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The Birth of a Farmers Market

 
pollinator
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I've been rather quiet on permits.com for the past 2 months because all my spare time has been devoted to working on a community project....the creation of a new farmers/open air market in my small town.

Anyone interested in hearing about this story? All the things involved, the ups and downs, the work still to be done? It's been quite the learning experience for me. And I'm willing to relate the story here.
 
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Yes mam, Me. I wanna hear ALL about it please.

All the gory details, leave nothing out.
 
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patiently waiting for your story :D
 
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eagerly awaiting!
 
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Me too.
Druce
 
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I, too, would be very interested to hear about that journey.
 
Su Ba
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Let me layout the base information that I worked from.....
... 21 veteran vendors from the former town farmers market were interested in participating in the new OKK market. So I didn't have to immediately recruit vendors in order to start out.
... I had a 2 acre piece of land to work with that was fairly flat. About 80% was useable. The land was being mowed weekly, so it was lawn-like.
... Years ago I had been the local market manager for a couple of years, so I had a favorable reputation among the veteran vendors.
... I was given complete authority to make decisions about the new market, and given free rein within reason.
... The group hosting this new market is a community service group comprised of all volunteers. Thus the base premise was not a for-profit operation. Instead, it would be a service to benefit the community.

Ok, where to start.

I first surveyed the land, using a familiar permaculture approach. I determined where the wind came from, the angle that the sun travelled, where the shade from the nearby trees was located at different hours of the day. I checked the ground for hardness in order to determine the best parking areas. I looked for signs of low spots where water might pool. I checked visibility before placing the entrance/exit. I checked the layout of the neighboring properties so that the market wouldn't negatively impact them, particularly when it came to the placement of the porta potties. Since I planned to add music, I determined to best placement factoring in neighbors, wind, shade, and where people would prefer to congregate.

As I thought out a plot plan, I found myself thinking in terms of permaculture zones. Zone 1, the vendors. Zone 2, the customer congregating area, with the music, lunch vendors, dancing and demo area.  Zone 3, the parking. And furthest out, zone 4 the vendor parking. And zone 5, the wild unused area. Before I knew it, I found myself planning a community festival rather than a strict farmers market. The more I worked out a plot plan, the more the festival aspect appealed to me. Afterall, this was supposed to be a community beneficial event.

As I started pencilling in vendor spaces, I quickly determined I could opt to make it all jammed up like I've seen many other for-profit markets, therefore easily having 100+ vendors. Or I could follow the festival mode and keep the market open & airy, and have about 50 vendor spots. Since this wasn't a for-profit operation, I choose to go with 50 or less vendor spots.

Working with the idea of zones made it easier to figure the traffic pattern. Part of the determining factors was the hardness of the land. So the vendor zone turned out to be some what central with the parking and driveways around the perimeter. The community congregation zone ended up between the vendors and the roadway, utilizing the large shade trees.

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Market plot map
 
Su Ba
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You'll notice that I had two isolated vendor spots, one left and one right. These are for two specialized vendors that would prefer the privacy. A chiropractor and a masseuse.
 
Su Ba
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The first area I looked closer at was the vendor zone. I measured it out and determined that I could comfortably place 4 rows of 10' by 10' vendor tents, allowing 5' between them. This would give 9 vendor tents in each room thus giving 36 vendor spaces. Yes, this is real roomy. The openness gives the vendors the ability to show their wares on all four sides of their space. The 5' between vendors allows for plenty of space for customers. The openness gives an air of festival as opposed to crammed up shopping.

The outer row to the left and right would be set up so that the vendors could park their vehicles with their tent. This would make life much easier for vendors with lots of stock or heavy wares. This gave me 18 spaces for vendors dealing with things like stoneware, large woodcraft items, numerous crates of veggies, and the photographer who had crates of framed photos. The two central rows would be for vendors with lighter or less wares.

So the outside rows have their own vehicle parking. What, you may ask, do the two center rows do? Those vendors drive up, unload, go park their vehicles. In order to facilitate this , I created a 15 foot wide driveway between row 1 and row 2. Plus another between row 3 and 4.

Below is the main vendor map.
image.png
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Grey squares are the 10' by 10' vendor spaces,
 
Su Ba
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I've had people, including vendors, question my vendor arrangement. Here's some .....plus my thoughts about them.

