Alberta Approved Farmers' Markets

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 What is an Alberta approved farmers' market? | What is the Alberta approved farmers' market program? | How do I start an Alberta approved farmers' market? | Annual requirements | Farmers' market manager training | Farmers' market management resources | Food safety training | Webinars | Sunnygirl logo | Alberta approved farmers' market directory | Publications and resources | Research | Farmers' market links
What is an Alberta Approved Farmers' Market?

In Alberta, there are two different types of markets – Alberta approved farmers’ markets and public markets. Both types of markets involve a gathering of vendors who sell their products directly to consumers. The difference lies in the ownership/management of the market and the privileges accorded to each type of market. One is not better than the other – they are simply different.

An Alberta approved farmers' market is one that has been approved by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) and as such meets the requirements of the program guidelines that have been approved by the Minister. These include:
  • being sponsored by a not-for-profit community group, local Chamber of Commerce, municipality or agricultural society or forming their own not-for profit society under the Societies Act. Privately owned markets are not eligible to operate under the banner of an Alberta approved farmers' market.
  • operate under the direction of an advisory body or board of directors depending on the nature of the sponsoring body. Public markets typically have for-profit ownership and there is no requirement for an advisory body or board of directors in that situation.
  • 80 per cent (80%) of the vendors meet the "make it, bake it, grow it" criteria; the remaining 20 per cent (20%) of the vendors are selling products that complement the market mix
  • sale of any used good or flea market products are prohibited
  • must operate for no less than ten (10) days per year and for two (2) hours per market day
  • have at least one vendor meeting per year
  • have developed a set of rules which govern the operation of the market. A copy of these rules must be made available to AF and all the vendors at the market.
  • adhere to the administrative requirements of the program
As an approved farmers' market, it receives the following benefits:
  • All markets follow the same guidelines that set minimum standards thereby strengthening the markets across the province.
  • Approved farmers’ markets are recognized as such in Part 3 of the Alberta Public Health Act Food Regulation
  • Only Alberta approved farmers’ markets can use the official mark - Sunnygirl - in their advertising and promotion and can make arrangements to use the Sunnygirl logo on highway signage.
  • Alberta approved farmers’ markets can take advantage of the free promotion provided by AF including being listed in the annual brochure and on

A public market is generally one that is privately owned and includes all types of operations including flea markets. As a public market, each food vendor must have an individual food establishment permit and be operating in a health approved facility. Some municipalities also have bylaws that are applied to public markets. Most municipalities require each vendor at a public market to have a business or peddler's license, whereas often only a single license is required for the approved farmers' market because of its nonprofit status. A public market does not receive any of the above noted benefits enjoyed by an approved farmers' market.

What is the Alberta Approved Farmers' Market Program?

The Alberta Approved Farmers' Market Program is an Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) program. The Local/Domestic Market Expansion Branch of AF administers the program on behalf of the Minister. The Program creates an operational framework that facilitates direct market access for community-based entrepreneurs who make, bake, or grow the products they sell. Basic operating guidelines, provincial program-awareness initiatives, and the education of vendors, managers and consumers are the key components of this community-based program.

Over 125 Alberta approved farmers' markets are serving up some of the most nutritious, fresh, Alberta made products available. Along most highways in Alberta you can see the Sunnygirl logo announcing the existence of an approved farmers’ market nearby.

Following the "Make It, Bake It, Grow It" philosophy, Alberta approved farmers’ markets provide a direct contact for consumers to producers. Consumers can talk to the person that grew the carrots, raised the chicken, baked the bread, produced the jam, or knit the sweater. Each approved farmers’ market in Alberta is independently operated and therefore reflects the culture of the community.

Farmers’ markets are the #1 ag tourism attraction in Alberta. Farmers' markets provide a great shopping experience where consumers can "savour time rather than save time". They are a chance to shop in a relaxed, fun atmosphere while receiving the highest quality products. With average spending per visit to a farmers' market at $55 and the total estimated market value of farmers' markets equalling $724 million in 2012, the future for farmers' markets in Alberta is very bright.

