Organizing a farmers market is a daunting task. Before starting the Market on Main, I visited markets all over the state, met with other market managers and went to conferences and lectures on markets, farms and local food. I still was not prepared for how much work starting a market would be. To get one going, you ideally need a core group of interested farmers and community members. From there, check with your local Extension office and state agriculture department for help and guidelines. The Farmers Market Coalition is a national non-profit that also has many online resources available at farmersmarketcoalition.org.
LOCATION: A great location can be the difference between making or breaking your market. Check your city and local ordinances for restrictions and look for a free space with ample parking and plenty of room to grow. Meeting with local officials to let them know your plans is a good idea. It is better to get to know them before problems arise…and they will.
BUILD A TEAM: Work to get community members behind the market long before opening day by visiting your chamber of commerce, Rotary Club or other civic organizations. Speak to anyone who will listen about the economic and cultural impact a great market can have. Develop some basic guidelines for vendors, but remember that whatever you come up with will need to be enforced later on.
Most important, develop a team of volunteers and vendors who will be willing to share the workload until the market is well enough established to hire a market manager. Putting the burden on one person can be a heavy load and lead to burnout very quickly. Remember to have fun and share your love of local, healthy food with your community.
This article originally published in THE NEW PIONEER® Fall 2014 issue. Print and Digital Subscriptions to THE NEW PIONEER magazine are available here
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