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If tables full of fresh vegetables, fruit, crafts and sundry goodies sound like a creative way to bring vendors and local shoppers together, starting a farmers market makes sense. The key to a successful farmers market requires holding a public meeting or placing an ad in the local paper asking potential sponsors and growers to contact you. If you get at least six growers to commit to the market and can attract at least 100 people, you’re on the right track, says the University of Missouri’s Extension program.
Talk to local corporations, nonprofit organizations, your chamber of commerce and your growers and vendors to see what they can offer by way of sponsorship to help pay for you to manage and promote the market. First, determine the budget required to find vendors and handle setup of the event for each day it runs. Include promotional expenses. Motivate sponsors by mentioning the benefits of the market, such as providing locals with fresh food and helping revitalize the area.
Write rules for your market that include everything from setup times and where vendors park to state and local regulations of handing out free food samples. Outline regulations that require vendors to have proper licenses to sell their goods. For instance, in Minnesota, people who grow and sell vegetable or fruits from their garden or farm do not need a license. But if they make foods from their produce, they need a license from the Minnesota Department of Health to sell such items as apple juice, low-acid canned vegetables and meats that require refrigeration.
Find a Location
Look for a location that offers easy access for vendors to set up their tables. The location must also provide easy access for shoppers and include plenty of parking. Talk to your sponsors and chamber of commerce to find a suitable location, such as a shopping center, parking lot, public park or blocked-off street. A location that provides shade over vendor tables is best for markets with lots of produce, as these items can wither within hours if left out in the sun.
Sign Up Vendors
A well-rounded farmers market offers a mix of products, such as produce, crafts and baked goods, that appeal to a wide range of people. Contact the local county extension, co-ops and gardening organizations in your area to identify growers who want to participate. Run ads in your local paper at least a few months before the market and during the less busy growing season to encourage interested growers and vendors to contact you and start planning. If your market includes artisans, go to craft fairs and ask vendors if they’d like to participate in your event.
Create signs that include the name of the farmers market as well as the day and hours of the market. Hang the signs on streets near the market and, if possible, leave them up during the entire market season to attract the community. Advertise the market in your local papers and pass out piles of flyers for area businesses to hand out since they will likely benefit from the added traffic the market generates.
Nancy Wagner is a marketing strategist and speaker who started writing in 1998. She writes business plans for startups and established companies and teaches marketing and promotional tactics at local workshops. Wagner's business and marketing articles have appeared in "Home Business Journal," "Nation’s Business," "Emerging Business" and "The Mortgage Press," among others. She holds a B.S. from Eastern Illinois University.