1- Some customers actually wanted the vendors packed in tight, because they wanted twice as many buying options. And they wouldn't have to walk as far in order to see everything.
.....I rejected this idea because the event would lose the feel of a festival. It would just become a hectic shopping center. And vendors would have very limited area for displaying their wares.
2- Some vendors wanted to be closer, because they could then feed off the shade from the tent behind them. They could also tie their tent poles together, giving more stability in the wind.
.....As for shade, I tell the vendor to add shade extenders to their tent roof, or use a shade cloth. As for wind, use tent stakes, consider using rebar & tie stakes, use weights, add rigidity via rope and/or poles. Changing from tent tarp style top to shade cloth top mitigates the wind problem quite a bit and still gives shade.  Or simply don't use the tent top of the few windy days we get.
3- There was a suggestion to place the vendors around the perimeter and make the parking central.
......This arrangement instantly kills the festival feel. It makes customers reluctant to visit all the booths. I would lose other aspects of the market I wished to incorporate-- a central demonstration area, a gathering area not far from the booths, privacy for certain type vendors. And besides, the ground in the center isn't suitable for customer parking.
4-Vendors wanted every spot to have vehicle parking. A horseshoe design would accomplish that. There could be multiple horseshoes.
..... This arrangement would greatly reduce customer parking. I am required to have all customer parking onsite. There is no street parking or parking lots near by. The horseshoe design would gobble up too many customer parking spots.
5- There was the suggestion to have all the vendors on one half of the land and all the parking on the other.
.... The very first problem with this is the land itself. Around the edges the ground is hard packed and suitable for aggressive parking wear-n-tear. The middle part of the land isn't and thus cannot be used for in and out traffic. So without getting into other issues, it simply cannot be done. All the customer parking has to be on the hard packed areas. A half & half vendor vs parking simply couldn't do that.
6- More than one person suggested that I was too focused on the plot plan. Their suggestion was for me to do nothing and simply let people set up tents and park where they liked.
..... Just like making a permaculture farm without planning a thing, the place would be an inefficient chaotic mess. Heck, my managerial services surely wouldn't be needed then, would they? Sounds good to me! Let chaos ensue. Hahahahahaha.

Anyway, I'm fairly satisfied with the plan so far. And after 4 market weeks, it has proven to be quite functional.
 
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It sounds fabulous. You can't make everyone happy (ever) and you've obviously really thought things through. I hope it is a smashing success!!
 
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Thanks for sharing.
 
Annie Collins
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Being a vendor at a farmers market, I wish we had something like you have set up! For one, the extra space between vendors is wonderful! I always feel a bit claustrophobic being all scrunched up to my neighbors, as nice as they are. It also feels to me like all of the vendors' items just squeeze one into the other, without being able to differentiate the various booths enough. I also think the idea of giving it a festival vibe is great; it makes it a destination spot, not just a market shopping area. And the longer customers stay, the more they are likely to buy things, thereby giving all the more support to their local area. Win, win! We are talking about setting up some chairs and small tables by the food truck(s) this year trying to give it more the feel of a destination spot.
Nice planning of the market- thank you for sharing!
 
Su Ba
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Community use zone.

This was the next zone I developed. This sort of area is something that our previous town markets lacked, basically because of lack of space. But it's something that people here have always wanted. Plus having this zone definitely creates an air of festival about the place. And as Annie pointed out, it makes the market a desirable destination point.

A place for lunch was a priority. Plus the local coffee truck....a must. This was the easy part. Next idea was the music. Finding the musicians was easy. But a generator and tent were needed, which luckily OKK was able to supply. This necessitated a noise insulating box for the generator. I was able to cobble one together for less than $30 using wood pallets, cardboard, foam, and a tarp. Problem solved.

Next problem.......where to seat people. I had a solution, but it was expensive. Picnic tables. Buying them was out of the question, so I built them. The cost came out to $135 per table, far cheaper than buying them. Yes, made out of treated lumber and galvanized hardware. In Hawaii, that's the only way to go if you expect them to last more than 2 years. Because of the cost, I cemented them into the ground so that they wouldn't sprout legs and disappear. After watching the crowds use the tables, I ended up making 8 of them. Plus the coffee truck set up 2 round folding tables and supplied a dozen chairs for customers. At least at the start of this market, there is plenty of seating.

