Guest blog by Corrina Smith - Executive Director, Columbia Farmers Market / Secretary, MFMA Board of Directors
Running a farmers’ market can be challenging. We all are juggling numerous balls in the air to make sure that our markets run smoothly. I love my job, and embrace the daily challenges, but I joke (but kinda serious) that my job description is a never-ending list of professions that I would have never had imagined. In addition to running an 80+ vendor market, I’m also the person vendors and employees look to when there’s a technology issue, a plumbing issue, an electrical issue. I’m responsible for the weather (only when it’s cold or raining though!). I am the accountant, a website designer, a farm inspector, a tent fixer, a photographer, a fundraiser, a special event coordinator and so much more! Sound familiar? One thing that I put at the top of my list of responsibilities - and am always honing - is marketing my market!
When the Columbia Farmers Market hired me, I knew having a website, using Facebook and email were important. Over the past six years that I have been the Market Manager/Executive Director that list has grown….by a lot. Every time I turn around there is a new social media platform. It is imperative now to have an up-to-date website. The numerous ways to communicate with customers and vendors increases and evolves (text, email, phone, snail mail, Facebook messenger, etc.). There are so many different types of advertising, each reaching a different customer type. It’s overwhelming. What is the best website platform to use? How often do I post to Facebook? Do I blog? How do I deal with a negative Google review? How do I stay on brand? What is a brand? What should I have on my website? Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchap, ahh!
We exist in a world where technology is moving at a rapid pace, and our farmers’ markets have to keep up, to stay relative and competitive. Walk into any grocery store’s produce section and what do you see? A replica of any of our farmers’ booths. What do they have that we don’t? Delivery, online ordering, store pickup, meal prep kits, the merging of Amazon and Whole Foods, and a large budget to promote anything and everything. On the flip-side though, what do we have that they don’t? We provide a direct interaction between consumers and the farmers and artisans that produced their food. We have the freshest, healthiest, tastiest food available in our regions. We have variety and heirlooms. We have education, music, and programming. We are a community.
So how do we compete? How do we throw one more ball in the air? The long and the short of it is, because we have to. We have to tell our stories. We have to educate potential shoppers on what we offer, and the importance farmers’ markets bring to our communities. While all of the online marketing platforms are overwhelming, they are also amazing minimal to free costs tools we can use. Even better, there are many tools now out there that streamline many of the platforms. I have come to utilize many of them, and they help me keep my marketing work hours at a minimum, allowing me to put more time to other important market management tasks!
Our hope with the 2019 Missouri Farmers Market Association Conference is to give you many tools and information that will help you properly market your farmers’ markets. Please join us January 18-19, 2019 in Jefferson City at Lincoln University. Our featured speaker, Kristen Brown, of Hoot Design Co. (Columbia, MO), will provide attendees with the resources on how markets of all shapes and sizes can get started on “Marketing the Market”!