My first suggestion to you would be to contact the Virginia Farmers Direct Marketing Association. They have a lot of specific information to your state and may be able to play an advisory role for you. Their contact information is listed below under further resources. Their home page is http://www.vfdma.org/. You should also call the VA Department of Agriculture to see if any specific regulations apply to your situation, regarding liability insurance and related topics. Their contact information is listed below under further resources.
If you are truly interested in starting a full-fledged farmers market, my second suggestion is to form a steering committee, if you have not already. The New York State Farmer’s Market Association has this information on how to do this in their publication “Step by Step guide for Establishing a Farmers Market Association.”
The steering committee could be made up of consumers, farmers, and maybe some supportive consumers. Once you have formed a steering committee to help guide the process, you can begin planning, which can be quite extensive. Below you will find several resources that should be helpful in your planning process. They are from different state efforts, but all of them have relevant information that will be helpful to you. Since you have vendors and an interest from the current farmers market customers, many of the steps in the process have already been taken care of, however, I would suggest that all steps in the planning process be written down and formal bi-laws be drafted to prevent any type of legal problems that might occur in such a situation. Below you will also find the Florida Cooperative Extension publication titled “Starting a Farmer’s Market” which has sample bi-laws to help guide you in developing these.
The Colorado State University Agribusiness Marketing Report has an extensive step-by-step guide to planning the development of a farmers market which you might find helpful, titled "Planning and Developing a Farmers Market: Marketing, Organizational and Regulatory Issues to Consider".
The USDA, Agricultural Marketing Service has grants available. The USDA AMS Farmers Market Web site has information on grants and other farmers market related news and information. Information on both of these entities is listed below.
Since you aim to start the farmers market on your property, you might want to consider starting an on-farm market or farm stand instead. This might reduce your liability and make it easier to get a “value-added” grant. There are many great examples of this, including a cooperative arrangement that received a SARE grant (http://www.sare.org)
This report is titled Veneta Cooperative Farm Stand.
Capital requirements for a roadside stand can vary from almost nothing to an elaborate store. Thus, a roadside stand can be a good way to get started if you have access to a good location and have several produce items to sell. Regulations for selling on a roadside market will vary depending on location (on-farm or off-farm, city or countryside) so it is important to contact local and county authorities before establishing it.
Also see the ATTRA publication on Direct Marketing, which you might find useful in making a decision about which direction to go with your enterprises.
Eggert, Dianne. Step by Step guide for Establishing a Farmers Market Association. Farmers’ Market Federation of NY and Dept. of Agriculture and Markets.
Thilmany, Dawn. Planning and Developing a Farmers Market: Marketing, Organizational and Regulatory Issues to Consider. Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Colorado State University. February 2005.
Swisher, M.E., et al. Starting a Farmers’ Market. IFAS Extension. FCS5257-eng. July 2006.
Ellen and Stephenson. 2001. Veneta Cooperative Farmstand. Western SARE Project Report MW00-035.
VA Farmers Direct Marketing Association
Scott Sink, President
307 Chowning Place
Blacksburg, VA 24060
540-961-1471, 540-493-5531 (cell)
Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Division of Marketing
Cathy Belcher, Direct Marketing Program Manager
102 Governor Street, Room 320
Richmond, VA 23219
USDA-Agriculture Marketing Service
Project Coordinator, Matthew Kurlanski
Phone: 202-787-1966 or toll free at 877-703-0552
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