Being a food area, I had to consider trash. So 2 trashcans were added. 2 turned out to be the right number.

Last week a young hula dancer came and danced for the crowd, using the community zone. There was plenty of space for her to dance in front of the music tent. It worked out perfectly. By the way, if you're curious about this little girl, you can search YouTube for Hunnay Demello. She's amazing! Today's market had Coconut Woman demonstrating coconut frond weaving, and next week a qigong class will be showing off their stuff. The demo idea working out.

And finally.....food. I brought in 2 onsite hot cooked food vendors, making completely different types of foods. Plus one salad vendor. Plus one dessert oriented vendor. Teaming these up with the coffee truck rounded out the lunch area. Plus several other vendors set up in the vendor area also offered some foods -- fresh squeezed orange juice, finger foods, cold drinks, shave ice, and more. So far this seems to be enough. If the food runs out early, I'll look into adding another food vendor. (ps- As of today's market, I determined I need one more hot food vendor, selling completely different food. The food vendors are almost selling out by noon and There is also the issue that too many customers were perusing the food offerings and rejecting them. So I've contacted a mobile pizza maker who has agreed to come.)

The community use zone is a major success. It draws customers in. I see many people checking out the vendor booths before retiring to the food & music area. And they often cruise through the market again before leaving. This is a win-win situation for everyone.
 
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Su Ba wrote:

Last week a young hula dancer came and danced for the crowd, using the community zone. There was plenty of space for her to dance in front of the music tent. It worked out perfectly. By the way, if you're curious about this little girl, you can search YouTube for Hunnay Demello. She's amazing!  



 
Su Ba
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Parking Plan

I hadn't a clue how much space was needed for easy parking. But I knew that I hated many commercial parking lots. They were difficult to maneuver in. Briefly I thought I'd use slanted parking spaces, but after watching the tourists struggling with them, I knew that wouldn't work. I knew I'd just have to have wide driveways.

By searching the Internet for parking lot dimensions, I didn't need to run around measuring parking lots in my area. I just looked at basic requirements, then increased the measurements. I bumped up the width of a car space to 10' and allowed the space to be 20' deep. That way the big pickup trucks wouldn't be a problem. Yes, we have plenty of them around here. I increased the driveway width to 25'. I hoped that would keep the super-seniors from clipping cars on their way by, and not backing into each other.

On the lefthand side of the market grounds, two rows of parking fit comfortably. In the back, another two rows. And to the right, a single row.

The second market day this new arrangement got tested. It worked pretty good, but needed a little tweaking. The lefthand side filled up first, and then customers shifted over to the right. That went smoothly all by itself. The back area was confusing. So I need better signs pointing the way. And a yellow rope helps indicate the parking rows. By the third market day, parking went a bit more smoothly. After five market days I'm still seeing a couple confused drivers now and again. Perhaps I'll never be able to make it 100% workable without parking assistants, but I'm trying. The parking is on grass, so it's difficult to mark parking spaces and driveways. Keep in mind that nothing can be permanently left on the grass except paint. So I'm trying to come up with a smooth self-parking situation that doesn't take me a lot of time to set up each week, nor cost me a lot of money. I'm getting close, but I'm still working on it.
 
Su Ba
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Traffic Flow

My initial set up was a failure. A real total failure. OKK in the beginning wanted one way traffic around the grounds.....enter one side, have a perimeter driveway, exit the other. Sounds simple. I guess it could have worked if you didn't factor in the drivers! Half the cars were driven by tourists, many of whom aren't use to driving with USA road rules. The other half are mostly senior citizens, some of whom are very questionable behind the wheel. So the first market day was total chaos. Trying to control the traffic and where people parked was like trying to herd cats. It was obvious that I needed to go back to the drawing board.

First thing, I ditched the one way idea. It just didn't work, no matter how nice it sounded. So I took a hint from the most commonly used parking lots around my area. Even the most terribly laid out parking lots worked. So I observed, just like in permaculture. They all have one way in & out. No multiple exits. No slanted parking spaces. I figure that drivers around here understand that system, so I tried to incorporate the basics into my own parking lot. Mine isn't a simple rectangle, so I knew I'd have to make adjustments.

