Farmers Markets


Farmers’ markets are simply a venue exclusively reserved for direct sales by local food businesses. Farmers’ markets are excellent for creating new business, and provide an ideal testing ground for new products as customer feedback is almost instant.

The concept of directly selling produce at a market venue is obviously not new. It is one of the oldest forms of trade, which has been revitalised in order to assist smaller farmers and food businesses in competing against industrial scale food production and retailing. The first UK farmers’ market took place in Bath in 1997. This proved to be a tremendous success and their number had grown to well over 500 by 2008. However, the rate of growth has slowed and the number of markets appears to be consolidating. According to FARMA there are currently 750 farmers' markets (March 2012).

If there are no farmers' markets near you then you may consider starting one up; some markets are run on farms.

Pros and cons for Customers

  • A range of fresh local producers in one place
  • Very enjoyable way of shopping
  • Good to talk to the farmer about how the food was grown/produced/reared
  • May not be where they normally shop so they may have to make a special trip
  • Perceived as expensive

Pros and cons for producers

  • Receive full price for your produce as selling direct to consumer
  • Appreciative and committed market
  • Opportunity to promote business - its a good shop window (eg many box schemes use farmers markets to sign up box customer)
  • May require some travel, very early mornings, and often at weekends so can make it a long week

What you should know

Commitment and Reliability

  • Shoppers at farmers’ markets get used to what they can buy at their market. Regular attendance and consistent supply will have customers returning to your stand
  • Many customers at the market may not be used to shopping in this way it is therefore important to engage with these customers and inform them about seasonality and at the same time offer them a wide range of high quality produce, this will help to encourage repeat business

Customer service

  • You must enjoy meeting the public and responding to their requests. Customers really appreciate meeting the farmers and growers of their food face to face and this provides a refreshing alternative to shopping in large shops and stores
  • Where possible, try to allow people to serve themselves, adding to their choice and shopping experience


  • The time when you are serving the customer provides you with an ideal opportunity for explaining:

• about your produce
• how to cook it and recipe ideas
• how the growing season is going
• what is likely to be available on the stall next week
• the benefits of buying and eating local organic produce

  • Always look busy, even if all you are doing is re-arrangeing your stall. A bored idle stallholder is offputting and suggests lack of demand and poor produce
  • Farmers’ markets should provide both quality and freshness, at an affordable price 
  • Have samples to give away, it costs little and attracts people to your stand
  • Presentation is also crucial. The produce should be clean, unless it is root vegetables, in which case some soil on them is acceptable
  • Prices should be clearly marked and ideally customers should be able to reach into each basket to serve themselves. This can help during the busy periods as it reduces the amount of time the customer has to wait
  • Freshness - the produce on view should always be and look fresh

Rules and regulations

  • In most instances there are a set of rules that define the market as a farmers’ market. Essentially they require that all produce be sold directly (by someone involved in growing, raising, baking or brewing the food on sale)
  • Products made from a variety of ingredients should be made locally and contain ingredients sourced as locally as possible
  • There is also often a limit to the distance that produce is allowed to travel to market
  • Occasionally there will be crafts available at a farmers’ market. These are subject to the same basic principles

Further information

The website below covers the basics of selling at farmers’ markets and provides good guidance:

The Farmers’ Market and Retail Association – FARMA (formerly the National Association of Farmers’ Markets) is a membership organisation that has established a certification scheme to verify farmers’ markets that adhere to the commonly held rules. About half of the 750 markets in the UK are members of FARMA. For further information, go to or call 0845 45 88 420

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