Farmers Markets

In a Nutshell

Farmers Markets serve many functions: they provide access to healthy foods, stimulate the local economy, support local agriculture, and create vibrant community gathering spots. In fact, Iowa State University found that farmers markets in the state contributed up to $20 million in sales and created another $12 million in direct and indirect economic activity. 

Practical Solution

The “How To”The “How To”

How to Start a Farmers Market

  1. See what else is out there. Check for nearby markets or local food options at Any state Extension office or the Missouri farmers market association will also be able to provide valuable market
  2. Bring together a group of interested parties for a meeting to discuss the feasibility of a market and determine your primary goal. Example goals: to provide healthy food to underserved communities, to provide a thriving market for local producers, to serve a suburban community, or to activate a community space.
  3. Contact your local Health Department and find out what Food Codes or Ordinances apply to farmers markets for your municipality or county.
  4. Create a business plan that defines the market’s mission, financial plan, management, governance structure, operations, target audience, timeline, and marketing approach.
  5. Determine if your market will offer SNAP/EBT redemption. The USDA and Farmers Market Coalition offer helpful guides to accept SNAP/EBT benefits.
  6. Create market bylaws and applications for vendors. These will help to set clear expectations for all involved parties from the get-go. See page 10 of the National AgLaw Center Publication Farmers Markets Rules, Regulations, and Opportunities for examples.
  7. Find a minimum of eight vendors that offer a variety of products, from fruit to meat to baked goods.
  8. Invite other community groups and partners to participate in the market. Adding music, art, or other activities will help draw a broader crowd, and these partners can also help promote the market.

farmers market

The Missouri Extension Office also offers FAQs about starting and operating a farmersmarket

Planning & ZoningPlanning & Zoning

Policies related to farmers markets are generated by city, county or local health departments and will provide operating guidelines, sampling standards, and more. If zoning permits are an issue, consider adopting new zoning provisions to establish farmers markets as an allowed land use.

State regulations by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, as well as information regarding weights and measurement requirements, food safety best practices, information on selling eggs, etc., can be found at

St. Louis County Health Department Applications and Documents can be found at

Dollars & CentsDollars & Cents

Cost of Implementation

The location for your market will likely be free – many take place in parks or public plazas. Local businesses will sometimes donate parking lots for a weekly or monthly market, as Schlafly Bottleworks does in Maplewood, MO. This is a win-win situation for the market and the business, as both parties contribute to the sales of the other.

A Market Manager is necessary to serve as the point person for vendors and coordinate with Health Department and location staff. Often a vendor will fulfill this role at the beginning stages, but funding a permanent Market Manager is a priority for the success of the market, either from grants or vendor fees.

There are numerous models for vendor fees: an annual base fee, flat fee per market day, percentage-of-sales fee or some combination. The fees can be sliding scale or fixed, and will determine the kind of vendor who wants to sell at your market. The Health Department may have separate fees.


USDA data from 2008 reported $1.2 billion in local food sales, with direct-to-consumer outlets (farmers markets, roadside stands, CSAs) accounting for $877 million.

1.97 multiplier for dollars spent at the market and nearby businesses

More than half of farmers market shoppers (60%) visit nearby stores on the same day, stimulating the local economy, according to Project for Public Spaces (2008).

Iowa State University found that farmers markets in the state contributed up to $20 million in sales and created another $12 million in direct and indirect economic activity.

$4,341,000 of agricultural products in Missouri were direct-to-consumer sales in 2007, up 10% from 2002, according to the Census of Agriculture.

Figure 1: Direct and Indirect Impacts for $100 of Local Food Spending

Local Food Economy

LFE = Local Food Economy
Source: Why Local Linkages Matter: Findings from the local food economy. 2008


Measuring SuccessMeasuring Success

Common metrics to measure the success of markets are pounds of food sold and number of vendors, and number of markets. Less common, but valuable metrics are attendance counts, customer surveys, and market assessments – Tools for Rapid Market Assessments has step-by-step instructions for each.

Discover MoreDiscover More

Fruit and vegetable information and recipes from MU Extension are available via website and phone app here: