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How to Start a Farmers’ Market

By Jamie Hofling | September 18, 2014


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We’ve discussed how the community benefits from a local farmers’ market and showcased several Kansas markets. If you’ve been persuaded and want to consider one in your area this blog shares a brief summary of preliminary steps and resources available to help guide you through the conceptual stage.

1.) Develop your vision.
Start by considering these questions: Is there a need for a farmers’ market in your community? Are there sufficient farmers and a customer base to support one? Why do you want to have a farmers’ market.

Decide your purpose for wanting a market. Is it to support local growers, increase economic activity, address food insecurity or a combination thereof? Turn this purpose into a statement, such as a vision statement. This statement will help get answers to the other two questions by summarizing for others your wishes. A good place to start with a vision is to review profiles and Facebook pages from other farmers’ markets. Everyone I talked to about their market was eager to share the history and how their market has evolved over time to accommodate the needs of their community.

2.) Engage partners to determine the need.
To determine the need for a market, start by making a list of people who can provide input and can help gauge the level of interest. The list should include public sector and community organizations like the Kansas Department of Agriculture, county extension office, food banks, churches, the Chamber of Commerce, local government officials, and the economic development office. The idea is to share your vision, gauge their initial interest and invite them to a meeting where a discussion can take place.

The initial meeting is not to hammer out all the details but to accomplish three important things; ample time for discussion, identify leaders that will help you, and to gauge interest for moving forward. For more information about inviting people and organizing the initial and follow up meetings, this Idaho manual offers good tips applicable to any area: http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/resource/idaho-farmers-market-manual/.

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3.) Find a time, place, and vendors for the market.
The next step is finding vendors that fit the vision of your market. Some markets only permit growers from a certain area or only permit unprocessed goods. Others allow baked treats and handcrafted goods. One way to start is by identifying nearby farmers’ markets and talking to existing vendors about selling at your community’s market. This will also help identify a time when vendors are available and not already committed to other markets.

It’s also important to find a location that is easily accessible, has ample parking and preferably free. Farmers’ markets are typically outdoors so consider parking lots of area businesses, grocery stores, churches, schools, and public parks. Remember to invite people from the place you want to hold the market so they can be part of the planning process.

4.) Promotion
After a location has been secured, it’s time to start looking at ways to promote the market. Start by making a contact at the local newspaper and radio stations and plan to keep them abreast of progress being made. People who are invited to the meetings will likely be your best source for getting the word out, so make sure and include this on the agenda for the follow up meetings.  According to the Kansas resource for markets, From the Land of Kansas, a community Facebook page is critical. Tips on how to start a page can be found at http://fromthelandofkansas.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/creating-a-company-facebook-page/

Once these steps have been accomplished the new farmers’ market can be registered for free on the USDA directory by visiting their website.http://search.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets/

Farmers’ markets start with the interest from an individual but require support from the community at large in order to start and continue.

The information in this article has been provided with input from the Kansas Department of Agriculture (http://fromthelandofkansas.com/Discover-resources/Kansas-Farmers-Market-Resources/Starting-A-Kansas-Farmers-Market)and from information on the website for the Farmers’ Market Coalition (http://farmersmarketcoalition.org), in particular the manual for starting a market in Idaho (http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/resource/idaho-farmers-market-manual/).

Additional resources in Kansas

Kansas farmers’ market facts (provided by From the Land of Kansas):

  • Kansas Farmers’ Market Conference will be February 28 – March 1 in Manhattan KS
  • Winter/Early Spring – There will be 5 regional farmers’ market seminars Londa Nwadike (lnwadike@ksu.edu) heads those up
  • Kansas hosts a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) and allocates dollars/vouchers for seniors to used at farmers’ market vendor booths if they are trained. Contact Anthony Randles (ARandles@kdheks.gov) from KDHE for more information.
  • KDA, KDHE and DCF – Department for Children and Families is working hard to promote farmers’ market vendors to apply for funds to receive technology through Market Link that would allow them to accept – SNAP/EBT/Kansas Vision Cards: The contact for DCF is Chris Tomlinson (Chris.Tomlinson@dcf.ks.gov)
  • There are 130 known markets in Kansas
  • Not every county has a farmers’ market in Kansas
  • Consumers can find markets by searching the Explore From the Land of Kansas map by searching for a market in a city, zip code or by looking though all registered markets on the website:www.fromthelandofkansas.com/ksfms.  Facebook is another good way to find markets.