Whether paid, volunteer, or somewhere in between, well-trained market staff are critical for effective outreach and and communication with customers and producers.
However, special attention should be paid to fairness, equity, and conflict of interest when using this model. If a vendor is in charge, he or she may make less money on market day due to managerial duties. Other vendors may perceive unfairness if another, competing vendor is in charge of assigning spaces, fees, and penalties to other vendors. Rotating the vendor-managers, establishing a vendor advisory board, or managing purely by consensus or through a vendor-run board could be good solutions to these potential snags. The Morgantown Farmers Market and Fayetteville Farmers Market are both examples of producer associations (in which farmers make the bulk of governing decisions) that still hire non-farmer market manager.
Even when no vendors are involved in management duties, vendors should definitely be involved in the market’s planning and decision-making processes so that they have a sense of ownership in the market and a stake in its improvement. This can be done by including vendors in the governance structure or establishing a farmers market association. For more information on starting an association, go to the Farmers’ Market Federation of New York (FMFNY)’s Guide to Developing a Community Farmers Market.
As the FMFNY states in the What Does it Mean to Be a Market Manager section of the Farmers Market Manager Training Manual (which also includes a sample job description), “Most market organizers and farmers will say that the single most important tool for market success is its manager.” With that said, the market manager has many responsibilities and should possess certain skills to make the market a success. Your Market Manager job description should include the responsibilities or duties of the market manager as well as the set of desired skills and qualifications. Market consultant Darlene Wolnik developed an overview of Farmers Market Management Systems, Characteristics, and Job Descriptions in a brief summary of available research.
The duties and responsibilities of a farmers market manager will vary based on your market’s size, structure, and programs. To get an idea of the most common responsibilities of the market manager, look at the Farmers Market Coalition’s Market Manager Responsibilities.
In terms of skills or qualifications to include in your job description, think of what skills one would need for a market to be most successful. A market manager must be passionate about farmers markets and highly self-motivated to say the least. Here are some other skills and qualifications to include in a market manager description:
- The ability to learn on the job
- The ability to multitask
- Excellent communications skills and the ability to effective communicate with a wide range of audiences
- Marketing skills
- Conflict resolution and problem-solving skills
- Financial skills
As you are developing a job description to meet the needs of your individual market, take a look at these sample job descriptions for guidance:
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.
For more information about the relationship between the compensation of the market manager and the success of the market, take a look at Oregon State University Extension Service’s When Things Don’t Work: Some Insights Into Why Farmers Markets Close.
Volunteers can be critical to the success of even well-staffed market organizations. Recruiting, managing, and holding onto good volunteers leverages the time invested by paid staff and provides a market with an experienced and passionate group of individuals, allowing you to spend less time on volunteer recruitment and training. Here are some ideas on how to find volunteers:
- Enlist your friends and family to help and ask your current volunteers to do the same.
- Have a volunteer sign-up sheet at your market for interested customers.
- Use your web presence to ask for volunteers through your newsletter, listserv, Facebook, and/or Twitter account.
- Post a request on Craigslist.
- See if there is a Master Gardener Program in your community and recruit Master Gardeners in training who need volunteer hours to become certified. They could set up a booth offering gardening advice and tips for your customers.
- Find youth groups or other service organizations who want to be involved.
- Contact your local high schools or universities to get students who need community service hours.
- Danae McDevitt, from Catonsville’s Sunday Farmers Market says, “If you have an organization sponsoring you, see if they can volunteer. We are going to ask Chamber members to help and, in exchange, they can have their promotional items out and do give-aways.”
- If you are looking for volunteers for more of a time commitment or larger project, consider utilizing the resources of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to get AmeriCorps volunteers. Take a look at How Can National Service Help Our Organization for more information.
Take a look at these additional resources for Recruiting Volunteers:
- Portland Farmers Market’s volunteer job openings, which include the skills and hours required
- Memphis Farmers Market volunteer guide and position descriptions
- Market Umbrella’s Market Day: Recruiting and Managing Volunteers
Identify the tasks you’d like a volunteer to perform and draft a one-page job description outlining the responsibilities, time required, and skills needed. The key to keeping your volunteers is successfully managing and appreciating them for all their hard work. Try to find out what your volunteers really want to do and where their talents and passions lie to keep them engaged and satisfied with their work. Provide your volunteers with an orientation to your market so they are familiar with your mission, values, opportunities, and expectations of them. Respect them as (unpaid) staff and invite their input for the improvement of market operations. Most importantly, find ways to offer appreciation for your volunteers and share and celebrate your successes with them. You can hold volunteer appreciation events or offer gifts to your volunteers for working a certain number of hours.