Marketing Through Local Farmers Markets
The community farmers market can contribute greatly to a local community. These markets present a good forum for farmers and others in the community to retail their products, providing fresh products for local markets. A wide assortment of fresh produce is typically supplemented by flowers, herbs, decorative produce, and other farm-fresh items.
While the marketing season has come to a close for 2001, many communities around Kentucky are in the process of establishing or expanding their local farmers market. Some communities have moved to develop permanent facilities for their market, others have purchased nice tents and awnings. Over 70 communities around the commonwealth have supported these local markets, involving hundreds of vendors and selling to thousands of customers.
The winter months are a good time for vendors or prospective vendors to begin to prepare for the Spring market.
I want to suggest a few planning points for expanding or new markets to consider.
Develop or revisit the market by-laws. Make sure they are consistent with what the farmers want the market to accomplish, while at the same time, leaving room for creativity and new approaches.
Develop a vendor recruitment plan. Don't overlook youth, senior groups, students, and farmers simply interested in selling on the market on a trial basis.
Develop a promotion plan. Include local businesses and traditional local festivals and events.
Check on signage. It's all about traffic, traffic, traffic. Good signs make a difference.
Consider doing some pre-season product planning to ensure variety and availability throughout the season.
There are some very nice planning workbooks for farmers markets addressing each of these points and more that can be obtained through the local county extension office.
The local farmers market can be transformed into a busy place of exchange, featuring a wide variety of season-long fresh products. A well-planned market can significantly increase the profits generated by the vendors and add a sense of culture, connection, and vitality to the local community.
If you're involved in a farmers market, begin to plan for your winter market planning activities. If you would like explore being involved in a farmers market, but there is not yet one in your community, contact your county extension office for the workbook on starting and strengthening farmers markets. There are lots of great additional printed resources and people to help in the market planning process, including resources at the Kentucky Department of Agriculture.