Reader Survey Reveals Operational Trends

      Posted On: July 20, 2008

The magazine Farmers’ Markets Today recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, and this spring e-mailed a survey to 1200 of its subscribers who manage or sell at farmers markets or who are involved with a market in some other role. Editors at the magazine have generously shared data from this effort with the Farmers Market Coalition, and we offer some highlights from their results in the hope that the information will prove useful for anyone looking for a snapshot of market operations.

The survey had a response rate of 37%, with nearly half of the 438 responses from vendors and more than a quarter from market managers. Interestingly, nearly 18% of respondents were both vendors and managers. While 4% said that 2008 was their first year of operation as a market, 37% had been in operation more than 10 years.

More than 50% of market managers were volunteers, though 11.3% were employed full-time throughout the year. 86.8% of markets said that vendor fees contributed to their financial support. 29.7% received funding from a city or county government. Only 10% were at least partially supported by a state or regional farmers market association. 6.4% of responding markets were privately operated, for-profit businesses.

More than a third of the markets responding say that they have between 10 and 25 vendors, with approximately one quarter having between 25 and 50 vendors and another quarter with fewer than 10 vendors. The average number of shoppers per market day was 100-250 for 23% of the markets and 250-500 for 22%.

A large number of markets said they don’t track their annual gross revenue, but of the 226 responses to that question, only a few markets reported less than $2,000 annual gross revenue. About 55% had annual gross revenue of $100,000 or more, including 11 markets with an annual revenue of $1 million or more.

A whopping 71% of markets operated on Saturdays, and Wednesday appeared to be the most common among weekdays. 11.7% of respondents said that they operated year round. Only 30% of respondents said that vendors played a role in developing the rules and regulations for the market.

The top three product categories sold at the markets were fruits and vegetables, plant and flowers, and baked goods. Market managers ranked promotions/advertising as their biggest annual expense and word-of-mouth as their most effective marketing method, followed by signs/banners, news releases and website/email list.

The survey also gathered information about vendors and why they choose to sell at farmers markets. Their reasons centered on convenience, built-in customer base, affordability, retail pricing, self promotion, social interaction, atmosphere, education and community.

“Hopefully, some of these opinions shared by experienced vendors can be used by market managers to recruit new vendors to their markets,” says Marcia Hahn, FMT assistant editor.

A number of vendors’ comments can be found in the July/August 2008 issue of Farmers’ Markets Today. More survey data and discussion points – such as the top challenges market managers and vendors say they face and what trends or issues will most impact farmers markets in the next few years – will be shared in future issues of the magazine and posted on the FMT website at

“We appreciate the feedback we get from our readers, as it helps drive the content of Farmers’ Markets Today magazine so that we can cover pertinent topics to help direct marketers and farmers markets be more successful,” Hahn adds.