So, you want to start a farmers market? Great! But there are a lot of things to think about first. In Rhode Island, there is no central market authority that dictates when or where markets should occur. Markets here are run by the state, nonprofits, cities and individuals. So, you can do it! It's just smart to think carefully before you leap in!
There are over 45 farmers markets in Rhode Island. That's one market for every 22,000 people, and more than twice as many markets as 6 years ago. Farm Fresh Rhode Island runs 8 of those markets; others are run by the RI DEM Division of Agriculture, community groups or farmers. Farm Fresh provides resources to many markets across the state with educational and outreach materials. We publish 5 regional pocket guides to RI farmers markets that list the state's markets by region. (Farm Fresh also receives about 1 or 2 requests every week from a different person or group wanting to start a new market!)
Successful markets have deep community roots and offer a thriving marketplace for farmers and eaters. Use these questions as a guide as you plan a market.
Nine Questions to Ask First
- Do you have a vision? Have you visited other markets? What will your market look like in five years? What day of the week will it be on? How many vendors? Who will run it?
- Do you have a site? Many things make a market successful—especially the location. Where will people park? Is the site easy to find? Is there a lot of foot traffic? Can the elderly get there? Is it on a bus route? Is there a density of potential costumers nearby? Is there a restroom for customers to use? Is there shade for delicate greens?
- Is there already a market nearby? Will you be drawing customers away from a pre-existing market or will you be reaching a new customer base? Search our site for markets near your zip code. Can you work with the groups that already coordinate markets nearby?
- Who are you? Are you one person with a crazy idea? Are you a group of people? A business with a goal of improving employee wellness? Are you a public-private partnership? Do you envision incorporating the market into a non-for-profit organization? Could you partner with a pre-existing farmers’ market organization?
- Do you know the neighbors? Are there businesses or organizations nearby who you could work with? Are there neighbors who might be opposed to a farmers’ market?
- Who will shop at the market? Is there a density of certain ethnicities nearby? Will you need bi-lingual signage? Will people be familiar with what grows locally? Will you need educational materials? Will there be a cash-paying clientele? Will it be a WIC-check-based market?
- What kind of permits will you need? Are you on private property? Will you be paying rent? Does the city require a vendor’s licenses for each vendor or from the market as a unit?
- Who are your farmers? Do you already know some local farmers? Are they available on the day you have chosen? Do you know a bakery? Do you know someone who could sell prepared foods? Eggs? Specialty greens? Heirlooms vegetables? Fruits? Is it a lunch hour market geared to office workers or a neighborhood market where customers stock up for the week?
- Do you have funds or a business plan? What amount will you charge vendors? How will you buy market insurance? How will you pay for ads and other materials? Will you solicit corporate sponsorships? Have market memberships? Who will manage the budget?
Resources and People to Contact
- Senior coupons. E-mail Peter at RI DEM Division of Agriculture so your farmers can accept Senior coupons.
- WIC coupons: E-mail Lauren Piluso or call 401-222-4637 at RI Dept of Health so that your farmers can accept WIC Farmers' Market coupons.
- EBT and credit card processing: E-mail Molly at Farm Fresh RI. A subsidized machine may be available for your market. How Farm Fresh does it | Tips from Oregon Farmers' Markets
- Find farmers and volunteers: Land, Jobs, Stuff Bulletin Board