Rural Business Development Project
MFFM is currently working on a USDA Rural Business Development project in Norway, Bucksport, Belfast, Calais, and Presque Isle. Rural farmers’ markets are often important sources of fresh foods for their communities, and also vital markets for local farmers and other small businesses. This project is looking at ways to keep rural markets viable, and will examine the ways they impact communities.
Reduced Cost EBT Equipment
Operating a SNAP program at a farmers’ market is an important social service, but is often rather complicated and costly for the markets. We have developed a program to provide subsidized EBT equipment to Maine farmers through a program that is locally managed and privately funded, through a contract with a national service provider. By offering a local program, we can offer more technical support and faster turnaround time, as well as useful insight (such as what cellular phone providers serve which areas of the state) that will contribute to the success of the program at farmers’ markets and other sites.
Washington County Farmers’ Market Trail
Published in August 2016, the trail is a website and printed brochure that highlights the 6 farmers’ markets of Washington County, each paired with a free, healthy outdoor activity. The brochure also features a detailed map of Washington County, including preserved land and parks. We hope that this project will encourage more families to explore the region, enjoying healthy, local food and sampling the wealth of free, outdoor recreational resources in the area. (This is a pilot project that we hope to expand to include other parts of the state in future years.)
Selling Outdoors Email Newsletter
Selling Outdoors is the MFFM farmers’ market email newsletter and is issued about once a month. It contains tips for markets and market members, news and pics from the markets, listings of upcoming events and much more. (Many of the articles on this website first appeared in Selling Outdoors.)
We want to hear your opinion! Send an editorial or essay or even a picture of your market, and send your questions to “Ask Tom”. All submissions can be emailed to email@example.com.Subscribe to Selling Outdoors – It’s free!
To have surplus picked up at the end of market day at YOUR farmers’ market, why not start an End-of-Market Gleaning Program? An easy-to-implement program that provides an alternative to feeding your perfectly edible surpluses to your animals or compost pile.
Staff at your local County Extension Office working with their Maine Harvest for Hunger program are willing to set up a connection with local food pantries to pick up surplus from your farmers’ market at the end of each market day.Learn more about End-of-Market Gleaning
Starting and Sustaining an EBT/SNAP Program at your Market
Maine has an innovative program that allows farmers to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer payments at your market. This can be done at a central location, with one EBT booth serving the entire market.
- Designate which individual/s will be responsible for EBT at the farmers’ market
- Apply to the USDA for an FNS number for the market
- Choose and order a device to use to process the EBT payments (and credit/debit payments, if desired)
- If not bundled with the device, choose a service provider, and set up the logistics (bank accounts for transferring funds, etc…)
- Set up an accounting system to track EBT payments and payments to farmers
- Market the EBT program, and consider offering an incentive program of some kind to attract and support low-income shoppers
The USDA Food and Nutrition Service is dedicated to resolving EBT challenges and questions, and is making it more affordable for farmers to take EBT at their own booths with iPads and iPhones.Learn More About EBT/SNAP
Getting a Farmers’ Market Started
Many markets “start themselves” by a group of farmers and other food producers agreeing to come together to sell in the best spot they can find. Other markets begin by an outside organization calling together a group of likely market members to begin selling together as a farmers’ market.
Most of the time either of these groups could use some assistance, especially at the outset. It is always a big help if a few experience market members are among those in the initial group, but even when this is the case, a “third party” with experience of the pros and cons found in a wide variety of existing markets can offer considerable aid in getting a new market started off on the right foot.
MFFM has assisted beginning markets in the following ways:
- Identifying potential locations for a market
- Creating a network of community partners
- Encouraging vendor engagement in promotion and programming at Market
- Outreach and recruitment of members
- Establishing the market as an entity (incorporation, insurance, licensing, bylaws, guidelines, etc.)
- Mediation and meeting facilitation
- Sharing and implementing best practices to build a customer base and rally your community around your market
MFFM can also provide assistance in strengthening existing markets. Sometimes markets that have been around for a while experience growing pains, are having some degree of difficulty with their internal organization, find there are problems with their landlord or town, or for whatever reason would like some knowledgeable perspective from someone not directly involved with the market.
Staff and Board members from MFFM are available to talk with your market organizers and membership and perhaps visit your market or attend market meetings. While each market’s situation is unique, most bear some resemblance to situations that have occurred elsewhere in other markets.
Maine Farmers’ Market Conventions Archive
The Maine Farmers’ Market Conventions are annual get-togethers of farmers’ market participants and workshop presenters held in late January. The first convention was organized in 2009 by the Downeast Business Alliance, a division of the Washington Hancock Community Agency.
The purpose of the Conventions is to educate those involved in organizing and participating in farmers’ markets on better ways that were available to organize these businesses, including contacts with service providers of all types and offering networking opportunities for the participants.View the Conventions Archive
Maine Farmers’ Market Directory
Beginning sometime in the 1980’s the Maine Department of Agriculture began keeping and publishing a list of Maine’s farmers’ markets, at a time when there were about 30 markets on the list. By 2005, their Get Real, Get Maine local promotion program was begun and the list was maintained at the Get Real Maine website, and still is to this day. Meanwhile the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) began broadening their focus to include and promote all local food production, so they began independently maintaining their own list.
When MFFM was re-started early in 2012, one of the projects that seemed obvious was the creation of a list of Maine Farmers’ Markets. However, rather than create a third list, it was decided to work with MOFGA to help them maintain their list, since of the two existing lists, it was generally agreed that MOFGA’s was superior and kept most up-to-date. MOFGA eagerly accepted the offer to help maintain their list. Today a single database of Maine farmers’ markets is mutually maintained by MOFGA and MFFM, and it is by using the information from this database that both of our public lists are now published.
As of 2013, efforts are ongoing to include the Maine Dept. of Ag in this mutually maintained list agreement. Not only would this result in each organization spending less time maintaining the list, but the markets themselves would receive fewer requests to keep “our list” updated.Visit the Market Directory
For news about Maine’s farmers’ markets, pictures of markets from around the state, and important announcements, follow our primary Facebook page.
We also have a Facebook page dedicated to market shoppers. This page features recipes, cooking advice, information about seasonal foods, tips on healthy eating, and more.
Our third Facebook page, Maine Farmers’ Market Vendors Wanted, was created to deal specifically with markets looking for new members and food producers looking for a market to join. Activity on this page is especially brisk during the winter as each group is making their plans for the year.