How do YOU spell it?

You see it on your market’s signs.

You probably have to write it at least a dozen times a year.

Not everyone has the same understanding of basic English grammar to get it right every time. Here’s how an English teacher might explain it:

  • Farmer’s Market: a market belonging to a single farmer.
  • Farmers’ Market: a market belonging to, or made up of, more than one farmer.
  • Farmers Market: a phrase that requires some punctuation, since its meaning is unclear.

How do you spell it? Farmers market, farmers’ market, or farmer’s market? I’ve seen it done each way, and the misspelling irks me like seeing my farm’s name spelled wrong on my mail. As my 6th grade teacher Mrs. Liston made us memorize, adding the apostrophe makes a noun possessive; adding it before the “s” makes it a singular possessive; adding an apostrophe after the “s” makes it a plural possessive.

Applying this rule we realize that when we talk about a farmer’s market, we are actually referring to a market belonging to one farmer. When we talk of a farmers’ market, we are referring to a market belonging to or made up of many farmers. If we don’t use any apostrophe at all, we’re just demonstrating that we’re afraid to guess.

So, let’s get it right. A group of farmers selling together is a farmers’ market.
And after all, it’s the Law. ‘Nuf said.

About Tom Roberts

When I started attending the Brewer Farmers’ Market back in August of 1983, my sole concern was being able to sell the produce my farm was growing at a good price. After attending market for a year or two, I began to realize that how the market was organized had a great impact on my sales. And how the market was organized also influenced how it made decisions about dues, new members, what could be sold at market, and how it promoted itself—and this, too, had an impact on my sales. So I got involved in the market’s steering committee and began to understand how various market members thought the market should operate. Some wanted a market czar, some wanted everyone to be allowed to do their own thing. But everyone seemed to agree that if the market as a whole did well, then so did they.