Where can we find farmers markets and what makes them successful?
While celebrating National Farmers Market Week this week, the first week of August, we sat down for a few moments with Kevin Hardison, agricultural marketing specialist with the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, to discuss the great diversity of farmers markets available in North Carolina and where to find them, which led to an interesting question, “What makes farmers markets successful?”
Question: Kevin, farmers markets of various sizes and types are all over North Carolina. Some have been around for a while, yet others seem to pop up all the time in new areas. With so many potential options, where can we go to find farmers markets in North Carolina?
Kevin: “NCFarmFresh.com is a great resource that provides a list of markets across the state. The website is updated frequently to include markets that pop us across different communities. If you don’t see your local market listed, contact me at email@example.com to add it to the directory. You can also reach out to your local agriculture extension agent. You can find extension agents on the NC State University website. The United States Department of Agriculture also has a national farmers market directory.”
Q: You mentioned the N.C. Farm Fresh website is updated frequently as new markets pop up. What’s contributing to the creation of new farmers markets in North Carolina?
Kevin: “Lately there has been an increase in demand for farmers markets. Areas that do not have farmers markets are requesting them. People want fresh and local produce and products which are typically offered at farmers markets. COVID-19 tested everyone’s limits, but farmers markets have proven to be adaptable. Many farmers markets set up drive-throughs, pick-ups, and other contactless alternatives during COVID-19 to help make their produce and products easily available. Farmers markets that offer a mix between agriculture and crafts tend to do very well and are the most successful.
Q: Are there other factors of success for farmers markets beyond offering a mix of vendors and products?
Kevin: “There are several different definitions of success for farmers markets and you can measure aspects of success in several ways: How are they doing financially, what’s their size, how diverse is the market, etc. At the end of the day, the success of the market is that it returns year after year and their customers return as well. To be really successful, a farmers market must be sustainable.”
Q: Sustainability is a concept we hear about frequently. What makes farmers markets sustainable and therefore successful?
Kevin: “There are several components that help farmers markets to be sustainable. Probably the most critical is to be community-oriented; Those are the most successful and sustainable markets. Community-oriented markets are friendly and welcoming, they produce their merchandise locally and regionally, are constantly promoting and informing the public, are well-run and managed, and have strong marketing strategies. These farmers markets see a positive community surrounding their market. Other factors that contribute to a farmers market’s success include management that’s constantly looking for how to make the market better and is constantly promoting and communicating to all aspects of the customer base.”
Q: Is there anything else you can recommend to help a new farmers market be sustainable and successful?
Kevin: One additional component that leads to farmers markets being successful is working closely with NCDA&CS, extension agents, government, and local authorities to abide by laws and stay on top of trends locally and abroad. If you are interested in starting a farmers market in your area, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be glad to help walk through the steps so you’re better set up to be successful.”