Farmers markets are increasing in number throughout North Carolina, with more than 200 markets across the state - that's good for 10th in the nation. Consumers enjoy the opportunity to buy fresh, locally-grown products directly from the farmers. Farmers markets support the local economy and encourage healthier meals that feature fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition to produce, many markets offer a wide variety of agricultural products including meat, honey, cut flowers, eggs, artisan cheese, baked goods and more.
Table of Contents:
Online Directories to Post Your Farm Information
Food Safety Resources from N.C. State University
The N.C. State University Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences offers online food safety courses, information on food safety workshops and food processing resources.
Avoiding the Transmission of Foodborne Illnesses at Market
Two-page handout examines the most common causes of foodborne illness transmission at open markets.
Food Safety for Farmers Markets
Four-page handout with information on preserving safety from harvest through market display at open markets.
The N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Portal
A program of the Plants for Human Health Institute and N.C. Cooperative Extension, the N.C. Fresh Produce Safety Portal offers crop-specific guidance, postharvest handling guidelines and information about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).
Food Safety for Farmers Market Vendors
University of Nebraska publication that identifies factors that cause food-borne illnesses and recommendations for preparing and selling wholesome and safe food products at farmers markets.
Safe Handling of Food at Open Markets
This chapter from Kansas State University will help you identify the critical control points in storage and display that are important to food safety in the market. Safe, fresh foods go hand in hand with clean, attractive displays.
Tips for Conducting Cooking Demonstrations
Preparation is the most important part of any demonstration. If you know your subject and are well organized, your demonstration will flow smoothly.
Minimize Pathogen Contamination during Production and Harvest of Fresh Produce
A bulleted guide from Cornell University that covers pre-plant, production, harvest and post-harvest handling to minimize potential contamination of fresh produce.
Cooking Demonstrations: Providing the Perfect Ingredients to Season your Farmers Market
Learn what it takes to launch a demonstration program, get tips on how to keep things running smoothly on the big day and garner ideas for promoting your market’s new venture.
Growing Small Farms
N.C. Cooperative Extension in Chatham County provides production and marketing resources based on successful endeavors where small farms feed nearby urban populations.
Farm to School Programs
Learn how Farm to School programs partner local farms with school cafeterias to provide students with fresh, nutritious meals.
The Produce Lady
The Produce Lady helps farmers communicate the benefits of their products to consumers by sharing horticultural history, storage and handling requirements, and delicious easy-to-prepare recipes.
Understanding N.C. Sales Taxes on Agricultural Products
Sales taxes on sales of agricultural products are complex. This quick reference guide is designed to help N.C. farmers, merchants and other retailers understand the sales tax obligations
Resources for Direct Marketing Meats
Processing and Meat Handling
- NCDACS Meat and Poultry Handler Requirements (PPT Slides)
- On Farm Slaughter Activities
- Meat and Poultry Handler Requirements
- Inspection Requirements for Meat and Poultry Businesses
- NCDACS Directory of Meat and Poultry Processing and Slaughter Plants
- Direct-to-the-Consumer Beef Marketing Handbook guides you through the steps of developing a business plan
- A Producer’s Guide to Direct Marketing Meats
- The Value-Added Market for Meats in NC (PPT)
Getting Started as a Farmers Market Vendor
Plain Language Guides
This series of documents is geared toward low-literacy populations. These guides provide clear, simple, and culturally relevant text for readers. The guides include Selling at a Farmers Market and Starting a Value-Added Food Business.
Farmers Market Checklist: What to Bring to Market
From tables and tents to price cards and promotional materials, this list will help ensure you’re market-ready.
Shared Wisdom: ABCs of what a vender needs to bring to the farmers market
From aspirin to zucchini, check out this list for market preparation.
Selecting a Farmers Market
The decision making tool allows consideration of various farmers markets based on factors such as promotions, rules, organizational structure and facilities.
Questions Farmers Should Consider When Joining a Farmers Market
The National Center for Agricultural Law Research and Information (University of Arkansas) provides a great guide on market rules and regulations. These 20 questions every farmer should ask before joining a market are part of the “Farmers’ Markets Rules, Regulations and Opportunities” publication.
Most accidents at farmers markets involve canopies. It is your job to minimize the risk. Particularly helpful are photos that illustrate good and bad canopy weights.
Marketing the Market (PDF)
This guide developed by the Kansas Rural Center gives an overview of some basic, practical marketing principles then offers bulleted tips to promote the market, meet customer expectations and ultimately increase vendor sales.
Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers (PDF)
For many farmers, marketing and selling their products are the most challenging parts of the farm enterprise, especially when selling directly to consumers. This guide provides practical advice on how to increase sales by building a loyal customer base through relationship building, discovering the customers’ needs and preferences, advocating your product and providing quality service.
Maximizing your sales
Set your booth apart from the rest with these display, signage, pricing and promotion tips.
Shared Wisdom: Ways to offer customer service at farmers markets
Shoppers who are new to farmers markets are looking from customer service items that will familiarize them with the products available and make market shopping convenient and enjoyable.
Shared Wisdom: Selling the whole truckload
Bulleted tips that address consumer motivations, marketing and merchandising, as well as how to generate repeat business.
Some thoughts on selling at farmers markets
22 lessons in running a successful farmers’ market stand, from someone who’s been in the business for almost 25 years … starting at age 9. Based on the experiences of a vendor family who at one time attended 14 farmers markets each week.