First I widened the entrance from the street by another 10'. It became the sole way in and out. Next I made a double row of parking spaces on the lefthand side of the property. Using "more parking" arrows, I directed overflow parking to the rear area, where again I made a double row of parking. And from there, another "more parking" arrow sign sent the rest of the cars to the far righthand side for a single row of parking against the rock wall. Would it work?

Without a crew to direct parking for me, I came up with a system that included "park here" signs and used yellow rope to rope of no parking zones. I also used a few of the vendor's vehicles as examples, sort of like monkey-see-monkey-do.  I had them park in strategic parking spots. Then I held my breathe. On the next market day this system worked fairly well. Not perfectly, because I'm dealing with confused drivers. But generally it worked. By the 4th market day, I'd say that 95% of the drivers got things right. They're learning. If I can get up to 98% or 99% success, I'll be thrilled.
 
Su Ba
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Signage

Signs are mandatory in order to prevent confusion.....and to prevent me from having to be at the market site before 5 am each morning.

Vendor Booth Signs--- each vendor space is labeled by number. I tried a couple of methods which failed, and finally hit upon 12" by 12" plywood signs. 40 of them. Painted white with numbers painted in black. Each sign has a reflector so that it can be easily located in the dark. They stand up via a single leg on a cloth hinge. Why cloth instead of metal? Because I discovered that vendors tend to drive over them occasionally in the dark. Cloth hinges have give, so the sign doesn't get destroyed. And torn cloth hinges are easier and cheaper to repair. Each vendor space has its own sign. This system is working beautifully and I no longer have to be there when the veteran vendors arrive to set up. Some do indeed start arriving at 5 am.

New vendors are told to arrive between 7 - 7:30. I greet them at the entrance and have them escorted to their site. They are shown the number signs and the designated corners of their booth. This system seems to work the best with the least confusion.

All signs need to be removable. Nothing permanently in place. Reason? The volunteer lawnmowers. They don't need obstacles in their path.  So all signs need to be removed at the end of the market day. Thus I can't install permanent upright markers.

Parking Signs--- Following the success with the vendor signs, I designed parking signs along the same method. 12" by 12" plywood, painted white with black lettering, standing up with a single leg and cloth hinge. Without having people available to direct traffic, I needed to be able to delineate parking spaces. Along the same line of reasoning, I needed to show where the driveways are. By using "more parking" and and arrow sign, drivers can be directed to the next parking area.

General Market Signs --- Along the street I have signs that tell what the market is. Plus I'm using (and making more) sandwich signs to advertise what sort of things are available : vendors, food, music, demos, toilets, tourist information. I'm encouraging individual vendors to make and post their own sandwich signs. These signs have stacked functions (think, permaculture stacking functions). They attract tourists, make the place a bit more festive,  plus they also help prevent parking along the street. I need to discourage street parking because it blocks the view of departing cars, setting up a prime situation for an accident. So rather than simply stringing unfriendly yellow ropes, I'm using a line of colorful and informative sandwich signs to block parking. The signs are low enough for drivers to still have a clear view of the roadway and traffic.

Onsite Market Signs --- I'm finding that additional signage on the grounds is helping out. A sandwich board points to the demonstration of the day, location, and time. Another announces the featured vendor of the day. Another directs tourists to the market information tent.

I don't yet have all the signage down, but I'm getting there. I don't want the place overrun with signs. That would be way too messy. I'm looking for the balance of just enough to be informative.
image.jpeg
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A numbering sign for designating a vendor's space.
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The back showing the cloth hinge made from old Levi's.
 
