By Tara Mathews
HOWARD LAKE, MN Howard Lake Area Chamber of Commerce invited guest speaker Kirsten Banson Wiegle of Minnesota Farmers Market Association (MFMA) and Maple Grove farmers market, to present information about having a successful farmers market.
“Having a strong interest in community building is a foundation of a successful farmers market,” she commented during Wednesday’s chamber meeting.
Wiegle informed chamber members that the upcoming season will be the 12th for the Maple Grove farmers market.
“We are supported through fundraising, vendor fees, and local business sponsorship,” she stated.
Maple Grove farmers market limits its vendors to locally-grown, consumable items, and does not accept craft or retail item vendors, according to Wiegle.
“We accept 50 vendors, and average 2,000 customers weekly,” she noted.
The number of shoppers is weather-dependent, Wiegle added.
Maple Grove farmers market advertises through signs in the area, Facebook, Twitter, local media, and by reaching out to local organizations.
It also participates in MFMA activities, and finds vendors through the Minnesota Grown directory.
MFMA offers information for vendors and shoppers, low-cost insurance to vendors, small sub-grants for projects, conferences, and workshops; a manual for starting and maintaining a farmers market, updates on current regulations, and resources for farmers and market managers, according to Wiegle.
She recommended hiring a manager for the market, so everything is organized and vendors or customers have one contact person for information.
“Having a paid manager will really help the end result,” Wiegle noted.
She also recommended carefully picking what day of the week to run the market.
“There are 12 farmers markets within 25 miles of Howard Lake on Thursday afternoons,” Wiegle stated.
One of the most difficult challenges with a farmers market is having enough vendors to bring customers, and enough customers to bring vendors, she said.
Maple Grove farmers market had too many vendors at one time, and the vendors weren’t happy because they didn’t make enough money, even though the attendance was good, Wiegle added.
Odds and ends
In other business the chamber:
• discussed the Howard Lake Business Expo, particularly that it is still in need of a person to manage kitchen duties.
• informed members that it is time to pay chamber dues.
• approved a discounted lunch incentive for pre-payment of lunch dues for the year. Members will get two free lunches by paying ahead.