistics, but you should also write a separate operations manual that will cover certain aspects such as marketing, location, the permitting process, insurance, cash handling, contributions, parking, taxes, sanitation, etc. Unlike the business plan, the operations manual needs to be highly detailed. For example, when using sanitary SKS overscreens, the directions should be clearly indicated insofar as who should be responsible for their placement so that potential contamination can be reduced. That way, everything that passes through them remains clean.
Rules and Regulations
Retail sales of produce tend to be highly regulated affairs. Obtaining the required permits for a farmers market is only the beginning; health and municipal code inspectors will likely hand the organizers a set of rules and regulations that they must heed when the market operates. You should make it a point to meet with the vendors prior to the inaugural day to go over the bylaws of the business and to review the local rules.
In the end, the process of bringing a farmers market to your neighborhood could be considerably streamlined if you start your project by visiting the business section of your municipality or the agricultural department at the county level. In some cases, you might even be able to get financial assistance.
Rachelle Wilber, the author of this article, is a freelance writer from San Diego, California
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