Building better farmers' markets

 
  Winter 2016
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 Farmers’ markets are one of the primary sources of fresh and local food for Albertans.
Customers enjoy connecting directly with the producers, processors and artisans, and welcome the opportunity to build an informed and trusting relationship.

The 2012 Alternative Agricultural Markets in Alberta study found that the combined market value of farmers’ markets and farm retail was approximately $878 million. On average, farmers’ market patrons spend $55 per visit and $671 over the course of a year.

Customers agree that farmers’ markets are one of the best sources of local food, but if the industry is to continue expanding, it is up to individual farmers’ markets to encourage patrons to visit more often and spend more money on each visit.

The Alberta Approved Farmers’ Market Program Guidelines set the conditions for obtaining official Alberta approved farmers’ market status. Once these basic expectations are met, markets can focus on how to enhance their market experience for vendors and clients alike. To help guide farmers’ markets through this improvement process, Program staff have identified a list of ten “best practices” which, if implemented along with the Guidelines, may lead to a more vibrant market. The ten key areas are:

Managing and leading the market

While there is not a firm consensus on the attributes of a great market manager, there is general agreement that managers need to have a passion for local food and the market itself.

Market governance

The make-up of the governance team should be influenced by the philosophy of the market. While community members help to ground the market in client needs, vendor members help to ensure that vendors have a voice in the decision making process.

Planning and strategy

A successful market needs to have a strategic plan and clear direction.

Location, environment and layout

A good location includes street presence/visibility, customer traffic, visibility and accessibility from main roads.

Vendor recruitment, selection and expectations

Vendor selection is an essential consideration that impacts the vibrancy of a market.

Community engagement

Market managers overwhelmingly agree on the importance of having a connection to the local community.

Market promotions

The most common communication methods are social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and word of mouth.

Market activities and special events

Special events and activities draw customers to the market and are focused on engaging specific demographics, promoting vendors, and educating patrons.

The vendor’s role

Vendors are the core of a successful market. While the market controls vendor selection, the vendors play an important role as they directly engage market shoppers.

Evaluation and statistics

Feedback and statistics help the market to stay in touch with customer desires, track success, and make improvements.

To obtain a copy of the complete report, visit http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$Department/deptdocs.nsf/All/apa6620?opendocument#best_practices.

For more information on the Alberta Approved Farmers’ Market Program, click the links on page one, or contact Eileen Kotowich, Farmers’ Market Specialist, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry at eileen.kotowich@gov.ab.ca, or 780-853-8223.

 
 
 
 
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Eileen Kotowich.
This information published to the web on March 4, 2016.