Farmers’ markets are economic drivers for communities. They bring people together to spend money within their local economy, whether it is directly with vendors at the market or with a local business in the surrounding neighborhood. But farmers’ markets can also act as business incubators, serving as a low-risk entry point into the marketplace for farmers, ranchers, food entrepreneurs, and artisans.
A business incubator is a program or initiative which offers support for businesses to grow—this support includes knowledge, networking, equipment, and infrastructure. A farmers’ market organically fits the role of an incubator, as a market allows small businesses to access a large customer base (already committed to shopping local) at a low overhead cost. Markets can also be a safe space for growers and makers to:
- Explore and test ideas with real customers – Vendors can gauge product marketability and get valuable feedback on their products directly from consumers. This real-time feedback allows them to experiment with what works… and what doesn’t!
- Network and share knowledge – Producers, growers, and makers can connect with their peers and ask for or offer support. Have questions about packaging? Pricing? A new pest you’re seeing in your field? Other vendors at the market are a great resource for sharing knowledge and processes.
- Build business relationships – Aside from connecting with other vendors and individual customers, farmers’ markets are an opportunity to connect with wholesale buyers and restaurants. Other businesses often come to markets to test products and seek opportunities to source directly for their own retail or distribution.
- Scale up – After vendors have built some relationships and dialed in their product and offerings, farmers’ markets can then be a springboard for scaling up. This could mean increasing production, hiring employees, accessing financing, or launching other revenue streams, such as an online or brick and mortar shop.
Farmers markets are integral to growing small businesses. When vendors are able to find the right product mix to meet demand, they can develop sound business strategies, create new jobs, and grow successfully and sustainably. And local, sustainable, economic growth is good for all of us!
Starting in August 2021, the BC Farmers’ Market Association is partnering with Agri-Park Farmer’s Market in Invermere to launch a pilot of Hatch & Hype, a farmers market incubator program. Through the Hatch & Hype project emerging businesses can benefit from:
- Hatch & Hype branded tent
- Free promotional materials
- Access to low cost liability insurance
- Real time feedback about products
- Access to community resources & educational opportunities
The vendor booth space is free for the remainder of the 2021 Agri-Park thanks to the generous support of Community Futures East Kootenay. If you or someone you know is a new business you think would benefit from a night of selling and promotion at the market, please reach out to email@example.com.