[Market-farming] rural markets

Lynn Wigglesworth lynnw1366 at hotmail.com
Wed Apr 18 17:14:28 EDT 2007

> Lynn,
> Are the organizations you mention membership based? Or are they part of
> a governmental entity? Please tell me more. What type of programs? What
> are the demographics of the area your market is in?
We've gone in front of several local groups like the commisioners and
Chamber of Commerce, asking for support and to use the Green (town
square)...we didn't get either. We had to make our own deal with a private
owner for our location. Some non-government organizations, like PASA's Buy
Fresh, Buy Local was not available in this area, and PASA didn't have any
help to offer us in starting up the market. If programs ARE available
here, they cost money to join, which we don't have. We've heard of
Farmers' Markets in other areas that have the support of the local
government and Cooperative Extension...we had an extension agent come from
a neighboring region and talk about how the local government and extension
worked with local farmers to start a great market..they had a paid staff
to organize it and a budget, we have...ME...one over-worked farmer with no
money. Our extension agent won't even provide a list of farmers so I can
look for potential vendors.We have two extension agents, and neither even
bothered to COME to the farmers' market to see how we were doing. We are
associated with a non-profit community health group: we requested money
from them last year to print a "Where to buy local food" brochure, but it
was turned down because it would benefit for-profit farms. We requested
money for stamps, paper, ink, and incidental expenses, but apparently it
was too vague or something and was refused, so we had to pay
out-of-pocket. We've requested money for signs from a local development
corporation, but it never happened, so we had to do our own signs.
Everyone thinks its a wonderful idea, but no one is willing to help. Even
the vendors...they are willing to pay the fee, but that's it.

Our market is in a small town, less than 3000 people. It's a big tourist
area, but tourists don't generally buy vegetables.

> I hear you when you are questioning the time, expense and energy you've
> devoted to a market. It does take a great effort to establish a new
> market. But then again, it also takes a lot to revive one that is
> struggling. How many vendors do you have and what would be your ideal
> number? Are stalls for non-food items allowed? What are the fees?

We started out with about 10-12 vendors, and had about 5 by the end of the
summer...there wasn't enough business for the rest. By the end of
September, there were only 2 or 3 of us. 3 or 4 vendors had vegetables,
one had meat, one had baked goods, there were some non-food items (soap,
gourds, jewlery). I'd like to see more locally grown vegetables for sale.
We charged $10 up front and $5/week vendor fees; we had weeks when some
vendors didn't even make back their $5.

Very few people in this area care about organic (we have no certified
organic vendors) or care how the vegetables were grown. Customers expected
our prices to be lower than the grocery store across the street...I have
free-range eggs, and priced them at $1.50/doz., and people were outraged
at the price. I sold 1 or 2 dozen a week and  brought lots of eggs home
every week at that price. I can't afford to farm at those prices.

Lynn Wigglesworth
Peasant Farmer
Tioga County, PA

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