How to Organize a Successful Farmers Market

Experts Collaborate to Educate Market Organizers

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Grant McCarty is a local foods and small farms educator with the University of Illinois Extension.

Nikki Keltner is an Extension Program Coordinator with the University of Illinois Extension.

Janie Maxwell, MS, RDN, LDN, is executive director of the Illinois Farmers Market Association.

Cathy McDermott is the administrator of the Rock River Development Partnership in Rockford, Ill., and a board member of both the Illinois Farmers Market Association and the National Association of Produce Market Managers.

Catherine Dunlap is the events and outreach coordinator for the Downtown Bloomington (Ill.) Association.

Posted: Wednesday, September 27, 2017 3:28 pm

Farmers markets are becoming more popular than ever across the country, as consumers become more concerned about the safety and quality of mass-produced and processed foods. When combined with arts and entertainment components, these local food venues can become the focal point in a community’s placemaking, tourism and economic development endeavors.

Farmers markets can also play a critical role in strengthening community resilience, fighting obesity, improving health and supporting disadvantaged neighborhoods in urban food deserts.

As a local foods and small farms educator with the University of Illinois Extension, Grant McCarty works to educate consumers, homeowners, and producers on soil management, organic fruit and vegetable production, local food systems development, disease/insect management, farmers markets and other direct marketing channels. During the year, he provides consultation and assistance to area growers and producers related to their management practices.

On Nov. 7 and 8, McCarty and his colleague, Extension Program Coordinator Nikki Keltner, will be joined by members of the Illinois Farmers Market Association to conduct a 4-hour online training course on how to set up a successful market. The course will teach local government staff, nonprofits and private-sector organizers how to plan, develop and implement a successful farmers market in a community of any size.

Produced and moderated by Sustainable City Network, the course will cover topics such as how to choose a location, engaging stakeholders, establishing roles and responsibilities, setting up a management structure, understanding insurance needs, working with vendors, developing contracts, and branding, marketing and promoting a farmers market.

During the second session, Janie Maxwell, Cathy McDermott and Catherine Dunlap of the Illinois Farmers Market Association will step through a variety of case studies describing the set-up and implementation of farmers markets.

Cost of the course is $199 when registering by Oct. 22 and $248 thereafter.

The course will cover the following topics in detail:

Basics of Setting Up a Farmers Market

  • Determining the Need for a Farmers Market
  • Location
  • General Setup Ideas
  • Stakeholders
  • Insurance
  • Community "Buy In"
  • Deciding what Type of Market You Will Be
  • Market Manager and the Managers Role

Promotion of the Market

  • Social Media
  • Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Chamber of Commerce/Downtown Development Organization
  • Newspaper, radio, cable television
  • Other key places to advertise

Working with Vendors

  • Market Guidelines and Rules
  • Resources for Vendors about State and Local Regulations
  • Recruiting Vendors Farmers Market Contracts
  • Basic Needs of Contract
  • Determining Your Needs vs Vendors Needs
  • Examples of Contracts

Branding/Promotion/Identity of Your Market

  • Mission Statement
  • Goals
  • Determining Your Identity/Brand

Review of Case Studies

All class sessions begin promptly at 10 a.m. Pacific, 11 a.m. Mountain, Noon Central and 1 p.m. Eastern. Session recordings can be accessed on demand for 30 days following the live event.

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