A fresh approach to vendor fees

Dear FMNS,

Some vendors at our market are well established and have a large group of loyal customers. On the other hand, our market believes in the importance of fostering new businesses. Is there a way to make our farmers’ market financially stable by asking established vendors to support new vendors?


Market Manager


Dear Market Manager,

My answer largely comes from, A New Model for Farmers’ Market Sustainability: A Fresh Approach to Vendor Fees

How much does the average business spend on marketing? About 50% or even more. The difference between making money and losing money is often all in the marketing.

Farmers’ markets are all about marketing. They are a venue for new business to test out their products. They provide a way for business owners to cut out the middle men. They build community around local food. Without farmers’ markets, many communities would be left with a gaping hole in their social lives and larders.

So how do we make our farmers’ markets financially stable without creating the kind of financial barriers that new and small businesses cannot overcome? By creating a sliding scale of fees based on the success of the vendors at the farmers’ market.

At the Farmers’ Markets in London, England, vendors pay 6% of their revenues as table fees. A vendor who only sells $1000 worth of product would pay $60 for their table. As they make more money they pay more, but if they make less they pay less. This means that during the boom season the vendors may be paying $100 or more, but if they are making $2000+ they are not likely to mind! However, during the slower times of year they may be only paying $30 or less, which is an added incentive to attend at slower times of year (I would recommend having a minimum weekly fee of say $15 so that no-one is attending for free).

One of the key benefits of a model of this kind is that success breeds more success. With more sales, there is more money to spend on the market, which brings in more customers and more sales. It’s a win-win situation.

It also means that the Market Manager can focus their efforts on bringing in more customers (which increases vendor revenues and therefore market revenues) rather than needing to bring in new vendors. A number of the London Farmers’ Markets only have 20 vendors but they are all successful; I chatted with some vendors when I was in the UK in the summer and the vendors were happy and the markets were thriving.

Link to London Farmers’ Markets