How to Set Up a Farmers Marketfarmers-mkt.jpg

Table of Contents

What is a farmers market?

Farmers markets are are an integral part of the urban farm linkage. They are retail markets that allow consumers to purchase food and other products directly from producers. Farmers markets can range in size to a few stalls to several block. They and have continued to rise in popularity, mostly due to the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm. Farmers markets allow consumers to have access to locally grown, farm fresh produce, enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers, and cultivate consumer loyalty with the farmers who grows the produce.

Farmers Markets benefit the community, farmer and consumer. For communities, farmers markets are a way to generate economic activity, as well as a social gathering place. For the farmer, farmers markets allow producers to increase profit by selling their wares without dealing with intermediaries such as wholesalers or grocery stores. For consumers, markets are a place to access a variety of fresh and local foods.

Bringing a farmers market to your community can be possible by following the steps below and accessing the many resources available for such projects.

Steps to start a farmers market

1. Determine if there is a need in the community

2. Engage the community

  • Get creative! Reach out to non-profit organizations, schools, faith based organizations, neighborhood associations, and local businesses to see how they could be involved in the market.
  • By organizing within the community, you are raising awareness about the market and creating trusted relationships with those who will be shopping at your farmers market.
  • You may also need to recruit volunteers for your market in order to assist with putting the market together.

(Source: Farmers Market Coalition)
  • You can also explore partnerships with these programs and organizations:IllionoisWhereFreshIs.png

3. Find the right vendors for your farmers market

  • Determine what sort of vendors your community wants through a market study as discussed above.
  • Secure a diversity of vendors to create a healthy competition for vendors. But take care to not make circumstances so that vendors are not able to market their products well and make a profit.
    • Advocates for Urban Agriculture - Connect to our forum to reach out to other farmers markets about their vendor contactss
    • Farmers Market Coalition - Join their listerv to network with other market managers and vendors
    • Local Harvest - National membership website dedicated to providing connection and space for farmers, markets and consumers a place to find each other
    • National Association of Produce Market Managers- Provide connection, support and implement national policy strategies to strengthen the economic health and vitality of year-round, permanent, wholesale produce markets, retail farmers' markets and public markets
  • Know what your vendors' profit expectations are. On average, a minimum market profit for vendors is about $500 average per market day.
  • Update your farmers market and location annually on national sites like the USDA's Farmers Market Directory so vendors can find you.

(Source: Farmers Market Coalition)

4. Determine a great location

  • Find a spot where there is already naturally occurring foot traffic. Many farmers markets are held in parks, plazas, or outside of buildings where many people are entering and exiting.
  • Take into account the location of existing markets when trying to establish a new one. Here is the list for current markets in the City of Chicago.
  • Make sure there is accessible parking and mobility for both vendors and consumers.
  • You need may need liability insurance. Check here or with your local government for updated farmers markets regulations.
    • The Farmers Market Coalition has a national policy plan available. please visit their website for more information.

(Source: Farmers Market Coalition)
  • Vendors need to be licensed and certified. You will need each vendor to sign a Hold Harmless Agreement or Indemnity Agreement. There are many templates available online and generally associated with lease agreements. It is part of the City of Chicago application for farmers markets.
  • Find a source of electricity, washroom facilities. Reaching out to local businesses, alderman, and community centers can be effective in achieving this goal.

5. Understand the state and local regulations

Please refer to the state and your local government's regulations and policies concerning farmers markets.

State of Illinois: 2014 Farmers Market Legislation
City of Chicago: Rules & Regulations for Farmers Markets

6. Financing

There are many ways to cover the costs associated with running a farmers market. There are also various programs to accept payment from customers.

(Source: Farmers Market Coalition)
  • Funding for markets
    • Wholesome Wave is a not-for-profit dedicated "to supporting small and midsize farms, and making fresh, healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables availabel to all people, regardless of income." They have available programs for intersted market managers and farmers providing economic incentives
    • USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) - The grants, administered by the FMPP, are targeted to help improve and expand domestic farmers’ markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, agri-tourism activities, and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities.
    • NIFA Grant Community Food Projects - The purpose of this grant is to meet specific state, local or neighborhood food and agricultural needs including needs relating to: equipment necessary for the efficient operation of a project; planning for long-term solutions; or the creation of innovative marketing activities that mutually benefit agricultural producers and low-income consumers
    • Community Development Financial Institutions Fund - The New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program) was established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects located in low-income communities. The NMTC Program attracts investment capital to low-income communities by permitting individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their Federal income tax return in exchange for making equity investments in specialized financial institutions called Community Development Entities (CDEs).
    • Healthy Food Financing Initiative - The Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) supports projects that increase access to healthy, affordable food in communities that currently lack these options. Through a range of programs at the U.S. Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Treasury, and Health and Human Services (HHS), HFFI will expand the availability of nutritious food, including developing and equipping grocery stores, small retailers, corner stores, and farmers markets selling healthy food.
    • Link bucks.jpg
      Participating in programs like LinkUp Illinois allows your market patrons to get more for their money.
      Farm Aid - Numerous funding opportunities from several federal agencies for local and regional food systems.
  • Funding to offset consumer cost

Additional resources