A farmers markets is a great addition to any community, but they do take a lot of work and, to succeed, need excellent business management and strong support from the community and local government.
The majority, although not all, farmers markets are projects of nonprofit organizations. But, regardless of its structure, a farmers market is a business and needs to make and spend money to survive. Some farmers markets are managed entirely by an unpaid market manager or committee, but the stronger markets, in general, have at least one paid staff person overseeing the market. Regardless of staffing, all markets nonprofit markets depend on folks from the community stepping up to volunteer for tasks during the market day and beyond.
How do farmers markets make money?
Each vendor pays a weekly or seasonal fee to be at the market. This money, along with any donations or funds from business sponsors, is used for the many expenses that running a successful market entails, including at least one paid staff person.
How does the market spend money, and why pay a market manager?
“Our recommendation is that you compensate a manager based on the market value for the skills they bring to the market and the time they spend making sure your market is successful. While most markets are limited by shoestring budgets, keep in mind that paid managers can greatly increase the likelihood of a market’s long-term success.”
“The Board of Directors governs the financial status of the organization. It must come up with a budget and a plan for annual business operation. The budget should include all likely expenses: rent for the site, insurance, permits, membership in any related organizations, promotion, security and staff salary. Find your break-even point and abide by it. Detailed financial planning will increase your chances for success.”
Details about the Wakefield Farmers Market finances:
The Wakefield Farmers Market benefits from strong support of the town government and thus does not need to budget monies for things like space rental or trash pickup, etc. We do pay for the electricity we use and for the porta potty rental and, if allowed, any storage unit. In addition, our vendors do not need to pay for their Board of Health permits thanks for money from Melrose-Wakefield Mass in Motion granted funds. Funds from Mass in Motion also funded the purchase of our 1st credit card processor (we have since had to upgrade for the new chip technology) and our 1st two years or matching snap funds.
Our vendors pay $30 per market plus a pro-rated registration fee of $30 or less per year. When the market started in 2009, it was helped greatly by business sponsors by a number of local businesses including The Savings Bank, Sardella Signs, and a number of others to be added here soon! Since 2014, the market has run in the black with no donations or business sponsors.
Expenses include the Market Manager salary, currently $15 an hour for 324 hours per year, soon to be split with an assistant manager, payments to musicians (we budget $50 per week) payment for cooking demos (that was $50 a week but the structure may be changing) fees for Drumlin Farms, Curious Creatures an any other special events, tents, (I lost two last fall – those are a good couple of hundred dollars) Market Bucks fees and expenses, (that’s the credit card system) office supplies, market and hospitality supplies, etc. etc. The market provides the BOS with the previous season’s P&L when renewing the annual contract to use the space at Hall Park.
Personal note from Wendy Dennis, the current Market Manager: While running the market takes more hours than the 324 hours a year budgeted, it is truly a wonderful opportunity and extra time spent is so worth it. The best part is standing in the middle of the market on a great weather day and just watching everyone having a great time selling, shopping, playing, listening to music, or just hanging out. The worst part is worrying about the weather! Remember: we are open rain or shine, so be sure to stop by to shop EVERY market day. 🙂 Oh, and the other best thing is all the wonderful folks I have met – vendors, volunteers, and shoppers.
See you at the market!