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In this section you will find resources on how to start a farmers market from scratch.

OVERVIEW:  Should we start a new farmers market?

  1. Farmers Market Feasibility Guide: Before diving in, take a moment to look over this guide from the Michigan Farmers Market Association that will help you explore whether or not you should start a new market. Contents include:
    • Why, Who, What, Where and When
    • Considering other Nearby Farmers Markets
    • Assessing Your Community
    • Financial Considerations
  2. Starting a New Farmers Market: Ready to take the plunge? This detailed guide from the University of California Small Farm Center is packed with information about how to start and operate a farmers market and can be found in our resource folder.
  3. Farmers Market Training Manual: Although created specifically for market managers in New York, this comprehensive training resource from the Farmers Market Federation of New York provides tools for any market to be effective and to overcome common obstacles they face. It can be found in our resource folder.
  4. Resources for Market Start-Up & Development: A collection of resources from the Farmers Market Coalition.

STEP ONE: Define your Market

Mission Statement: This is a statement of what needs or opportunities your market will address, how you will address them and what values guide our work? Here’s a 2-pager from the Farmers Market Coalition to help you create a mission statement that will guide your market for years to come.

STEP TWO: Make a business plan

  1. Worksheet Effective SWOT: A SWOT Analysis is the process of documenting the agency’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The information can serve as a foundation for the agency’s workforce and strategic/business planning.
  2. Business Planning for your Farmers Market: For a step-by-step guide to a business plan specific to farmers markets, see this excellent webinar from Aleta Botts of Kentucky Center for Agriculture & Rural Development (KCARD).
  3. Business Plan Development Guide: A step-by-step guide from KCARD to help you develop a comprehensive business plan.
  4. Kentucky One-Stop Business Portal: This KY.gov site will guide you through turning your ideas and concepts into a business plan and will connect you to resources that will help you know what to expect on the path ahead.

STEP THREE: Choose a business structure

  1. Most independent farmers markets will fit into one of the following business structures. Some farmers markets are not independent legal entities—they may be programs operating under the umbrella of a larger organization. Here are some farmers market specific definitions from the Center for Agriculture & Food System’s Farmers Market Legal Toolkit.
  2. Kentucky Specific information about business structures from KY.gov.

STEP FOUR: Set up your governance

  1. Business documents: How your business entity operates depends on the type of business structure you choose. Here’s a chart that details which documents your market will need for your particular business structure. Both are from the Center for Agriculture & Food System’s Farmers Market Legal Toolkit.
  2. By-Laws: enable members to determine what rules they can all agree with and abide by, and yet allow the members to make changes when the organization grows and changes. These rules ensure stability, continuity, and structure.
    1. By-Laws Templates for Kentucky Businesses designed by KY Center for Ag. and Rural Development.
    2. Examples of Market By-Laws from the Maine Federation of Farmers Markets
  3. Board of Directors: This guide from the NE Organic Farming Association of Vermont explains why most farmers markets have a board of directors. All nonprofit organizations are required to have a board and even farmers markets that are sponsored by other agencies or organizations often have boards. The board’s role and legal obligation is to oversee the administration (management) of the organization and ensure that the organization fulfills its mission. Good board members monitor, guide, and enable good management; they do not do it themselves. The board generally has decision-making powers regarding matters of policy, direction, strategy, and governance of the organization.
    • Board Operations: This business management blog has links to many topics related to boards of directors. If you didn’t find it someplace else, click on this link.
    • Even more about board development through the following resources:
      1. What Does a Good Board Member Do?: A compilation of suggestions from various sources
      2. Sample Board Meeting Evaluation: A useful strategy to evaluate your board of directors is to conclude a meeting by asking members to rate the meeting on an index card. Here are a list questions that can be answered in narrative, with a sliding scale, or yes and no answers.
      3. Sample Job Description for Board Members

More Resources for Boards, Mission and Governance from Farmers Market Coalition.

