Now that you've decided that there is a need for a farmers market in your area, you now need to consider elements that can make or break your market. Time, day of week, and length of the farmers market season are crucial to a farmers market being successful and robust.
In most cases, a 3 hour farmers market is a common one that we see.It won't take up a whole day for vendors to be there. You are able to staff it appropriately. It can led into events before or after the market. Whatever length you decide on farmers market, factor in an hour before and after. This will not only be the farmers market manager's commitment but also vendors. If you decide you want your farmers market to be 3 hours, this will mean that it becomes a 5-7 hour commitment.
The earlier your farmers market starts will mean the earlier the vendor's day starts too. Many crops need to be harvested the day of, and this will mean a long day for a vendor.
Timing should also be dictated by your expected customers. If you are wanting to attract families, a farmers market during the day might work. For workers ending their day, a late afternoon/early evening may work better. If you want food trucks, a market leading into lunch might be good. If you are wanting people to come downtown to shop and also eat out, a farmers market in the evening might work. In Northern Illinois, we have seen farmers markets at many different times. Much of the timing comes back to the cities and towns they are located in.
No day of the week works best for a farmers market.Much of it will depend on your objectives. If you want people to come to your downtown, a market on Monday should be avoided since restaurants/shops will be closed. If you are working for a village/city, you might choose to have a farmers market on a Saturday when there is free parking. Maybe you tie your farmers market into other events happening during the week. A farmers market that follows a Wednesday event?
Avoid the dueling farmers market if you can. Placing your farmers market on the same day as another established market in the area may be hard for you to compete for vendors and customers. It may hurt all involved if you decide to hold your market the same day as it might mean splitting the customer base. There are some farmers markets in bigger cities where they can hold them on the same day and there is enough distance for this to work. In smaller communities, this isn't always the case.
Ask potential vendors what day they would like. You may find that they need another day to sell their produce which can help decide the day of the week.
Most farmers market seasons are dictated by the growing season to determine their length.In Northern Illinois, this means that farmers markets run from mid-May to November 1st. How often to then hold the market during this time is up to you. For a first year market, you might decide once a month or every other week before leading up to every week in your 2ndyear. A limited farmers market season can also be good the first year.
The health department may determine your market season too. License that certain vendors need may only cover a set amount of months. Starting and ending the farmers market during this period so as the vendor does not need another license may be what you have to do.
Once day of the week, time, and season are all established, spend some time thinking about what the commitment will look like before beginning promotion. Are you able to commit to this setup if that's your role in the farmers market? Will the time work for the customers you are wanting to attract? By planning now, you've got some time to consider if time/day/season will work for you and others. Once you've decided on these and you begin marketing the market, it can be hard to change them during the season and you'll need to wait until the season is over.
Next week, we'll continue the farmers market series
Nikki Keltner and Grant McCarty