How to start a farmers’ market

If you’re considering starting a farmers’ market in Maine, the primary issue to consider is: Are there farmers in the immediate area who are seeking a market? Finding an answer to this question doesn’t mean getting general responses to a general question. It requires finding out if there is a need, and a real commitment. In other words, don’t ask potential farmers and food producers, “Would you be interested in a farmers’ market in Ourtown?” Instead, ask, “Would you be willing to commit to a farmers’ market in Ourtown every Thursday afternoon (for example)  from May 15 – Oct 15?” If at least 5-6 farmers and other producers are willing to commit to that place and time, here are next steps:

  1. For a summer market, organize meetings over the winter to plan market logistics:
    1. Market by-laws and rules (including fee scale, seasonal dates, attendance requirements, etc…) – more information here.
    2. Establish officers (common are president/chair, treasurer, secretary)
    3. Selection of market manager (usually a volunteer position held by a market member)
    4. Application and vendor review process
    5. Set up committees (such as promotion, events, etc…)
  2. Finalize the location, and secure it by executing a Memorandum of Understanding or lease with the property owner. (See “Finding the Right Site.”)
  3. Set up a website and social media pages (Facebook at a minimum, but consider Instagram as well. See Promoting Your Market.)
  4. Continue to recruit market members. State law says there must be at least 2 farmers to constitute a farmers’ market. The average is 16.
    1. Use the Vendors Wanted Facebook page, and share our “How to Join a Maine Farmers’ Market” page.
    2. Review applications
    3. Hold a meeting to interview applicants and vote
  5. Plan to spend about $500-600 on a liability insurance policy for the market. (Note that this is necessary even if the landowner holds insurance. The landowner’s policy protects the landowner, and the market’s policy protects the market members.) See “Insurance Issues” for more information.
  6. Set up a process to review and store documentation for market members, specifically:
    1. Licenses (Read about the Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry’s requirements here.)
    2. Liability insurance (note that vendors need commercial liability insurance, not simply a home-owners policy)
  7. Launch a promotion campaign
  8. Open for the season!

Other resources: