Key Challenges & Strategies →
Bringing a farmers market to a new community can be challenging, given the seasonal nature of many markets, and, in many cases, the lack of an indoor location. Below are some challenges markets have faced in the past.
- Start-up and administrative costs. Although farmers markets are smaller food retail enterprises than a full-scale supermarket, they still require an initial stream of funding.
- Sustainability. Farmers markets have to attract customers to make it viable for farmers and vendors to sell their products, including the costs for traveling to the market.
- Accepting public benefits. Ensuring that markets accept SNAP benefits increases markets sustainability, builds purchasing power for SNAP participants, and encourages SNAP customers to use their benefits to buy fresh produce. However, acquiring the right equipment and know-how to process these benefits can be an initial challenge for farmers and market managers.
Communities Putting Prevention to Work ‐ Get Healthy Philly Farmers' Market and Philly Food Bucks 2010 Report highlights strategies to support farmers markets in communities. These strategies include the following best practices.
- Establish and support a farmers market collaborative. A farmers market collaborative is traditionally defined as a group of community patrons composed of market managers, advocates, and city agency staff dedicated to the establishment and continued support of farmers markets. They are community-based partners committed to not only advocating for a farmers market, but support for its coordination, marketing and outreach to the community.
- Ensure vendors are aware of the local retail environment. Vendors at farmers markets can benefit from comprehensive business plans that help them gain access to and adapt to local food retail environments. Considerations include the pricing and quality of food sources in the farmers market trade area as well as the non-food retail establishments in the surrounding area. Vendors can tap into targeted technical assistance programs that advise participants about how to increase their earning potential.
- Ensure vendors are aware of successful marketing strategies. Existing small business development training programs can also help improve markets marketing strategies to increase their profitability. Knowledge of community demographics, including income level and race/ethnicity, is important to drive market communications and outreach strategies such as media format and language.
- Promote the consistent on-site management of markets. Well-managed markets are key to the strategic promotion and implementation of food assistance programs. Across the country, chambers of commerce, nonprofit organizations, and community-based groups have managed successful markets. Markets benefit from management that tracks economic viability and provides technical assistance to vendors. Additionally, market managers can improve outreach to communities and assist with strengthening the design of the program.
- Ensure markets accept government nutrition program benefits. The SNAP, WIC, and the Farmers Market Nutrition Programs (FMNP) provide direct, effective support for low-income mothers, seniors, and families to purchase fresh and healthy foods. Farmers markets that accept these programs benefit from the purchasing power of these recipients. Market managers can work with local governments to help vendors navigate the process of setting up machines needed to process EBT cards, thereby enabling recipients to purchase locally grown foods.
- Build community support. Meaningful community outreach is integral to a market's growth and promotion. Markets can work with community groups, including community development corporations and community centers, to sponsor community projects that highlight markets. Local schools also play an integral role in building this support. Additionally, knowledge of community demographics, particularly in low-income communities, is essential to drive outreach strategies and ensure that products sold by market vendors match the needs of local residents.
In addition to city and statewide financing initiatives that support grocery projects across the country, there are other initiatives in place supporting farmers markets in underserved communities. For descriptions, go to Policy Efforts.