Farmers' Market Resource Center

A Snapshot of the Current Farmers' Market Season | So You Want to Start a Market... | Guidelines and Policies | Marketing and Promotions | EBT/SNAP | Paid Staff and Volunteers | Directory of chefs for cooking demos, musicians and other performers | Insurance

The purpose of this resource center is to share best practices as identified by Connecticut farmers' market managers and many other resources within the country! CT market managers identified many of these best practices during the Farmers' Market Forum held in January 2021. Coming from all parts of the state, over 100 individuals came representing markets in the suburbs, cities and rural areas. Each of them started their markets for different reasons. Here is just a brief list:

  • to support the viability of local farms
  • to support the viability of local businesses
  • to provide food access to those in need
  • to create a community event
  • to revitalize a community space

Please keep these different reasons in mind when looking at this guide. Often markets are started with one reason but quickly realize they want to incorporate more. That is why we have sections on EBT/Food Stamps and collaborating with local organizations and businesses. There are many permutations to markets and we hope that this resource center can help you think of creative ways of operating yours. While we hope to have another CT Farmers' Market Forum meeting in the coming year, we intend that this Farmers' Market Resource Center will be of use to you now and in the future.

Please check out the following topics below as well as the Farmers' Market Forum (link to actual forum page here) where you can post questions and answers on a variety of topics related to farmers' markets!

A Snapshot of the Current Farmers' Market Season

Rick Macsuga, Marketing Specialist with the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, explains that while 2021 was the peak for farmers' markets in CT (with 122 markets) the popularity of markets hasn't slowed down for 2021. With at least 121 markets operating across CT, consumers can find a market open any day of the week - even through the winter in some cases! Below is a graph that shows the most popular days and times for markets. For a complete listing of farmers' markets in the state, please see the CT Department of Agriculture's website here.

farmers market breakdown

So You Want to Start a Market...

There's no I in Team Show | Hide

Who are you collaborating with to start the market?

Great markets take great care in making sure they have consensus in the community and engage a diversity of partners.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Gather stakeholders in the community to meet about the potential market
  • Have documentation ready about the benefits (economic and health related) of farmers' markets
  • Survey the community
  • Connect and leverage resources within the community (restaurants that want to buy local can gain easier access with a market nearby, hospitals that want to promote healthy eating, the high school's Vo-Ag department may be interested, etc...)

Location, Location, Location Show | Hide

Where are you placing the market?

And more importantly, why? Ask yourself whether you want to revitalize an under-used space or capitalize on an already busy one. Parking, accessibility, terrain, visibility and capacity are all items that should be considered in looking at market locations.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Good parking is key to a successful market
  • If your market is not visible from the road, then you should have great signage
  • Check the area for other markets. Over-saturating the community with too many markets in too close proximity can be detrimental for everyone.
  • Think creatively about space. An empty parking lot can be transformed with tents, colorful tables and music.
  • Keep in mind the seasonality of your location and your start and end dates. Markets close to bodies of water in early spring and late fall get very chilly and often have draining problems making it difficult for vendors and customers.
  • Consider the culture around you. Is this an area with a culture of farm stands? Would area farmers be interested in a one-day farmers' market versus their home/farm-operated stand? Will people in the community break their habits and include the farmers' market in their shopping pattern?

Bringing Home the Bacon Show | Hide

How will your market make money?

Your market has to be viable enough for vendors to be compensated for their time and products. It also has to be viable enough for the market management to pay for permits, marketing, supplies and in some cases, staffing.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Selling items at the market managers table
  • Charging weekly fees based on gross sales of vendors
  • Sponsorships from local businesses can help fund your market
  • CT Department of Agriculture's Joint Venture Funds can help
  • Community foundations and other funding sources can help.
  • Find a fiscal agent or create a "Friends of the Market" group to help apply for grants

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and....Handmade Wool Socks? Show | Hide

What kinds of products will your market have?

The creation of market guidelines can help you define what percentages of market space are devoted to certain sectors such as produce, value added products, dairy and crafts, etc...

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Establish rules and regulations from the get-go and abide by them
  • An ideal food to craft percentage at a market is 70% to 30%
  • "Guest" vendors (craft or specialty products) can help create diversity without a season long commitment
  • Some internal competition among vendors is good, but too much hurts everyone

Hey Mom, Can You Help Out This Weekend? Show | Hide

How will you staff your market?