Direct Market Resources
The Produce Lady – Resources Guide (PDF)
The Produce Lady program has developed an abundance of resources to help grow N.C. agriculture and educate people about the importance of locally grown fruits and vegetables. Feel free to “order” materials at no cost by completing the Resource Request Form. The Produce Lady team will complete orders based on the availability of materials. Requests are considered on a first-come-first-served basis.
Roadside Stand Marketing of Fruits and Vegetables (PDF)
While Farmers Markets are an organizational step beyond the roadside stand, this publication includes marketing information for all producers who are direct marketing to consumers.
Direct Marketing Guide for producers of fruits, vegetables and other specialty products
Contrary to popular belief, marketing does not begin after a crop is produced. Instead, marketing alternatives need to be considered well before production takes place. This publication includes an overview of direct marketing methods, including farmers markets.
Farm Direct Marketing Resource Guide
More and more growers, seeing the benefits of direct marketing, want to learn about successful strategies and techniques. This annotated listing includes practical, high quality resources that will help growers meet that goal.
To Market, To Market: A Workbook for Selecting Market Options and Strategies for Agricultural Products
This workbook was designed to guide new farmers through the formulation of profitable marketing strategies. It is a decision tool to help farmers make market decisions about what to produce; where and how to market it and risk management strategies.
N.C. Regulations for Food Businesses
The Food and Drug Protection Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services outlines which agency (state or local) regulates various food enterprises. This Website includes resources for those operating a commercial food business or a home-based food business. Food business regulations cover foods such as meat, dairy products, jams and jellies, canned goods, candy, baked goods, wine and seafood products.
Guide to Developing and Marketing Processed Foods
The Marketing Division of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services addresses several frequently asked questions including labeling requirements, kitchen inspections and food safety.
General Guidelines Regarding Products Exhibited for Sale at Farmers Markets and Curb Market (PDF)
Developed by the Food and Drug Protection Division of the NCDA&CS, this list of guidelines addressed baked goods, processed foods (such as canned goods), meat products and labeling.
21 CFR Part 110 (Code of Federal Regulations)
These regulations outline the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) for preparing and packaging human food. Kitchen inspectors follow these guidelines to ensure sanitary standards are in place.
Online Guide for Food Processors in N.C.
This website is maintained by N.C. State University Department of Food, Nutrition and Bioprocessing. It includes numerous resources such as a schedule of upcoming workshops, FAQs, marketing assistance, Extension publications and a “Decision Tree” to help a new food entrepreneur follow the proper channels that will lead to a successful venture.
Community kitchens offer farmers, caterers and chefs an inexpensive place to create value-added food products. These facilities are inspected by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, so products created in it can be sold to the public, unlike many food products created in your home.
- Anson County Community Kitchen (Wadesboro) (Opening in 2010)
- Blue Ridge Food Ventures (Candler)
- Piccata’s 909 (Morehead City)
- Piedmont Food and Agricultural Processing Center (Hillsborough) (Opening in 2010)
- Rockingham Community Kitchen (Rockingham)
- Stecoah Valley Food Ventures (Robbinsville)
Growing Asparagus in North Carolina for Direct Market
Carl Cantaluppi has been evaluating asparagus trials in North Carolina since 1994 and suggests that N.C. farmers will find asparagus to be a high-value, low-input specialty crop ideal for direct market. Learn more about N.C. production methods and a few specialty options.
N.C. Asparagus Trial Report
This trial report includes data analysis of three harvest seasons collected from a replicated trial observing 13 cultivars grown in Roxboro, N.C. Recommendations are based on yield data. Also includes a list of Asparagus crown and seed sources.
Work Efficiency Tips
The Healthy Farmers, Healthy Profits Project is identifies work efficiency methods that improve health, safety and profits for nursery growers, dairy, fresh market vegetable producers and berry farmers. These are farm-tested ideas that save time and money.
Federal Food Assistance Programs
Electronic Benefits Transfer Primer: Bridging the Digital Divide; How to Bring Wireless EBT to Your Farmers Market
Following the implementation at Crescent City Market, this document includes information on how to become an authorized retailer, choosing a system and understanding the necessary equipment.
WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program
The FMNP was established by Congress in 1992, to provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants, and to expand the awareness, use of and sales at farmers’ markets.
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program
The SFMNP provides low-income seniors with coupons that can be exchanged for eligible foods at farmers markets, roadside stands and community supported agriculture programs.
Food Stamps and Farmers, It’s a Win-Win. Farmers Toolkit for Accepting Electronic Food Stamps
Covers to basics of set up and implementation, plus advertising tips and success stories.
How to Set up an Electronic Food Stamp Redemption Program at your Farmers Market Without Using Electricity or Phone Lines
When USDA eliminated paper food stamps and went to the electronic benefits transfer system, farmers markets located in parking lots without access to electricity and telephone lines lost the ability to accept food stamps. Learn how to accept EBT cards using an on-site, cell-phone based system using wooden tokens (or paper certificates) valued at $1 each to capture food stamp sales.
EBT/Debit Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
This site, maintained by the Oregon Farmers Market Association, addresses the differences in service providers, EBT accounting, alternative currency options and handling market day transactions.
Frequently Asked Questions: EBT & Serving Food Stamp Customers
Questions addressed include, what is EBT and how does it work, to what can and cannot be purchased using EBT.
The Produce Lady
A personal look at locally grown foods, healthy recipes, N.C. farmers markets, produce videos and food safety practices.
NCRC Farmers Market
Cooperative Extension Directory
Cooperative Extension Offices are located in every county.