How Do I Start An Alberta Approved Farmers' Market?

Thinking of starting a farmers' market? The following fact sheet, application, program guidelines and other general information will help you to get started. Key contacts for Alberta Approved Farmers' Markets are:
Eileen Kotowich, Vermilion 780-853-8223
Marissa Brewer, Stony Plain 780-968-3510
Delores Serafin, Edmonton 780-427-4611

Annual Requirements

In order to retain their approved status, Alberta Approved Farmers' Markets are required to submit market paperwork to Program staff annually. All paperwork is due JANUARY 15. The annual paperwork consists of the following:
    1. Sponsor Approval Form - Must be printed and signed by the President of the sponsoring organization. Due January 31 of every year.
    2. Market Information Form - Collects at-a-glance contact information about your market for the upcoming market season.
    3. Statistical Update Form - Collects statistical information about your market for the season just completed. This information is compiled and a summary is placed on the website.
    4. Vendor List and Instructions - Collects information about your 2015 vendors. It is essential that you include all the times each vendor has attended your market as this number is used to calculate averages for your market, i.e. the 80/20 split and average number of vendors. Be sure to include all vendors in your listing even if they are only casual vendors or if they only came for your special markets, i.e. Christmas markets
    5. Map Brochure Form - The information on this form is used to populate our Sunnygirl website as well as our annual brochure.

    All of the forms are available as fillable pdfs. They can be accessed either by clicking on this link or by opening this pdf file. The forms need to be saved on your computer and emailed to us at

    Email Consent Form - From time to time, we want to send our market managers information about upcoming events that may be of interest to the managers or to their vendors. As this is outside of the Farmers' Market Program requirements, we require your express consent in order to do so. Please complete this form and email it to if you are willing to receive email updates from us.

    Annual Spring Letter - A letter is sent out every spring to Managers and Sponsors updating and reminding them of a variety of topics.
Farmers' Market Manager Training

An important factor in the overall success of a farmers' market is the skills and knowledge of the Market Manager. An on-line training manual has been developed for your use. With the development of this training manual, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is committed to ensuring that approved farmers' market managers have the basic information they need in order to succeed in their roles.

As stated in the Approved Farmers' Market Program Guidelines, market manager training is mandatory for all market managers within one year of becoming a manager of an approved farmers' market. This on-line resource will enable all managers to meet that requirement.

Click here to access the manual.

Any questions regarding market manager training or the content of the manual should be directed to:
Eileen Kotowich
Farmers' Market Specialist
Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
4701 52 Street, Box 24
Vermilion, AB T9X 1J9

Phone: 780-853-8223


Farmers' Market Management Resources

Two new resources have been developed to help you better manage your Alberta approved farmers' market.
  • Evaluating Your Alberta Approved Farmers' Market fact sheet Agdex 845-23
    This fact sheets helps managers and boards/committees understand the importance of evaluating different aspects of their farmers' market as well as some tips on how to conduct those evaluations.

Food Safety Training

Farmers' Market Food Safety Home Study Course: The safety of the food being sold at approved farmers’ markets is critical to the success of farmers’ markets in Alberta. Alberta Agriculture and Forestry (AF) is committed to ensuring market managers and vendors have a minimum level of food safety training. Working in partnership with Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health, a farmers' market food safety home study course was developed and is available on-line through Alberta Health Services. The course certificate expires after three years. To renew, the course exam must be completed and submitted again.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry is requiring that all market managers and food vendors selling at Alberta approved farmers' markets complete this course within one year of becoming a market manager or food vendor.

Exception: Completion of this course is not required for those individuals who have already completed an approved Alberta food sanitation and hygiene training program and/or who are required to complete the food safety training described under Section 31 of the Food Regulation.

Upon successful completion of the course (passing grade of 80%), you will be sent a certificate by Alberta Health Services.

