For nearly 15 years, the Jeffersontown, KY, Farmers Market struggled. Dwindling to only four vendors selling to a handful of customers, the market was barely surviving from year to year. In 2009, the City of Jeffersontown found a recipe for success by combining the town’s enthusiasm and energy with support from USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP) to reinvigorate and reinvent the farmers market.
FMPP is a competitive grant program administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The program provides funds to help establish, expand, and promote farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs, and other direct-to-consumer marketing opportunities. FMPP has funded 443 diverse projects across the country since 2006.
For Jeffersontown, the FMPP grant was the missing ingredient they needed to revitalize their market. They used a portion of the grant to develop consistent branding for all of their promotional materials, building a cohesive strategy for advertising the market through flyers, ads in area newspapers, and signs to bring in new customers. Promoting a consistent strategy was key in recruiting farmers, enabling vendors to come to market prepared to meet their customers’ expectations. A more inclusive management structure brought new ideas that helped generate a more customer-centered shopping experience.
A revamped market layout—complete with tents and tables—turned the market into a pedestrian-friendly shopping “village.” Customers now browse, enjoy food and entertainment, talk with vendors and purchase a wide variety of items in a more relaxed, communal setting. Various special events contribute to the market’s vitality by encouraging customers to visit regularly and to spend more time at the market once they are there.
Vendors and market managers recognized the selling potential of working together. They found ways to make customers happier and increase sales by cross-promoting products to help shoppers find what they need. For example, the tomato farmer recommends the basil grower to his marinara-making customer, and the basil grower sends them on to the pasta maker’s booth. Marketing the meal is one of the strategies that have made the market a friendlier place. The vendors get to know their customers and fellow vendors—and make a sale—while their customers walk away with the perfect ingredients for dinner.
With the help of FMPP, Jeffersontown was able to collaborate, innovate, and transform their ailing market into a vibrant town centerpiece. This year, they have 38 booths, and next year they expect to have at least 50 vendors. Each Saturday, instead of just a handful of customers, over 500 shoppers visit the market. They come to buy the freshest produce, beef, and eggs the region has to offer, and they stay for the live music, cook-offs, and a neighborly chat.
Helping identify the components that will create thriving marketplaces for farmers and ranchers is just one of the ways we support the business side of agriculture. Visit our website for more information on farmers markets and direct-to-consumer marketing, or to learn more about our Farmers Market Promotion Program and how it can help your community.