How Does The Market Work?

A farmers markets is a great addition to any community, but they do take a lot of work and, to succeed, need excellent business management and strong support from the community and local government.

The majority, although not all, farmers markets are projects of nonprofit organizations. But, regardless of its structure, a farmers market is a business and needs to make and spend money to survive. Some farmers markets are managed entirely by an unpaid market manager or committee, but the stronger markets, in general, have at least one paid staff person overseeing the market. Regardless of staffing, all markets nonprofit markets depend on folks from the community stepping up to volunteer for tasks during the market day and beyond.

How do farmers markets make money?
Each vendor pays a weekly or seasonal fee to be at the market. This money, along with any donations or funds from business sponsors, is used for the many expenses that running a successful market entails, including at least one paid staff person.

How does the market spend money, and why pay a market manager and other staff?

“Our recommendation is that you compensate a manager based on the market value for the skills they bring to the market and the time they spend making sure your market is successful. While most markets are limited by shoestring budgets, keep in mind that paid managers can greatly increase the likelihood of a market’s long-term success.”


“The Board of Directors governs the financial status of the organization. It must come up with a budget and a plan for annual business operation. The budget should include all likely expenses: rent for the site, insurance, permits, membership in any  related organizations, promotion, security and staff salary. Find your break-even point and abide by it. Detailed financial planning will increase your chances for success.”

Details about the Wakefield Farmers Market finances:

The Wakefield Farmers Market benefits from strong support of the town government and thus does not need to budget monies for things like space rental or trash pickup, etc. We do pay for the electricity we use, we used to rent the porta potties but those are now provided by the town. We purchased the storage unit.  In addition, our vendors do not need to pay for their Board of Health permits thanks for money from  Melrose-Wakefield Mass in Motion granted funds. Funds from Mass in Motion also funded the purchase of our 1st credit card processor (we have since had to upgrade for the new chip technology) and our 1st two years or matching snap funds.

Our vendors pay $30 per 10×10 space per market plus a pro-rated registration fee  of $40 or less per year. When the market started in 2009, it was helped greatly by business sponsors by a number of local businesses including The Savings Bank, Sardella Signs, and more. Since 2014, the market has run in the black with no donations or business sponsors. Starting in 2017, business sponsors are being introduced back into the business plan so as to ensure sustainability and to fund new educational programing. The Savings Bank (our music program) and the Wakefield Cooperative Bank (Cooking Demos and Food Education program) are now yearly sponsors – thank you!

Expenses include salaries for the Market Manager, the Market Day Coordinator, and the Market Bucks Bookkeeper, coming in at around 8-9K per season compensating for  salary, currently $15 an hour for 450 or so total  hours per year,  payments to musicians  (we are aiming for minimun union rates starting at $75 for one musician and going from there, payment for cooking demos  (that was $50 a week but the structure may be changing) fees for Drumlin Farms, Curious Creatures an any other special events, replacing damaged tents, Market Bucks fees and expenses, (that’s the credit card system) office supplies, market and hospitality supplies, etc. etc.  The market provides the BOS with the previous season’s P&L when renewing the annual contract to use the space at Hall Park.

As of 2019, we now have a WFM Committee comprised of 12 members, four of which are former Market or Co-Market Manager and the rest are long-tie volunteers. The MM will report to this Committee and, in turn, the committee members will assist the MM with various tasks and responsibilities.

NOTE: We would not have a market, never mind such a successful one, without our super WFM Volunteer Team! To be part of a great group, click HERE to sign up for our newsletter and opt to get our Volunteer Newsletter, as well. Or just click HERE to sign up for one or more spots during the season.