“Getting any business started is a ton of work. It is another ton of work to keep it going.” That’s how Ginger Rapport of Beaverton Farmers Market describes the need for their new Emerging Vendors Program. “For every success story, there are dozens of small businesses that never make it. Our goal is to increase the number of success stories coming from the market.”
With support from the Tualatin SWCD Farmers Market Grant Program, the Beaverton Farmers Market implemented a program to support small, local vendors trying to bring their products to market. Over 20 vendors submitted applications to enroll in the program. Eight received funding to help them tackle a variety of challenges that new vendors face, including marketing and acquiring supplies for a booth. This program supports new businesses and ensures that communities can connect with local producers.
Rapport points out that while the vendors in this program have already tackled the challenge of creating something worth selling, they are now faced with the huge task of figuring out how to market it. Many of the vendors at the market are responsible for every aspect of their business. The producer is often the person actually sitting in the booth on market day. She estimates that, at the end of the day, some of these vendors are working for $1 an hour while trying to get their business to a sustainable point.
The products coming through this program are as diverse as the vendors themselves. A community-supported kosher brewery, Leikam Brewing, was able to purchase supplies and product labels, while the small, family-owned Gresser Vineyard used the funding to create market signs and improve their website. Another vendor in the program, Sarah Bellum’s Bakery, is a not-for-profit, social enterprise bakery program providing work training and opportunities to adult survivors of brain injuries. The support of the Emerging Vendors Program allowed the bakery to tackle the start-up costs of being a market vendor and to create a detailed program brochure. Swell Eats, which makes granola from dehydrated lentils and beans, was able to implement a reusable packaging program for their market sales.
A farmers market is an ideal venue for these emerging vendors to work on developing their brands. There are no leases to sign and no huge investments required. The logistics of the event are handled by the market organizers, and only a modest fee is charged for a booth. The vendors can focus their energy on creating good products and learning how to effectively market them. By providing support to vendors who are starting out, the Beaverton Farmers Market is ensuring that local producers have the tools they need to get their businesses off the ground.
Farmers markets allow consumers to access fresh, nutritious food while also providing a direct connection between local farmers and their communities. Supporting local markets helps maintain appreciation and viability of agriculture in Washington County. The Farmers Market Grant Program provides funding to markets that submit project proposals that will encourage community and vendor participation in market events, educate the public, and make healthy, fresh agricultural products accessible to diverse demographics.