Managing Your Market

Oregon's farmers' market managers range from volunteer coordinators to full-time managers with supporting staff, seasonal to year-round. Their job descriptions vary depending on the market organization structure, board involvement, volunteer support and budgets. One fact fits all: market managers work with limited resources and their energy is spurred by passion for their community, for local agriculture and for the joy of the market day, when people come to celebrate the Oregon harvest.

OFMA's Resource Library provides links, contacts and excellent reading resources to help jump start your market venture. Below are examples of Market Manager tasks.

Creating a Market | Finding a Site | Market Organization
Marketing to Farmers | Marketing to the Community | Market Day

Creating A Market

Farmers' markets provide opportunities for communities to access local food, avenues for farm-direct sales for farmers, and a place for people to meet and socialize while supporting Oregon agriculture. No matter what the purpose, most markets have key documents to help organize the market's activities.

Organizational documents

  • Market rules for vendors
  • Articles of Incorporation
  • Bylaws
  • Budget
  • Permits (cities, street closures and signage, etc.)
  • Insurance for the market -- liability and perhaps board insurance

The first challenge for most markets is finding a site. Once a site is secured, attracting farmers requires outreach to them. They will want to understand the market's location and its demographics, market stall and membership fees, day and time of operation and the marketing plan. Engaging the community to support the market and market farmers with their dollars means more than just providing a place to buy the freshest produce; it is also an opportunity to educate shoppers on the importance of Oregon agriculture to our state.

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Finding a Site

Open-air markets are like theater, magically transforming a portion of the community into a harvest celebration.  Farmers' markets reside at many different types of locations:  closed streets, empty parking lots, city plazas, county fairgrounds, city parks, city transit malls.  Creating these temporary "stages" can entail labor-intense challenges to assure that the markets are safe and attractive.

Site Considerations

  • Safe and convenient pedestrian access
  • Adjoins local streets
  • Moderate traffic volumes
  • Consistently available for the market throughout the season
  • Multiple entry/exit points into site for farm vehicles
  • Convenient parking and other retail activity
  • ATM access
  • Near commercial district
  • Easy access/view from arterial streets
  • Level and durable surface
  • Good drainage - no standing water
  • Accessible to water and electric, if possible
  • On-site storage
  • Public restrooms or space for portable restrooms
  • Bike Racks
  • Gray Water Disposal
  • Amenities for the public such as shade, landscaping, open-air pavilions, stage, benches, and cafe tables

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Market Organization

As a market manager, your job could entail coordinating with the market organizers to define market policies, coordinating committees, on-site management, structuring publicity and organizing special events.

Successful markets

  • Recruit and build a strong vendor base as defined by market policy and market rules
  • Respond to market issues with local and state agencies
  • Provide optimal product variety and  balancing regular offerings with new vendors and products
  • Forecast market’s available space and recruit new vendors as needed
  • Visit farms and other vendor locations, when necessary
  • Be knowledgeable about ODA food safety guidelines and requirements

Vendor Permits and licenses

  • Food handling licenses for the person in charge of restaurant stalls
  • Plant nursery licenses
  • Organic certificates
  • Scale licenses for any scale used at market
  • Food processor licenses (for apple cider, dairy, fish, meat, and many other value-added items)
  • Bakery license
  • Certificate of product liability insurance if required by your rules
  • Season temporary restaurant license

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Marketing to Farmers

The number one customer in the farmers' market is the farmer. The market must provide farmers a viable farm direct opportunity.   A market needs to have a critical mass of farmers for a successful market.  This number will vary depending on the community.

How to locate interested farmers

Attracting farmers to your market

  • Choose a farmer-friendly site with adequate off-loading space and parking
  • Determine market day and time based on other farmers' markets schedules
  • Provide a map of the site to show surrounding businesses, neighborhoods, traffic patterns and public transportation routes.
  • Mail an invitation packet including letter of introduction and map; follow-up with personal phone call
  • Show samples of publicity and marketing materials
  • Introduce farmers to the core group of market organizers
  • Ask them for their opinions to encourage joint "ownership" of the market

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Marketing to the Community

Historically, farmers' markets have been perceived as a place of commerce where farmers sell their produce to city folk.  Today, organizers of farmers' markets recognize that farmers' markets can also act as community builders and can positively influence surrounding businesses.

Farmers' markets are as diverse as the towns where they reside.  Farmers' markets build upon the town's historic values, leveraging the traditions and ethnic diversity of their community.  Organizers and market manager must continuously build alliances between governments, neighboring businesses, farmers, state health agencies and of course, the market shoppers.

Advertising Opportunities

  • #1 - Advertise by word of mouth
  • Volunteer booth at the market
  • Provide free community booths for non-profits
  • Posters
  • Door hangers
  • Articles in local newsletters
  • Create market event bookmarks for the library
  • Street signage
  • Windshield flyers
  • Church bulletins
  • Real estate broker mailings
  • Invite reporters on market day

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Market Day

  • Collect and deposit stall fees and other market receipts.
  • Monitor for possible violations of state and market sanitation and food safety guidelines.
  • Check hand-washing stations for those vendors who give samples, and if necessary, review food sampling guidelines with individual vendors.
  • Confirm scale certification.
  • Seek input from market participants (vendors, customers, volunteers, board, and committee members) to resolve problems effectively.
  • Coordinate delivery of donated food to Oregon Food Bank or other gleaning organizations after the market each week.
  • Conduct market research using the fun and easy Rapid Assessment methods to estimate your crowd and capture their ideas for your market.

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