Often market management and staffing start with volunteers (and in some cases, siblings and parents!). While there are benefits of having professional market management with paid staff, the same professional market management can be accomplished by unpaid, volunteer staff as well. Look at both options carefully and decide what is a more feasible and viable option for the market.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Find a core group of volunteers. Think about your church groups, block watches and other civic organizations
  • Train and support your volunteers. Value their service with incentives, be it verbal praise or material goods.
  • Consider volunteers from area schools and colleges, senior centers and retirement communities
  • Write down your market systems! When a staff member or volunteer is out for the day, others can turn to the "market systems" binder and run the market!
  • Rotate market volunteers and staff to avoid burnout, especially on weekend markets.

Does Size Matter? Show | Hide

What is the right size for your market?

As long as your location allows it, the rule of thumb is that it is always easier to expand rather than contract your market. A diversity of offerings at a small market can be just as effective in drawing in customers as the same diversity at a large market. Markets can evolve over years and become very different than how they started.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Consider guest vendors at the market if you can't consistently host some vendors all season long
  • Saturday and Sunday markets are typically "destination markets" and should be larger to accommodate bigger crowds
  • Look carefully at your location - can it grow with your market?
  • Be sure to communicate with your vendors as you consider growing the size of the market. Existing vendors can be sensitive to new vendors and while healthy competition is welcome, you don't want to inundate your market with too much of any one kind of vendor.

Resources for Starting a Market Show | Hide

Guidelines and Policies

What are Guidelines and Why do I Need Them?!? Show | Hide

Guidelines are necessary to protect three different constituents: market management, vendors and the consumers. It may be possible to operate without written guidelines or policies, but it certainly leaves open the door to problems ranging from legal issues to miscommunication between vendors and market management.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • If you can't enforce the rule, don't write it down
  • Look toward guidelines from already established markets, but remember that a "one size fits all" won't work. Design guidelines that are specific for your market.
  • Ask your vendors for their input. Rules made without them may be more difficult to enforce.
  • Guidelines and policies can also explain why management needs to charge for stall, season or weekly fees for participating in the market.
  • Guidelines can spell out why collecting gross sales data, as well as number of WIC coupons and/or SNAP redeemed helps markets measure their economic impact

Do you Want to be the New Sheriff in Town? Show | Hide

Recently more and more farmers' markets in CT and across the nation are navigating the difficult topic of farm inspections and ensuring that products come directly from the farm. "Policing" your farmers' market vendors is a topic widely debated among market managers.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Guidelines need to directly address when and in what manner farm visits/business inspections are made and by whom
  • Some market managers opt out of "policing" and rely on the strength of the guidelines and the vendor's lawful agreement to follow them.
  • There are other ways to ensure vendors are following guidelines, such as requesting invoices from a bakery using local ingredients

Rogues, Rebels and Rule Breakers Show | Hide

How does a market manager deal with vendors that chart their own course, make up their own rules, or create conflict with other vendors? Guidelines that include rules should also include the process for dealing with violations and disputes as well as the appeals process.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Try and meet with vendors before inviting them to the market. A lot can be determined with a face-to-face meeting than with a phone or email. This also goes for handling conflicts.
  • Include vendors in the guidelines process from the beginning.
  • Create an advisory group of vendors, who are voted in by their peers, that can participate in deciding guidelines, rules and policies with market management
  • Nurture relationships with your vendors through off season vendor meetings
  • Understand that a diversity of personalities will always exist, but how you manage each different vendor should be consistent, equal and fair.

Sample Guidelines From CT Markets Show | Hide

Marketing and Promotions

It is often the case that you have to spend some money to make some money. With t-shirts and bags, there is a high up-front cost and then inventory that you could potentially be sitting on for more than one season whereas signage can be used over and over again. Just as a diversity of revenue streams is safer and more lucrative than focusing on just one way to make money, so it goes with marketing. The more diverse your marketing streams are, the more successful you will be at getting customers to your market.

Free Marketing Show | Hide

There are hundreds of ways to promote your market to consumers for free. Every market uses some similar and some very unique ways of getting customers to come and participate in the market.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Check for free ads in local paper
  • Place market information in church bulletins
  • Put your market on facebook or on a free blog
  • Talk! Tell the story of the market on community access TV
  • Add the market to the town notices
  • Email a newsletter to consumers
  • Mention the market in your voicemail
  • Press releases
  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Tours of the market
  • Don't just invite the press to your market, put market produce in their hands and mouths to really entice them!
  • Have a "Farmer of the Week" press release with photos
  • Measure the market's success for gross sales, economic impact, food assistance redeemed, number of customers and more for compelling data to share
  • Pay attention to the newspapers, especially when there is an article regarding childhood obesity, the absence of family meals, lack of food security and the like. Write Op-Eds or invite journalists to write stories about how the market is helping to remedy the challenges shown in the article.
  • Keep a media list of all the people in your area and the state that you would want to contact when there is an event, story or an article angle you want to present.

