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
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.
Market rules for vendors
Articles of Incorporation
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.
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.
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
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
Public restrooms or space for portable restrooms
Gray Water Disposal
Amenities for the public such as shade, landscaping, open-air pavilions, stage, benches, and cafe tables
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.
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
Scale licenses for any scale used at market
Food processor licenses (for apple cider, dairy, fish, meat, and many other value-added items)
Certificate of product liability insurance if required by your rules
Season temporary restaurant license
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
Press releases to newspapers, agriculture publications and growers’ newsletters
Write an article for the Capital Press
Place signage in farm supply stores
Ask local farmers for leads
Join Oregon Farmers’ Markets Association
Attend farm direct marketing conferences
Research local farmstands in the market’s region
Create a Community Table
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
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.
#1 – Advertise by word of mouth
Volunteer booth at the market
Provide free community booths for non-profits
Articles in local newsletters
Create market event bookmarks for the library
Real estate broker mailings
Invite reporters on 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.