LINCOLN, Neb. — Farmers markets have become integral to the economies and social fabric of dozens of rural communities. To help create more successful markets, Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska has published the Nebraska Rural Farmers Market Handbook.
The handbook grew out of conversations about common farmers market issues, said Ben Jewell, a Rural Prosperity Nebraska Extension educator and co-leader for the Nebraska Regional Food Systems Initiative.
“We conducted close to 50 interviews with market managers across the state and used those insights to enhance the content in the handbook and provide a comprehensive resource that answers questions and offers creative ideas for addressing common challenges,” he said in a news release.
Compiled in collaboration with the Center for Rural Affairs, Northeast Iowa Resource Conservation and Development, and USDA, the handbook breaks down both broad strokes and fine details for market managers — most of whom are volunteers — outlining vendor recruitment, marketing ideas, layout examples, insurance and liability concerns, fundraising guides and sample handouts.
To illustrate these best practices, the handbook uses concrete examples from Nebraska markets. For example, the Hastings market works with the Hasting Arts Council to recruit local musicians to play during market nights. Lincoln’s Fallbrook market determines vendor fees based on what they’re selling, while the Wahoo market determines fees based on type of contract. And the Sutton market holds a breakfast and lunch fundraiser.
“In Nebraska there has been a 154% increase in the number of markets between 2000 and 2020,” bringing the total to 93, Jewell said.
“Markets have also become more sophisticated,” he said. “Many markets now have credit/debit card readers onsite,
as well as a growing number that can accept SNAP/EBT benefits.”
With such a rapid rise in numbers and technology, one of the handbook’s goals is to create consistency in how markets operate, making it easier for farmers and vendors to sell at multiple markets.
“Farmers markets are an important part of the social and cultural fabric of a community,” Jewell said.
A free digital copy of the Nebraska Rural Farmers Market Handbook is available at go.unl.edu/m0dx.