by Kristen Coomer
One of the best and worst things about farmer’s markets in Kentucky is that they are not heavily regulated. This allows more creativity, but also a level of confusion for customers and vendors when there is a lack of consistency in how markets are organized and managed. So, how do you build a “good” farmer’s market? This Blog and its accompanying Webinar will help Kentucky Farmer’s Market Managers to create a realistic and successful structure for their market in order to help it improve and grow over time.
Getting Started with Roles and Responsibilities
Setting up the market is the first responsibility you face throughout the day as a market manager. Setting up the info booth, making sure all signage is out, making sure the bathrooms are unlocked and in working order, setting out customer seating, and closing roads are all possible tasks you may have as a manager depending on your market’s location. Take time to thoroughly know your market space and realize where there might be problems like safety hazards (food safety, fire safety, tripping hazards, secured tents and tables), cleanliness issues or vendor spacing that could be improved.
Once the market day begins, you become the face of the market. As manager, you will run the info booth as well as being involved with marketing, social media, customer engagement, incentive programs, the volunteer program, promotions and so much more. You will have the knowledge to answer most, if not all, questions about the market as well as being its biggest cheerleader. But don’t let this intimidate you, once you have a solid plan in place the market will begin to run like clockwork.
(We also have several helpful resources at the bottom of this Blog to help you get started)
Know Thyself: SWOT Analysis
The first step in becoming the best market manager for your market begins with having a clear understanding of the market’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Executing a SWOT analysis for the market and yourself can really pay dividends as well as assist you in developing a good, strong workplan.
A SWOT analysis has two major sections: Internal Considerations, and External Considerations. Those sections are further broken down into (internal) Strengths, (internal) Weaknesses, (external) Opportunities, and (external) Threats (see the graphic below). Consider what you as an individual AND the market as an entity bring to each of the four sections. A best practice we find it is most effective to be open and honest with the vendors and other market leaders with the market about your true work capacity, it doesn’t help anyone to overextend yourself and make mistakes because of it. It’s important to take your time and really think this part out, as this is the foundation upon which you will build a great workplan!
Once you understand where you can improve or find support as manager, the next step is to look at opportunities and threats which are external to your market. Are there local businesses who would make good partners or sponsors? Does the market down the road have more diverse produce options? These are factors which may or may not be immediately obvious, but you will find over time. Keep coming back to the SWOT analysis when new information is presented.
Once you have completed your SWOT analysis, use this information to determine how each factor impacts the others and what next steps need to be taken to address weaknesses and threats to the market as well as continuing to improve on opportunities and strengths. From here, you can make a roadmap complete with action items to get the ball rolling. Don’t be afraid to think long-term, planning for the season or even the year after can be extremely helpful even if you don’t follow that plan exactly.
Drawing the Roadmap to Success
To get started, look at your top priorities for improving your market now. When doing this it is advised to involve other important voices from your market such as board members, vendors, volunteers, or community stakeholders who will bring different viewpoints and resources to the table. Some of the questions your market should be asking are: Does the market have the capacity to continue to grow? Should we find more people, or figure out how can you work to scale down? And more importantly how will this impact our customers and sales over time?
Once you get started, the next step is to take the goals you created after your SWOT analysis and market discussion and apply calendar deadlines. Plan out who is involved and what needs to be done leading up to events or market changes. Remain realistic in your goals and keep others in the loop over time to ensure your season can progress with minimal bumps in the road.
In order to make sure things are moving along at a proper pace, create performance goals to reach such as a specific number for Facebook likes, crowd counts or sales. Measurable factors such as customer counts and market sales can be valuable tools in determining where you are at in your market journey and showing growth over time. This way you can see whether you are reaching your goals along the way and if you need to tweak your plans.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ideas for events or social media, sometimes unlikely ideas can draw a lot of attention. Change things up from season to season to keep customers interested and bringing in more people, and remember, if things don’t work out then don’t do things that way again. It is never a failure to have tried something new and learned from it.
Planning Your Journey from Point A to Point B
Once the bigger picture is a little bit clearer, it’s time to tune in on the finer details of your workplan. What do your day-to-day operations look like? How many hours will you be working a week outside of the market? Figure out what different to-do lists need to be completed every week.
Find ways to create patterns in your work so that there can be a more developed structure for operating procedures on a weekly, monthly and yearly level. Keep records of everything you can over time, records not only are helpful for planning future growth but also for showing potential sponsors or community partners how your market has been organized over time. Also, try to make sure there are plans in place and someone is trained for days when you need a break, have an illness or wanting to take a vacation.
At the end of the year, compile your SWOT Analysis, Roadmap, records of measurables which were kept over the season, progress made, and photographs of the market, and put them all together in an annual report. See whether the goals you set in place were successful or if changed needed to be made to complete tasks. This report will serve as a template for planning for the next year as well as being useful, as mentioned above, to show off to potential investors. Don’t shy away from showing off your market or asking for money, you never know who a potential investor might be.
If there were mistakes made or there were obvious shortcomings, take time internally to go over these instances and figure out how to avoid them in coming seasons. If you notice failures were due to a lack of commitment from certain people involved in the market, make sure to take time to talk to them about it. Knowing where your weaknesses are and knowing how to improve upon them can be one of the greatest strengths your market can have.
Best Practices and Fine Details
Once you have a plan made for the entire season, procedures in place on a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule, and ways to mark your progress along the way the final thing to look at is the nitty gritty work that happens during market hours.
One way to help you stay organized is a market box. If your market does not have designated storage space, getting a large tub is advised in order to hold the market’s supplies such as:
- office supplies
- first aid kit
- tent clips
- tokens and vouchers
- plastic bags
- entertainment for kids
- hazard tape
- clipboard with the market’s rules and regulations
Other useful tools you may not think about could be a broom and dustpan, tent weights, traffic cones, extension cords, or even a fire extinguisher. Having all these items in one central location can make for quicker market setup and easier for any substitute manager.
Another thing to remember as a manger is self-care. Make sure you are staying hydrated and taking breaks when you need to and that you have plenty of shade throughout the day. Wear close-toed shoes to protect your feet from heavy objects or broken glass. If you are not operating at full capacity the market could suffer for it, so make sure to put your health first.
Discuss with vendors know how much they need to take home with them (depending on the permanency and security of the market space) and then make sure they are all breaking down their workspace fully and clean up after themselves before leaving. Make sure vendors do not begin breaking down their space until the market has officially ended, and customers have mostly left. This keeps the market space clean, lessens traffic congestion and be ready for the next market.
If it is an election year, make sure to create a space in the market for free speech and make sure not to give the appearance that the market endorses or has a stance against any political candidate. The market should be politically neutral as to not exclude any customers.
Always pick a specific time of day to collect measurables each week so that your records can stay consistent, which is important for accuracy over time.
Finally, make sure to give yourself a pat on the back. You are working hard to support local farmers and help provide fresh, local food to your community. That is something to be celebrated.
Below are several helpful resources for Market Managers through CFA or our partners:
CFA Farmers Market Toolkit: https://cfaky.org/2019-farmers-market-toolkit/
KY Farmers Market Managers Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/726252390897377/
FMSP Google Group: https://groups.google.com/d/forum/cfa-fmsp
Monday Market Matters Playlist: https://youtu.be/xs8FkagXeIM
See Also: Farmers Market Coalition Market Manager FAQ: https://farmersmarketcoalition.org/education/market-manager-faq/