There are many opinions about what it takes to create a thriving farmers’ market that becomes a weekly destination for a population. I’m expressing my opinion, not because I think it’s 100% correct, but to put it out there for critical evaluation and revision if necessary.
What makes a good farmers’ market? A market consists of (at least) two complementary components: vendors and customers. This is not as binary as it looks – a vendor can certainly be a customer, and a customer can be a vendor, and there are always passersby who don’t buy anything at the moment, but can play a crucial role in a healthy market. Also, we have a very special person, our market manager, who, among many things, works hard to market the market, to coordinate activities of stakeholders, to ensure that the physical plant is in working order, and to facilitate digital transactions.
Back to the vendors. I have two ideas about a vendor. I can only speak for myself.
Vendors help vendors. I see this numerous times in a variety of ways. We all have days when we don’t even come close to selling out or meeting our daily goal. Depending on how many times this happens, this can make us feel more or less disappointed or demoralized. Yes, even grumpy. How do the other vendors respond? Mainly by listening. Sometimes the best way to empathize with someone is to just listen, and not say anything for the moment. But it may take more. We have all been there, so it is easy to empathize, to offer some words of encouragement. A bigger step would be to go about strategizing – how can we do better next week? And other pertinent questions. Vendors help each other. Plain and simple.
Vendors are honest. Did you grow this? A typical question that reverberates and fills the empty space of an otherwise placid Saturday morning. It may be the case that a farmer did not grow a particular item, but did harvest it or purchase it from another farm, in which case the vendor becomes a subvendor, and pays a $25 subvending fee for the privilege of selling something that they did not grow. It goes without saying that honesty creates a benchmark of trustworthiness and helps to further build community among all members.