Low Cost Marketing Show | Hide

Sometimes it is necessary to pay a little bit of money for a large impact. Look under "Bringing Home the Bacon" under the So You Want to Start a Market section to see how you can pay for these ideas.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Develop a market logo so that your market is easily recognizable in print materials
  • Paying for local ads, brochures, postcards and printed fliers and distributing them can be very beneficial for market
  • Print out "Shopping Lists" with your market logo on it and pass them out to customers

High Cost Marketing Show | Hide

There are lots of high cost marketing ideas out there. But before you rent the airplane that will write your markets name and times you are open in the sky, check out the list below.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Banners that stretch across and above a main street appeal to the folks driving and walking on a busy main street. Some towns and cities have rules and regulations for them, and some may be able to pay for the cost of putting them up.
  •  
  • Signage that is 2 sided and heavy duty enough to withstand wind, rain and more.
  •  
  • Billboards are expensive but can have a big impact along busy corridors. These are more helpful for destination markets on the weekend.
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  • Refrigerator magnets with your market's logo, schedule and locations can be given out to customers and given away at special events
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  • Large magnets advertising your market can be placed on cars and trucks
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  • T-Shirts with your market logo
  •  

Partnership Based Marketing Show | Hide

Using your network to help the market attract customers is an underutilized tool. Write a list of everyone your market connects with and how they can help you get the word out.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Make your vendors part of the marketing machine. Share your marketing materials with them and encourage them to have materials at their table if appropriate.
  • Print up business cards for each vendor at your market with your market logo, name and days of operation
  • Restaurants that buy from your farmers' market vendors could be asked to mention the farmers' market in their menu as a place where they source local ingredients
  • Put everyone in a t-shirt! Vendors and customers that wear your t-shirts are walking advertisements.
  • Market tote bags. Everyone is using them now at grocery stores and for everyday activities. Sell the tote bags and give them away at special events and they, like the t-shirts, will be advertising for your market.

How to Pay for Marketing and Promotions Show | Hide

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Use proceeds from any sales at your market table
  • Use the collection of vendor/stall/season fees to pay for marketing
  • Use a "friends of the market" technique where customers pay a fee for the season to get weekly small discounts and freebies at participating vendor's tables. While this requires the buy-in from your vendors, it can help them unload a product they have too much of/or that isn't selling well. You use the fee as a market manager to pay for marketing materials and efforts
  • If you are not set up as a non-profit, you may be able to secure the help of a fiscal agent (typically another non-profit) and be able to receive donations to use for marketing
  • Farmers' market managers (whether you are a registered 501c3 or not) are eligible to apply for the Joint Venture Grant Program from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, which can fund the promotion of Connecticut agricultural products through the use of the CT Grown logo.
  • Non-profits with a 501c3 or municipalities are eligible to apply for the Connecticut Department of Agriculture's Farm Viability Grant Program for Municipalities , which can fund advertising for local and regional agriculture.
  • Northeast SARE Partnership Grants are available to consultants, nonprofits, state departments of agriculture, and others working in the agricultural community--who want to conduct marketing and other projects with farmers as cooperators.
  • The USDA's Farmers Market Promotion Program is available to agricultural cooperatives, producer networks, producer associations, local governments, nonprofit corporations, public benefit corporations, economic development corporations, regional farmers market authorities and Tribal governments.
  • USDA Rural Development's Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), available for rural projects that facilitate development of small and emerging rural businesses. Eligible applicants: rural towns, communities, State agencies, and rural non-profits.

EBT/SNAP

Case Studies and Best Practices in CT Show | Hide

EBT/SNAP at Markets Across the Country Show | Hide

Illinios Farmers' Market Forum - EBT at Farmers' Markets
  • A powerpoint about how to use EBT. It's a walkthrough of how to register, what machine to choose, the various types of machines, scrips vs tokens, etc. It also discusses SNAP numbers in other states. This was uploaded March 31, 2021. Guide for EBT at California Farmers' Markets
  • How the California markets go about registering/using EBT; published in 2021
Accepting Food Stamp Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards at Farmers' Markets and Farm Stands: A Primer for Farmers and Market Managers
  • From the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, published May 2021

Volunteer and staff are necessary for a functioning farmers' market. Finding the right ones, retaining them and having them succeed are all things to think about. For more information, check out the volunteer and staffing section under "So You Want To Start a Market?" Nearly all the best practices for finding and retaining volunteers applies to paid staff as well.