Su Ba
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Daily Market Supplies

I'm finding that there are certain supplies I need to bring with me each day to the market.
...market vendor map
...market notes (list of possible day vendors, paper to write down suggestions & ideas, to do lists, a check off list when they pay their fee, etc)
...vendor information (copy of GE license, any pertinent food handling licenses, name, address, phone number, email, what they sell, copy of market agreement)
... important information (local police department number, market street address to give emergency personnel, OKK contact information)
...2 fire extinguishers
...first aid kit
...extra rope (and something to cut it with), assorted tapes, bungee cords, tent stakes, plastic trash bags, small plastic bags for dog poo clean up, paper towels, disinfectant spray, hand sanitizer, extra toilet paper
...2 gallons of water and several cloth hand towels. This has come in handy, believe it or not.
...jumbo thick permanent magic marker for making signs that suddenly are needed. I also keep 3 blank white painted pieces of 12"x24" plywood in my truck for this reason.
...note paper, pens, stapler, scotch tape, paper clips, rubber bands
...fluorescent orange spray paint

And my crazy market hat. In order for me to be easily identified, I wear a coconut hat decorated with a mass of very colorful flowers. It makes me easy to locate.
 
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See what happens when you volunteer = fun and games.

Isn't wonderful how seemingly obvious signs, lines and directions become confusing to 'the herd' ... and they're ADULTS!

In regards to the description of using rope to corral vehicles, it conjures a picture of using electric tape to direct the people!

Glad they haven't (yet) dressed you in white and placed for safe keeping in a rubber room - we genuflect before the greatness of Ba.

 
Su Ba
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Oh, you don't  know how many times I thought this would be easier if I could use a good Border Collie and a cattle prod!
 
Su Ba
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Organizing the Vendors

This was by far the trickiest thing to do when establishing this market. I suppose if I were a self centered, arbitrary hardass it would be an easy task. But I'm not. I see myself as a servant to the community, so I'm not the star of the show. The vendors and customers are the stars. So I believe that my goal is to make both customers and vendors as happy as I can.

Assigning vendors their permanent spaces was tricky. First of all, everyone thinks that they entitled to what they deem to be the best spots. And some vendors get pretty vocal about that. So here's what I did.....

First I surveyed the vendors. I noted who were the longtime vendors from the previous market, giving them seniority. I asked who wanted to be next to whom, because many of the vendors had their friendship rings well established. And also  asked who wanted to be far away from whom. I learned who were regular vendors versus those who didn't show up every market day. Regular vendors were given higher ranking. And I noted who sold what. Then I went to work plugging names into the vendor map, trying to come up with a workable solution. It wasn't quick & easy. I first plugged in the names of those who had heavy, awkward, or lots of wares. They got assigned spaces with vehicle parking. Then I plugged in their preferred "friends" around them. I kept certain vendors separated. And I tried not to put vendors with similar wares next to each other. I spaced the produce vendors around, but put all vendors using propane into one section along the road. That way if there were a fire, emergency responders could easily access the problem. I managed to come up with an acceptable map except for a few vendors who wanted better spaces. Over the weeks as vendors are shifting around on their own, things are gradually working out. After 5 weeks, I only have 2 vendors that want different spots. I think that's pretty good success. And I think I'll be able to fix their issues as the irregular vendors come and go. I only assign permanent spots to the regular vendors, while the irregular get shifted around a little bit on a first-come-first-served basis.

Why have vendors changed spots? Friendship is one. Another is that they think their wares compliment some other vendors wares, thus they could both benefit by being side by side. I agree. One vendor moved around because wind blew dust into her velvety jewelry. We finally found a location for her that worked.

After 4 weeks I opened up a few new spots up front. They had been reserved for OKK use, but OKK never took advantage of them. So I decided to use the space for paying vendors. So who got them? ....... now here's my mean side showing........ I gave them to the vendors in the back of the market who were the most easy to get along with, friendly, agreeable, cooperative, never complained. They got their reward for being nice. Yes, it made some of the other vendors jealous but I simply told them that I had picked names out of a hat.....end of story.

I find that some vendors are really nice people, lovely to work with. Others are difficult. Most I can make happy. Some I can't, and I see that there are some that will never be happy regardless of what I do. So I just do the best I can and move on.

It's been 6 weeks since the market started. I had thought that the vendors would have settled down by now and we'd all be a big happy family. Wrong. I thought that by now this manager job would be simple and routine. Wrong again. I suppose this is because I'm not being a witchy manager. Vendors have been pulling all sorts of stunts in order to get their way. Some of it is quite comical -- school kid stuff. None of it has worked, but they keep trying. I'm beginning to understand why the managers of other farmers markets have the reputation of being miserable dictators. I don't think that I'll end up with that reputation. I suspect I'll be labeled stupid, inept, dumb as a rock. But ya know, that doesn't matter. Ultimately I have final say. And as long as the market is successful for vendors, customers, and the community, it's all just fine.  And after just 6 weeks, this market is a raging, howling, out of this world success!
 
