Farmers markets in Georgia are popping up like pigweed in a peanut field, but some are thriving while other just surviving. Jan Kozak and Jerry NeSmith from Athens Farmers Market and Katie Cash Hayes from Community Farmers Markets gave farmers valuable tips to help farmers markets thrive at their session called “Sustaining Your Farmers Market – Why the Athens Farmers Market Thrives” at our 18th Annual Georgia Organics Conference, Recipe for Change: Better Farms, Better Flavors, which was held on Feb. 20-21, 2015, at the Classic Center in Athens, Ga.
Here are some of the lessons learned:
- Run your farmers market like a business and it will thrive. That means having a diverse, representative board of directors, set policies, set budgets, and make your business model efficient.
- Make sure to have strong operating policies that will help your business model become sustainable. Sustainable businesses are repeatable, flexible/customizable, efficient, self-sufficient/self-reliant, and proven.
- Think of accommodating multiple types of payments such as credit, debit, and EBT. According to American Consumer Credit Counselors, 80% of consumer spending in America in 2013 was cashless.
- Listen to the community to better understand their wants and needs. Does your community need activities for children? Tastings? Free yoga? A farm tour? Cooking demonstrations? Different working hours? Do they support sustainable agriculture? Do they need a farmers market?
- Put mutual beneficial relationships at center. That means that you should get the community involved and empowered so they can support you and be supported. An example of that would be to give your volunteers a real voice so they can effectively support you and be supported.
- It is a great idea to have a member of the city council or any government institution as part of your farmers market board of directors because they can support you tremendously. Establish mutually beneficial relationships with local government AND private businesses to gain access to great venues.
- Consider hiring some people for positions such as a market manager, because volunteer managers are not part of a recipe for long-term success because they are temporary. Pay your market manager and develop them into an executive director-type position over time.