Managers and vendors must display their certificates at the market. For vendors who are selling at multiple markets, a copy of the certificate is acceptable for display purposes.

A food vendor is defined as any vendor selling a food product. This includes but is not limited to fresh fruits and vegetables, protein products, and all food products that have been baked and processed. Vendors of prepackaged products, i.e. vendors operating as distributors, who do not actually handle the food product are advised to take this training but are not required to do so UNLESS they are sampling those products at the market.


  • Explore Local Webinar Series: These one-hour web-based seminars bring you timely information on a variety of topics - all geared to help producers and small scale processors selling into local markets access the information needed to run their businesses more effectively and profitably.
  • Previously recorded webinars of interest to farmers' market managers, sponsors and vendors include:
      • Alberta Food Regulations for Farmers' Market Managers and Vendors - May 2015
          • General contact numbers for Alberta Health Services Zone offices:
              • Grande Prairie - 780-513-7517
              • Edmonton - 780-735-1800
              • Red Deer - 403-356-6366
              • Calgary - 403-943-2295
              • Lethbridge - 403-388-6689
      • Agriculture Regulations - February 2013
      • What's in a Food Label? New Regulations 2012 - June 2012
To view previously recorded webinars, go to the Explore Local Webinar Series page.

Sunnygirl Logo

The Sunnygirl is the official mark Alberta approved farmers' markets. This logo helps the consumer identify that the market is approved and they are affiliated with a chain of high quality markets offering Alberta-produced products that consumers can trust. If you are an Alberta approved farmers' market, you can use the Sunnygirl logo in your promotions. Contact Eileen Kotowich to get a copy of the logo to use in your promotions.

Alberta Approved Farmers' Market Directory

Our directory is an interactive map that shows all the markets in the province or select a region to get a closer look at the markets in that area. Click on a pin and you will see information about that market, including location, dates and times.

Publications and Resources

Food Labelling
The Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act requires that all prepackaged foods have complete food labels including ingredient lists and allergen identification. On July 30, 2012, two inspectors from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency participated in a webinar on basic food labelling and food allergen labelling. This webinar is available to viewed. Their presentations handouts are also available for download.

Marketing Food Safely - Farm Direct Advantage
Developed in partnership with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry and the Alberta Farmers' Market Association, the Marketing Food Safely home study manual is a distance delivery education tool for farm direct marketers. The manual is a reference guide, a workbook and a planning tool. It focuses on marketing activities, not production or processing. It is available here for download as a pdf. If you would prefer a hard copy, it is available for purchase through the Alberta Farmers' Market Association.

How to be a Farmers' Market Vendor Information Sheet
The purpose of this information sheet is to provide information to vendors and potential vendors on selling at farmers’ markets.

Farmers' Market Strategic Planning Workbook
The purpose of this workbook is to provide market managers, boards and sponsors with a template to work through a strategic planning process for the market. Strategic plans should be develop and reviewed on an annual basis. The Strategic Planning Template is useful when developing and agreeing on action plans for the market.

Farmers' Market Manager Job Description
This information sheet was developed as a guide for markets to use when developing a job description for the market manager position. Not all the material contain within will apply to all markets and so the document should be customized for each market.

Interview Questions for Farmers' Market Manager
This information sheet was developed to provide boards and selection committees with some tips on the types of interview questions which should be asked during an interview for the farmers' market manager.

Irrigation Water Quality Safety
The safety of our food is critical. One area of importance to many of our producers is the safety of their irrigation water. The Irrigation and Farm Water Division of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry recently developed a brochure entitled Irrigation Water Quality Safety for Fresh Field-grown Fruits and Vegetables.

Market Manager and Vendor Food Safety Checklists
These simple self-evaluation checklists highlight areas of concern in food handling at the market and will help you think about the food safety risks. They will help you identify the things that you are doing right and things that need to be changed and improved. Four different checklists are available: Manager startup checklist; Manager weekly checklist; Vendor startup checklist; Vendor weekly checklist. For further information contact Eileen Kotowich for hard copies of these checklists.

