Register now for PPS upcoming training session, “How to Create Successful Markets,” May 20-21 in New York City.

Earlier this year, I attended and keynoted the 2011 Maine Farmers Market Convention, which brought together market managers, vendors and local and federal legislators to discuss market issues in Maine. Here’s the video of my talk:


While the number of new markets in Maine continue to grow, most of what I heard people talk about at the conference was how their established market is being asked to expand operations and take on a larger role in the life of the community.

Markets across the state are expanding the number of days they are open and adding second locations, accepting SNAP/EBT, selling local products online, and even operating year-round. While this growth is exciting it also is challenging, especially because so many of the state’s markets are operated by volunteers.

As markets in Maine and across the country are increasingly recognized as important community assets, they need help taking on larger responsibilities. No matter whether your market is new or established and undergoing growing pains, these principles can help make it succeed both as a market and as a great community place.

4 Guidelines for Creating a Great Public Market

A market on Rue Mouffetard in Paris

1. Creating a great farmers market is about creating a great public space

The only way your market will be truly successful is if it’s a great public space.  When we surveyed customers about why they love markets, the number one reason was because they brought people together.

People love food, people value contributing to their local economy- but more than anything, people love being near other people.  So if you’re a market manager, what can you do to foster that?

Making places where people like to hang out with each other will directly benefit in dollars.

2. Public markets must have public goals:

A public market can come in many shapes and sizes including a craft market, art market, flea market, farmers market, indoor market.  But to be considered a public market, the market must:

  • Have public goals:  how does this place contribute to the community?
  • Operate in public spaces- it can be privately owned but customers should not pay to get in
  • Serve locally owned and operated businesses

The best public markets confer a number of great public benefits.  Research from the Ford Foundation shows public markets confer multiple benefits to the communities they serve. Public Markets:
  • bring together diverse people
  • create active public spaces
  • link urban and rural economies
  • promote public health
  • provide economic opportunity for vendors
  • catalyze the renewal downtowns and neighborhoods

3.  Markets have to evolve.

You can’t just create a Pike Place overnight.  It took 100 years for the market to get to what it is today: a thriving market district. Markets emerge from a series of incremental additions- often through many lighter, quicker, cheaper projects.

There are many kinds of Public Markets:

  • Open Air Markets-  temporary, operating one or a few times a week
  • Covered Markets- sheds or flexible indoor space, including winter markets- a trend that is growing in the northeast
  • Market Hall-  indoor building with permanent stalls for vendors
  • Market districts –  multi acre hubs of market-related activity including a indoor market, mix of wholesale and retail usually- usually lots of food related businesses, such as restaurants

4. Healthy Food Hubs: The Best Markets are at the Heart of a Community

When you start thinking holistically about markets as great community places- and not merely as outlets for produce- it’s easy to see how markets can become the heart of a neighborhood. The busiest, most successful markets are places where people want to spend time together.

But they can be more than fun: by strategically clustering public services and activities, markets can actually contribute to community health.

Markets that cluster fresh food and health services in an environment where people want to come together to spend time are Healthy Food Hubs.

Healthy Food Hubs offer many benefits, especially in lower-income or disenfranchised communities without grocery stores where there is little or no access to fresh food.  Healthy Food Hubs are markets where you might also find cooking demonstrations, health information, a shared-use commercial kitchen, job training, health care, community space, community gardens, and a restaurant or cafe, etc.

Healthy Food Hubs were the cornerstone of a concept  PPS put together for our work in Birmingham, Alabama.

PPS Can Help Make Your Market Great
PPS offers many services to reinvent or start a public market.  PPS’ markets team can help with:

  1. Planning and Design: PPS prepares feasibility and implementation plans
  2. Education and Training:
  • Bi-annual Training Courses in New York City on how to create successful markets.  The next on will occur on May 20-21.
  • Customized trainings for your market’s unique context
  • International Public Markets Conferences. The next one will be in Cleveland in 2012

Additional resources
Check out PPS’ research on public markets and these highlights and take-aways from the Maine Farmers Market Convention.

Meg MacIver contributed to this post.

4 Guidelines on Taking Public Markets to the Next Level was last modified: March 6th, 2012 by Kelly Verel