Su Ba
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Market Offerings

When establishing a market, a decision needs to be made as to what sort of wares and services may be offered. It sets the character of the market. In my case, I was given a base to work with, with that being that this market is a community service, BUT that yard sale items would be reserved for a separate day. Working from that, I opted to allow a broad offering.

I wanted an assortment and have so far accepted ....
...fresh produce
...honey
...artisan crafts (jams, soap, woodcraft, photography, blown glass,  etc)
...art
...clothing
...snack foods
...shave ice
...cold foods and drinks
...hot onsite cooked foods
...the local coffee truck
...jewelry
...gifts
...books
...bagged coffee
...local produced CBD oil

I have also accepted services...
...chiropractor
...massage
...medical health screening (free blood pressure, etc)
...community info booth
...veterinarian
...music
...guitar lessons

The market has 2 really interesting vendors who do their work right at the market--- a coconut frond weaver and a young lad that hacks open coconuts for the tourists, using a rather impressive machete.

I refuse anything illegal, rejected by our insurance, or is fraudulent (this includes snake oil vendors). But having said all this, I turn a blind eye to fresh farm eggs being sold (they are illegal in Hawaii). And for any micro food vendor I will help direct them to getting their food permits and line up time in a local commercial kitchen so that they will be legal. The other type vendors I don't want are those that make customers uncomfortable. This includes religious evangelists and politicians.

The market offers quite a selection of offerings. For this particular market, it's working just fine.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Physical Infrastructure

Besides signs, I realized that the market had other physical needs. The tricky part was that nothing could be left in place for two reasons. 1- The grass needed to be unobstructed for mowing. 2- Anything not fixed in place would most likely be stolen. Sad, but that's reality.

First off, the market needed porta pottis. Because of the size of the market, I knew that I should have more than one. So I opted for two. One would be a regular one, but the other would be a handicapped access one. There are several residents in town who use wheelchairs. Two porta pottis cost more than one of course, and the handicapped one was more expensive than a regular. But such is life, they were both needed. So they got rented, delivered, and the rent includes weekly servicing. I had them set up away from all residential neighbors. There is a church beside the market grounds, so the pottis went along that property line and beside some shrubbery to partially block the view from the church. Not a perfect solution, but the best I could do and still make them accessible. Oh by the way, the porta pottis are kept locked except on market day.

Picnic tables... The market needed places for the community to sit. Using takedown table & chairs was one option. But then I'd have to put the time into setting them up and taking them down each market day. And I'd have to transport them to and from the market. Since I'm already stretched for time and truck space, I wanted some another solution. I suggested picnic tables to OKK and they agreed. I priced already built picnic tables and figured I could do a lot better. So I built them. I then installed them on the market grounds by cementing them into the ground to prevent them from being stolen. The tables have been there for 6 weeks now and so far everything is fine. And although these tables are permanent, they are installed under huge shade trees where there is little grass growing. Therefore I have no mowing issues.

Onsite storage.... For right now there is almost none. A sturdy, secure shed would be nice, but I think that's a future project. But for anyone setting up a market like this, I'd suggest onsite storage from the first day. Right now I have to transport almost everything to and from the market. It's a real nuisance. I did come up with a way to store the 12"x12" vendor signs. They go into "broken" trashcans that are secured inside the fence and along the roadway. I purposely broke two trashcans, making them undesirable to steal. I highlighted the shredded sides and cracked bottoms, and spray painted "broke" on the sides. Even the lids are cracked and held on via a bungee cord. The signs themselves have no theft value. So far they have been left alone. Theft is a problem here, but not vandalism.

Trashcans. I have 2 cans for trash. When not in use, I can store these in the porta potti. So far the cleaning man hasn't complained.

Market flags. Along the road I have some colorful upright flags. They look nice and attract people's attention.

Sandwich signs. I have 2 signs along the road announcing the upcoming market (market ahead today 8 to 2), one for each direction set up about 500 feet before the oncoming cars reach the market. Plus sandwich signs directly in front of the market advertising vendors, food, demos, toilets, etc. Plus a couple on the market grounds itself for special announcements.