Alberta Health Services Farmers' Market Information
Alberta Health Services (AHS) has shared the information package they give to farmers' market managers. These documents are provincial in nature and are used with all approved farmers' markets across Alberta. This package includes: Farmers' Market 2010 Brochure, Farmers' Market Guidelines for Canning Lids and Jars, Farmers' Market Manager's Daily Checklist, Farmers' Market Vendor's Food Safety Checklist.

  • Field Notes e-newsletter - Field Notes is the quarterly e-newsletter of the Explore Local Initiative. It targets producers who are currently selling or who are interested in selling through local market channels - farmers' markets, u-picks, on-farm retail, community shared agriculture, ag tourism operations with a food component or selling directly to restaurants. The newsletter contains project spotlights, tips on how to improve your local market business, upcoming events and contacts.
  • Hort Snacks Newsletter - Hort Snacks is a monthly newsletter targeted at direct market horticulture crop producers and related industry. It contains timely articles and topics related to all aspects of horticulture crop production operations, including production, business and marketing. Upcoming conferences and workshops (regional, provincial, national and international) are listed. There are also thought provoking items, as well as monthly interactive questions and answers.
  • Direct Currents - Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association quarterly newsletter containing helpful information related to farm direct marketing your products. Become a member and receive this valuable benefit of membership.

There are a number of publications available through Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. For hard copies of these publications, call 1-800-292-5697. You can also use our on-line order form or download them directly here.

Alternative agricultural markets in Alberta, 2012
This 2012 study continues to explore the trend to purchase local food, "food grown or made in Alberta", and its value represented at farmers' markets and farm retail. This study established baselines for two other market channels: restaurants serving local food and community supported agriculture or community shared agriculture (CSA)/box programs.

Alternative agricultural markets in Alberta study, 2008 (pdf 934 kb)
What is the status of the local food market in Alberta? Where are we at today? This report shows us the demographics, the present market value and the change over the past four years for the farm retail, farmers' markets, and farm activities sector of the ‘eat, shop, experience’ Alberta- based market. In addition we have obtained the percentage of farm retail, and farmers' markets that can be attributed to Alberta-grown or made foods as well as the benefits and barriers to purchasing local as perceived by Albertans. This information will contribute to a foundation and food for thought for the developing programs within the Explore Local Initiative.

For more information on the Explore Local Initiative, click here.

Farmers' Market Links
  • Explore Local Initiative - Explore Local is a new initiative set up by AF to help producers and others build on the success to date and further capture growth opportunities in the local food market. It involves a multi-disciplinary team with a range of knowledge and experience in the local food area, aimed toward connecting people and facilitating sustainable businesses by providing information, learning opportunities, coaching, mentoring and advocacy. All share a vision of a local food market sector in Alberta that is well-positioned to meet the growing consumer demand for experiencing local agri-food products and services.
  • Alberta Farmers' Market Association - The Alberta Farmers' Market Association (AFMA) is a provincial organization providing leadership and support to member markets, managers and vendors through education and promotion.
  • Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association - The Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association is a provincial organization whose mission is to develop a profitable and sustainable farm direct marketing industry through promotion, education and collaboration with government and industry partners.
  • FarmOn.Com - FarmOn.Com is an agricultural social networking community leading the way by offering essential tools that assist young producers and farmers to explore the information, learning and resources that support the sustainability of the family farm. Members can connect and network with fellow producers through personal pages, message boards, blogs and online chats, learning from the innovation, stories and ideas of their peers.
  • BC Association of Farmers' Markets
  • Farmers' Markets in Saskatchewan
  • Saskatchewan Farmers' Market Cooperative
  • Farmers' Market Coalition - This U.S.-based non-profit organization offers many resources of value for farmers' markets, including an on-line forum.
  • USDA Farmers' Markets
For more information about the content of this document, contact Eileen Kotowich.
This information published to the web on May 20, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 20, 2015.