Best practices from CT farmers' market managers
  • Go to http://www.idealist.org to post any volunteer opportunities by creating a member account and an organization page
  • Go to http://volunteer.united-e-way.org/ to recruit volunteers through a United Way branch who will match willing volunteers to your needs.
  • Go to http://www.volunteermatch.org to register your organization and post volunteer listings with specific services, locations, and dates
  • Join COMFOOD, a listserv for the food system which regularly has postings for job opportunities
  • Join NEFME, a listserv for Northeast Farmers' Markets which also has postings for job descriptions
  • Create an online group or mailing list and keep members informed on opportunities to help out - such as on Facebook - and click on "create page" at top right hand of screen. You can also create a Listserv and keep people informed.
  • If you have a website or blog, make sure it has a volunteer page, with information on needed services, a place to sign up, and contact information
  • Keep a list of past volunteers. They are the most likely to help again, so having their contact information is incredibly beneficial. Also, you can ask them to spread the word about your organization and their experience volunteering, encouraging more people in a similar network to participate
  • Keep volunteers informed and active, but make their amount of work voluntary. Be flexible in hours and let them choose the activity they feel is most important. Give rewards for their work like praise, discounts, or paraphernalia
  • Have volunteer positions and duties written up, interview if necessary
  • Survey volunteers to measure their satisfaction

Descriptions of Market Management Duties Show | Hide

Below are some links to farmers' market management descriptions that can be used for volunteers, paid staff or divided up into both.

Market Master Suggested Roles and Responsibilities (Chapter 7) from the CT Dept. of Agriculture´┐Żs Farmers´┐Ż Market Reference Guide

Farmers Market Coalition Resource Library of market manager position descriptions

New Mexico Farmers´┐Ż Markets market management description

Rules of Farmers Market Managers, created by Jim Farr for the Farmers Market Federation of New York

Directory of Chefs for Cooking Demos, Musicians and Other Performers

If you want to submit names, groups and organizations for this section, please contact Ashley Kremser at [email protected]

Chefs

Musicians
Kristen Graves - folk/pop singer & songwriter
[email protected]
www.kristengraves.com
.

Other

Insurance

Tents may blow away on a windy day. Vendor trucks can back into other cars, trees or worse. Aside from the physical damage of these events, monetary damages occur when customers and vendors sue. In general, insurance is needed which covers liability for accidents on the farmers' market site and liability for injury caused by customers using products sold at the market.

The place where you hold the market will typically have rules about what sorts of insurance the market should hold AND what insurance each vendor should hold. On average, it is common for markets to require proof of insurance from each vendor for $300,000 in property liability coverage and $300,000 in personal liability coverage with the market named as an additional insured. Many farms add the market onto their homeowner's or farm's insurance policy.

Both market managers and vendors should shop around for the insurance that best fits their particular needs. Be completely honest about the market, where it is located and the vendors selling there as this will only help you find insurance that fully covers you. Talking to other vendors and market managers can be a great way of hearing how well insurance companies are working with this sector. Below are some links to help both market managers and vendors navigate insurance.

Suggested Insurance Coverage (Chap. 28) from the CT Dept of Agriculture's Farmers' Market Reference Guide

The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing by Neil Hamilton, available for $24.00 at the Growing for Market site.

The Farmers Market Coalition Resource Library for Insurance, Liability and Licensing

In Season

Farmstead Cheese | Wool Blankets | Granola | White Wine | Brown Eggs | Eggs | Micro Greens | Honey |

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Farm News & Happenings

posted on July 20: Scantic Valley Farm has the blues... Now picking blueberries on Saturdays and Sundays 8-3 while they last! Come on out to the farm and pick some of these delicious berries. >> more

posted on June 11: It's Strawberry picking season - The flavor of these native berries is out of this world... Come on down to the farm in the next several weeks and get some while they last! >> more

Connecticut Farm Bureau Association posted on April 1: The Connecticut Farm Bureau Women's Leadership Committee invites you to a workshop, "Juggling Lessons for Life: How to Manage the Demands of a Busy Life and Stay Healthy" with Eliz Greene, a spokespe >> more

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