Start Local Farmers' Markets

Communication is one key to starting a local farmers' market and working with both vendors and consumers.

| March/April 2010

Nothing is quite as satisfying as slicing a fresh heirloom tomato in August and enjoying it with a bit of fresh basil, olive oil and salt. If you don’t grow your own, you can head on down to the local farmers’ market for the freshest in seasonal produce – if such a market exists in your area. Farmers’ markets seem to be everywhere these days, and more are getting started every year, but, as I recently discovered, getting a new market off the ground is not as easy at it sounds. Here's how I was involved in starting a local farmers' market in my area.

First-hand experience

In August 2008, Hernando, Mississippi’s Deputy City Planner Shelly Johnstone and local developer Mickey Davis decided to start a farmers’ market. Armed only with the idea, they recruited vendors and chose Hernando’s historic square as the location. After receiving an overwhelming, positive response, the pair decided to expand the market for 2009 and invited me to help manage the enterprise.

Although I have managed groups within large organizations, I hesitated. What did I know about running a farmers’ market? My only qualifications could be found in my passion and interest in local food networks and my small, working farm located in Como, Mississippi, the hill country above the Delta. Despite my doubts, I accepted.

A new market resembles the old chicken and egg conundrum: Which comes first, the public or the vendors? It’s difficult to recruit vendors without an established consumer base, yet consumers won’t come unless a market has quality vendors. The 2009 Hernando Farmers’ Market proved to be a tremendous success, teaching us all new lessons in the first year.

We hit both sides hard through word-of-mouth, newspaper and radio outlets, the local extension service, signage and online marketing. Throughout the season, we added live music, children’s events and cooking demonstrations to increase traffic and sales.

From the start, we decided to remain focused on the primary goal of getting local agricultural products to the consumer as directly and simply as possible.

7/10/2014 7:23:13 AM

The expansion of the market in 2009 created a lot of new opportunities for Mickey Davis, if the market will continue evolving the organizers will surely need supplies. Listening to seasoned vendors needs is great and in this way a lot of great accomplishments can be done.

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