What is a Producer-Only Farmers’ Market? It’s a farmers’ market where all members may only offer for sale what they produce themselves. They are not allowed to buy-in items for resale. These markets have adopted stricter standards than the State of Maine minimum of each member being able to sell up to 25% bought-in products.
Generally speaking, small markets in smaller towns are more likely to allow buy-ins by some members than are larger markets in larger towns and cities, although there are certainly exceptions to this. Some markets adopt a producer-only policy at their beginning, while other markets allow some level of buy-ins from day one. Still other markets convert—by way of a membership vote—from allowing buy-ins to being producer-only. This usually happens after a few years of wrestling with the complications and hard feelings that buying-in often brings to meetings and market days.
Here are some of the pros and cons of being a producer-only market:
- Shoppers assume that market members are producing what they are offering for sale; shoppers can trust their expectations.
- It requires less “policing” of what members are selling, since sourcing will only be from the member’s operation.
- It results in shorter meeting times, since the need to consider what each member is permitted to buy-in is eliminated.
- It attracts new applicants who produce what’s missing at the market.
- Markets may emphasize in their promotions that shoppers are buying direct and meeting the producers of their food.
- There are no conflicts between members who produce an item and those who buy it in for re-sale.
- There are no “ghost members”, those folks who join the market but never attend, allowing an attending member to sell their products instead.
- The market is unaffected by whatever percentage the State allows to be bought in.
- The market will have more “market voids,” items that are produced locally but aren’t being brought to market because they are not produced by any current member.
- Uneducated shoppers will be disappointed by not finding what they want at market.
- Member sales will be lower if they have fewer items to offer for sale. For some members this may mean it is not worth their while to attend market.
- Non market members have no chance of having their products sold at market.