New Farmer’s Guide: Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets

      Posted On: October 24, 2012

Contributed by FMC member Shelly G. Keller, Marketing & Events Manager of Davis Farmers Market

Davis Farmers Market Association has published a new guide for farmers wanting to sell at farmers markets. Entitled “New Farmer’s Guide: Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets,” the on-line publication was funded by a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant awarded in 2010 to UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP) in partnership with Davis Farmers Market to plan, open and operate the Sutter Davis Hospital Farmers Market. The grant was one of five awarded to California in 2010.

When SAREP asked us in December 2011 if we wanted to fill in for a contractor who had become unavailable to write the guide, Randii MacNear and I jumped at the opportunity. This summer we worked together writing this guide from a farmers market management and marketing point of view. The Market’s  graphic designer, Patricia Graves, did the photography and layout. And we asked over a dozen successful sellers from our market to share their advice to new farmers interested in selling at farmers markets.

Since I began working as Davis Farmers Market’s marketing and events manager in 2008, I watched her respond to hundreds of new and established farmers who wanted to sell at our Market. I’ve worked side-by-side with her as she recruited new farmers for Sutter Davis Hospital Farmers Market (open May through August) as well as UC Davis Farmers Market (open Wednesdays in spring and fall quarters).  When we sat down to write this guide, we focused on both what we had learned working with farmers and emerging markets, but also on how to help prepare farmers to be successful sellers at any market. Both Randii and I agree that a farmers market’s greatest potential is realized when there is a good match between the sellers and the market. We hope The Guide will help farmers market managers as well as farmers.

Randii and I viewed writing the guide as a labor of love. She says, “The explosive growth of farmers markets around the country is fed by the people who are becoming farmers, as well as by the customers who buy their products. We have so many new farmers who come to us, wanting to sell at our market. Shelly and I wrote this to help those new farmers plan for success at both emerging and established farmers markets around California and the nation. Farmers markets are becoming so competitive that we also saw the opportunity to remind long-time sellers of the basics of cultivating success at farmers markets.”

The Guide covers almost every aspect of selling at farmers markets from determining their readiness to sell at farmers markets, to researching local farmers markets, to planning and budgeting costs. Packed with color photos of Davis Farmers Market sellers and their produce, the Guide includes worksheets to help farmers determine their “readiness” to sell, how to evaluate prospective farmers markets, and how to budget for the costs of selling at farmers markets. For me, the farmers market advice offered by our sellers helps make The Guide both credible and compelling.

Within 5 days of publishing The Guide, the North American Farm Direct Marketing Association’s Brent Warner contacted us about doing a workshop using The Guide at NAFDMA’s Conference in Portland February 1-6, 2013. We’ll be there February 5 to share our advice, strategies and enthusiasm for helping all farmers cultivate success at farmers markets.

A pdf of The Guide is available to download for free at and in the Farmers Market Coalition Resource Library.