March 2019 - 27

Pursuing the basics of building an on-farm market
By Brian Moyer
VGN Columnist
I work with many farms who have
started their businesses by attending
farmers' markets. Those once-aweek,
open-air, community farmers'
markets are a great way for farms to
gain or strengthen their marketing
skills. You learn
how to create
displays, have
good signage
and interact
with customers.
If your goal is
to always sell at
farmers' markets,
that's fine but
for a few of the
farmers, the goal is to ultimately get
the customer out to the farm to shop
and if that's the case, there are a few
things to consider before you hang out
the " open " sign.
To be clear, we are talking about
something more than a roadside,
self-serve stand. We are talking about
constructing or converting a building.
Farms that have an on-farm market are
really one farm with two businesses.
One business grows the crops, the
other business sells the harvest, and
each require special sets of skills. If
we are considering creating a market
on our farm we need to ask ourselves
if there is someone within our farm
business who has the skills and desire to
manage a retail business? Maybe it's an
opportunity for the next generation or
an in-law but someone needs to manage
the retail business.
It is well worth the time to sit down
and ask a few questions beforehand.
This activity should be done with the
group of people who will be involved
in the retail business. The first thing
to consider is conducting a SWOT
analysis, which stands for strengths,
weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
Strengths, identifying things that we
do well. Weaknesses, things that need
improving or that we don't do well.
Opportunities, identifying potential
revenue opportunities. Threats, what are
the external factors that may threaten
this endeavor. This exercise will help
you decide if an on-farm market is right
for you.
Next, we need to look at the
community we will be serving. Is there
a need? Are we solving a problem?
What is the demographic make-up of
the community and will our products
match with what they want to buy? Do
we already have a customer base we can
survey to find out what they would like
to buy at your new market? What does
the competition look like within a 5- to
10-mile radius?
There are many regulations related
to operating any small business
and a retail farm market is no
VGN | MARCH 2019 | 27
exception. Most states have small
business development centers that
offer publications and workshops
outlining these regulations. Potential
regulations you may have to deal
with include: worker's compensation,
unemployment compensation,
building inspections, weights and
measures, plant pest laws, sales tax
and perhaps others. State departments
of agriculture will also have publications
that will help you understand and satisfy
these regulations.
Depending on the zoning
regulations in your area, permits may
be required for driveways or entrances
to a business; check with local officials
or your local state highway office
before beginning construction.
Also check with your local
municipality to determine if building/
occupancy permits are required for
a farm market, and how any existing
zoning regulations may affect your
plans. Also, in many areas, permits are
required before erecting any roadside
signs. VGN
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March 2019

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