We are a medium sized market, well established in our community with a large attendance every Saturday. We are also visited by tourists to the region who comment on how vibrant we are and the great selection of local products. We support our vendor base well and some have expanded their businesses to beyond the farmers’ market.
Recently we approached our municipality about receiving funding support to help top up our manager’s salary as she is currently working much longer hours than we pay her for. We explained our situation, that we wanted to pay her a fair living wage and we were only asking for $5000 top-up a year. Imagine our surprise when they turned us down! Their only suggestion was to increase our table fees. We already have done so this year and at $35 per week we feel like we have reached our limit as a few of our vendors barely cover their table fee.
What can we do?
Cash Strapped but Awesome Market
Dear Cash-Strapped but Awesome Market,
This is both a complicated question to answer and the most common question we get asked. I will offer several suggestions and leave it up to you to determine which is most valid in your case.
- If your market is as successful as you say it is, your vendors are doing well and without your efforts they would not have the opportunity to direct-market to a large number of customers each week, then a $10 increase in table fees should not affect their bottom line significantly. No-one likes to pay more, but if your vendors appreciate the good work of your manager then they should be willing to support her in the same way that she is supporting them. What goes around, comes around. Assuming you have an average of 25 vendors for 18 weeks of the year, a $10 increase in table fees would bring in $4500.
For those vendors who truly can’t afford it, you have two choices: (a) ask those who can afford it to subsidise those who can’t in order to retain the same selection of vendors at your market; (b) ask the struggling vendors to get business advice. We can offer training to all FMNS member market vendors in essential business skills and can even find mentors for those in the agricultural sector. Often vendors have a great product, but they aren’t very good at selling it.
- You mentioned that you had already increased the table fees this year, so another common alternative is to apply for project funding. Please be aware that many sources of funding are drying up and that projects only create more work for your manager. Also, if you are going to apply for funding you will need to provide excellent financial records to demonstrate that you are accountable.
- The final option requires a different take on the same activity. Instead of approaching your municipality or other potential supporter (either government or private sector) with a problem, show them an opportunity. Tell them about your successes, how many customers visit the market each week, how much they spend and the economic impact on the community as a whole. At a time of tightening belts, politicians want to hear good news stories and businesses want to have their name associated with success.So how do you get those figures? Join us at our AGM in Tatamagouche on May 8th where Dr. Andrew Knight will explain how each market can gather key data, that he will then analyse to determine the economic impact of farmers’ markets on the province.
We know it is great, let’s prove it and use it to leverage the support you deserve!