Producer only farmers’ markets

What is a Producer-Only Farmers’ Market? It’s a farmers’ market where all members may only offer for sale what they produce themselves. They are not allowed to buy-in items for resale. These markets have adopted stricter standards than the State of Maine minimum of each member being able to sell up to 25% bought-in products.

Generally speaking, small markets in smaller towns are more likely to allow buy-ins by some members than are larger markets in larger towns and cities, although there are certainly exceptions to this. Some markets adopt a producer-only policy at their beginning, while other markets allow some level of buy-ins from day one. Still other markets convert—by way of a membership vote—from allowing buy-ins to being producer-only. This usually happens after a few years of wrestling with the complications and hard feelings that buying-in often brings to meetings and market days.

Here are some of the pros and cons of being a producer-only market:


  • Shoppers assume that market members are producing what they are offering for sale; shoppers can trust their expectations.
  • It requires less “policing” of what members are selling, since sourcing will only be from the member’s operation.
  • It results in shorter meeting times, since the need to consider what each member is permitted to buy-in is eliminated.
  • It attracts new applicants who produce what’s missing at the market.
  • Markets may emphasize in their promotions that shoppers are buying direct and meeting the producers of their food.
  • There are no conflicts between members who produce an item and those who buy it in for re-sale.
  • There are no “ghost members”, those folks who join the market but never attend, allowing an attending member to sell their products instead.
  • The market is unaffected by whatever percentage the State allows to be bought in.


  • The market will have more “market voids,” items that are produced locally but aren’t being brought to market because they are not produced by any current member.
  • Uneducated shoppers will be disappointed by not finding what they want at market.
  • Member sales will be lower if they have fewer items to offer for sale. For some members this may mean it is not worth their while to attend market.
  • Non market members have no chance of having their products sold at market.

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.