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Farmers Markets: An Architect’s Perspective

What does it take to create a successful farmers market?

Just like a potluck, everyone should bring something to the table. A market manager is needed to help coordinate the market place.  A selection of vendors offering a variety of regional products is necessary.  Also a strong customer base interested in local fresh products is essential to its prosperity.

But that’s not all.

Farmers markets need a good location and a welcoming space to conduct business. It should be a place where vendors can attractively display their products, where customers can comfortably shop and neighbors can happily intermingle.

Farmers markets operate in a variety of places, from parking lots to parks to dedicated structures.  Each location has its own challenges and its own unique needs. That’s why sometimes farmers markets can also use an architect.

For 10 years, I have been designing farmers markets on behalf of the USDA.  Some projects I’ve worked on include the Santa Fe Farmers Market which developed a spectacular, LEED-certified indoor space to extend their market season all year long. I also have offered design advice to farmers markets in Lansing, MI, Detroit, MI, and Charleston, SC.


Architect Fidel Delgado's layout of the USDA Farmers Market.

Architect Fidel Delgado's layout of the USDA Farmers Market.

Closer to home, I’ve helped designed the USDA’s weekly farmers market in Washington, DC, located just steps from the National Mall.  Every Friday morning from May to October, a parking lot becomes the USDA’s own vibrant farmers market.  The USDA farmers market has been operating since 1994 and attracts thousands of tourists, USDA employees and other nearby workers.

The next time you go to a farmers market, think about how it was designed and how the space is unique to the needs of your community. For me, farmers markets are a unique building type, and the American Institute of Architects agrees.  I hope you do too.

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