Personality clashes. Warring factions. Intimidation. Fear and loathing. High dudgeon. Pity the poor manager who has to keep the peace, and line up the Elvis impersonator. Elisa Bedsworth has done it, starting one farmers market and now managing another in Kansas City MO. She also serves as VP of the Missouri Farmers Market Association. She’s seen how markets rise to become vital parts of their communities, and how they can descend into hothouses of competing values, visions and interests.
For backyard farmers, a market is the fastest way to hone production and get your business out there. But it’s not a free pass. Here’s the deal. You’re outsourcing your marketing to the market manager, but they don’t work solely for you, and marketing is only part of what they do.
They are also tasked with enforcing and mediating rules, collecting fees, health and safety compliance, vendor development and evaluation, recordkeeping, neighborhood relations, financial management, administering government assistance programs. What’s not in the standard job description: taking continual grief. Too few vendors. Not enough of the right ones. Too little traffic. Too much of the wrong kind. Too restrictive by-laws.
What’s the recipe for a healthy farmers market? Based on her 5 years experience, Elisa Bedsworth recommends using the 2 e’s – education and entertainment. She’s also says markets have to be run more professionally. Demographics. Merchandising. Customer loyalty. Food trends. All are playing big roles in a market’s viability now, and Elisa is constanlty working to make her market more competitive for the fized amount of local food dollars, while staying true to its community-based roots.
Want to join the community that’s helping to build up local food economies from the ground up? Meet more members like Elisa who are doing just that by purchasing our learning programs on turning small plots into cash. If you’re not ready to go all-in just yet, get a taste of what starting a backyard-scale farming business is like from our members with a month-to-month membership here.