STEP FIVE: Choose a market site

  1. Locating Farmers Markets: an evaluation methodology to inform site selection for farmers markets This is a urban planners thesis that proposes a method for new site selection or relocation of a farmers market. Included are examples from farmers markets in Seattle.
  2. Site Selection Tool: On pg. 49 of this “Guide to Developing a Community Farmers Market” you will find a worksheet that will help you select the best site for your market.
  3. Department of Transportation Datamart : Use this interactive map from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to discover your city’s or county’s most traveled roads.
  4. S. Census Small Business Builder: Use U.S. census data to help you select the best location for your market

STEP SIX: Register as a business

Kentucky Business Registration This KY.gov portal will walk you through all the steps needed to register your farmers market as a business. Links for federal and local requirements are also included on this site.

STEP SEVEN: Set up your Financials

Drafting a Budget and Then Living Within It – Here’s a blog post by Aletta Botts from KY Center for Ag. and Rural Development explaining how to use a budget as a guiding document for market planning.

Farmers Market Bookkeeping Best Practices (slideshow): Highlights book keeping software, chart-of-accounts, financial reporting and budgeting, tracking multiple currencies, debit & credit card processing,  EBT transactions and incentive tracking.

IRS ruling 6050W on 1099k: IRS electronic reporting requirements for farmers markets. This rule requires all electronic card processors to issue 1099K’s to all merchants accepting electronic payments. This includes all credit, debit, and food stamp payments. Here is an explanation of the rule and some tests to determine if you are exempt from it.

Even more about “setting up your financials” can be found in the following resources:

STEP EIGHT: Know the laws governing farmers markets

2018-19 KY Department of Ag Farmers Market Manual. This manual is updated every 2 years and details Kentucky’s rules and regulations for selling at a farmers market.

Permits and Certificates: In our you can find this 2018 list of permits and certifications needed at a farmers market from the Bluegrass Farmers Market.

 The Farmers Market Legal Toolkit This kit was created by the Vermont Law School Center for Agriculture and Food Systems  and is a useful resource if you are just starting your market or if you are an existing market wanting to explore your legal obligations. It includes legal resources, best practice recommendations, and case studies for market leaders on selecting and enhancing business structures, accepting SNAP benefits, and managing common risks.

STEP NINE: Know your risks and manage them

Risk Management: Check out this section of the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit to learn what legal risks farmers markets face and how a market prepares for them.

Insurance:  Click this link to the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit  to explore options, determine coverage and learn how to choose an agent.

Where to purchase Farmers Market Insurance:

  • FMC and Campbell Risk Management: Recognizing the need for affordable liability insurance for farmers market vendors, the Farmers Market Coalition has partnered with Campbell Risk Management (CRM) to help make their farmers market insurance program available at a national level.
  • Kentucky Options: Most Kentucky insurance companies should be able to generate a commercial (slip and fall) coverage for your market. If your market is incorporated, directors and officers insurance is also recommended.   You might consider an insurance  broker so you can shop for  the best deal for either of these policies.

STEP TEN: Develop Market Rules and Procedures

Here’s a guide from the Farmers Market Legal Toolkit to help you develop rules for market day safety, vendor eligibility & applications, vendor rules & regulations, dispute resolution and more. Also check out:

Need more support?

Sometimes you just need someone to shepherd you through the start-up process. Here are some resources:

Kentucky Center for Agriculture & Rural Development (KCARD): provides assistance to groups in the formation and start-up of their business operation.  KCARD is committed to following sound business development practices in assisting cooperatives and businesses in the development stage to make sure they have the best chance to succeed.  KCARD takes a very hands-on approach to business and cooperative development, and wants to be involved with the group during the entire process.

Kentucky Small Business Development Center: With 15 service centers statewide and an experienced and knowledgeable staff, KSBDC provides consulting and training services. Services include: one-on-one management consultations, training workshops, market research, loan packaging help, assistance with financial projections and information needed to make informed business decisions.

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2Starting a Market