Starting A New Farmers’ Market in Nova Scotia

Thank you for your interest in joining the growing number of farmers’ markets across our province! Nova Scotia is home to the largest number of farmers’ markets per capita in Canada – certainly something to be proud of, as well as something to keep in mind when considering starting a new farmers’ market.

As a first step, the following are a few things to consider:

  1. Starting and running a farmers’ market is no easy task; consider the level of commitment you are able to provide to this project and for how long.
  2. Visit the closest 2-3 farmers’ markets to your proposed location (how far away is the nearest farmers’ market and on what day/s of the week does it run?). Contact their market manager or organizers – introduce yourself and ask what is working well for them and what challenges they are facing.
  3. While visiting surrounding markets, speak with vendors to find out whether they would be available to participate in an additional market. Vendor availability is currently a limiting factor in many parts of the province. Also, reach out to small businesses and producers in your area that may or may not be currently selling at farmers’ markets but that you feel may be a good fit. Gauge interest.
  4. Visit a few well-established farmers’ markets to learn from their successes. Think of a market that you often hear great things about and plan a road trip.
  5. Gauge customer interest –this can also be a limiting factor for farmers’ markets. Survey your community to find out where community members are currently shopping for food. Important questions to consider: do people rely on grocery store chains for the majority of their shopping? Are people traveling to other communities to attend farmers’ markets? Is there a need or demand in your community for a farmers’ market? Does your community have both the supply (available farmers) and the demand (potential customers) to support a sustainable farmers’ market?
  6. Determine whether your proposed location is convenient in terms of traffic flow, parking and location on the main transit route. Also consider whether your table fees could cover the cost of operating in your proposed location – in other words, is this location financially feasible?
  7. Determine the size of the surrounding population in your proposed location and think about what size market would fit this community (i.e. how many vendors would you like to have?).
  8. Collect signature petitions from community members who support your initiative and who will regularly shop at the proposed new market. This will guage and build support for your market, which will be essential in attracting vendors. Also reach out to local officials such as Municipal Counselors to invite their participation and support.
  9. Research demonstrates that having a paid Market Manager is a – perhaps even the – key ingredient to a successful farmers’ market. We strongly recommend that any market be designed to employ and retain a Market Manager. Creating a farmers’ market financial plan that includes a Market Manager is our #1 tip for long-term success!
  10. Many established farmers’ markets are looking for new vendors, volunteers and organizers. If joining forces with another market is something you would consider, please contact your market of interest directly. You can find contact information here.

You will find a bounty of resources online from across North America regarding starting and sustaining a successful farmers’ market. Our website is an excellent hub for this information – consider it a curated library of resources. For full access to our resources, as well as our training programs, marketing, services, support and other member benefits, become a member of FMNS.

We hope this information will provide you with some guidelines as you move forward. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Additional Resources:

Pre-Readiness Checklist [PDF]

Farmers’ Market Month-by-Month Timeline [PDF]

Starting a New Farmers’ Market [PDF]

The Value of Paid Market Manager [PDF]