There are a variety of ways farmer’s markets can get started, including through development entities, chambers of commerce, communities that want to provide access to locally grown food, and farmers themselves.
The most important things needed to start a farmer’s market are producers, or farmers interested in selling, and a market base interested in purchasing, according to Colleen Hanlon-Smith, executive director of the Maine Federation of Farmer’s Markets.
It is also useful to have outside support, such as from a town or city council, but farmer’s markets usually operate on their own as non-profit organizations or as an umbrella non-profit for vendors.
Local farmer and apiarist Samantha Burns, who has organized and manages the Madison Farmer’s Market, says she saw an opportunity to launch a new market when the town opened a new park on Main Street.
“It was accessible, had plenty of parking and is really ideal for the market. I think previous attempts were challenged by a lack of public space,” she said.
Attracting vendors has also been a challenge, and without a lot of vendors it can be hard to get town and community support, she said.
Hanlon-Smith said she has worked with markets around the state on marketing techniques, and said that offering a CSA is one way to bring customers to a market.
“It’s an interesting and innovative way of meeting customers’ needs, although it should definitely be discussed among vendors at any market considering one,” she said.
For more information on starting a farmer’s market in your community, the federation offers advice on gaging interest, finding a location and organizing a market.