Almost all physical items have to be transported.....for the time being. This includes signs larger than 12"x12", rope and poles for the ropes, sandwich signs, flags. But there are two structures I don't transport, again because they have no theft value. The sound deadening boxes for the various generators. They are made out of waste materials and foam. Nothing worth stealing, but very good at muffling the generator sound. I set up the pieces each market day, snapping them in place with bungee cords. Quick and easy. And I store them by sliding the pieces under a picnic table to keep the wind from blowing them away.
Homemade-picnic-tables.-7-installed-so-far..jpeg
Homemade picnic tables. 7 installed so far.
Homemade picnic tables. 7 installed so far.
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Food

In order to make this market more like a weekly festival, a place to have fun, a place to socialize with friends, I needed onsite food. Now that I've had this market going for a few weeks, I see that the onsite food is critically important.

Many vendors already offer snack foods. And one vendor sells artisan breads. And several vendors have fresh produce and honey. But that's not the sort of food the market needs in order to thrive. It needs the type of foods people would sit down at the picnic tables and eat for lunch. Luckily I started out with 3 vendors already established from the previous market. One sells freshly prepared salads, one offers several types of Mexican foods, and the third has lau lau, sausage, and pulled pork plate lunches. So from day one, lunches were available. And here I sit 6 weeks later with 2 selling out shortly after noon, and the third a half hour later. So I've decided to add one more lunch vendor, since the market is growing. I've arranged for pizza.

The Wednesday market happily has the local coffee truck setting up, selling all sorts of coffee drinks. The truck stays solidly busy all the way up to 1 pm and doesn't shut down until 2. But for the Monday market, the truck cannot come. So I'm in the process of getting a local coffee place to set up to sell coffee drinks. In addition to these coffee vendors, I have encouraged other vendors to offer drinks, so I'm now seeing things like shave ice, bottled water, canned sodas, fresh squeezed orange juice.

I wouldn't mind adding a few more foods to the market. Popcorn. Cotton candy. Hot dogs. More snacking foods. I don't want to hurt my main onsite food people, but I think a few more festival style food options wouldn't hurt them. Some customers are just interested in snacking while walking around, while another group wants to have a sit down lunch. I think both have their place in this market. And I'm starting to see employees from some of the local businesses stopping in for take out boxes for their lunches.  
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Entertainment

This market is operating with the idea of a festival in mind. So entertainment is a must. The very first thing the market had from the start was music. Local musicians were encouraged to come play. It's turned out super. The music starts by 9 am and goes on until closing, around 2. The musicians decide among themselves who plays and when, and it turns out to be one big jam session with customers often dancing along. Lots of fun. By the way, the musicians work for tips. I encourage them to have a colorful tip basket that is quite visible and easy to access.

I'm also working on other types of crowd entertainment. I'm encouraging vendors to work their crafts in their booths. The gourd artist routinely works on a gourd now. The woodcarver works on his current walking stick. Others include the coconut frond weaver, the slate artist, the kid opening coconuts for tourists. Yes he's a kid, he's 10 years old and quite the businessman. The lomi lomi guy is constantly demonstrating the use of his sticks. One of the artists works on one of her projects and doesn't mind people watching.

One week I had a costumed person mingle with the crowd. Nothing like having a 6' wolverine wandering around having photos done with the tourists. It was a hoot! Another time it was a young hula dancer entertaining the people. This past week it was a local qigong instructor putting on a demonstration with several of her students. And now I'm working on getting other fun things going on. I'm thinking along the lines of tai chi, yoga, hula, ukulele playing, story telling, a little magic show, lei making, etc.
 
Su Ba
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Posts: 1808
Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
744
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Flags & Sandwich Signs

I'm learning that having attractive, easy to read signage out along the road is real important for bringing in the drive-by customer.......real important! The local residents already know that the market exists, but the tourists seldom do. So it's necessary to get their attention enough that the driver gets told to pull over for the market.

I already have a vertical flag the says OKK MARKET. That helps. But I see that I could do much better. So I'm looking to add more flags. Browsing the internet I've seen some possible candidates. Of course the one that caught my eye was "Cold Beer". It would bring in the cars alright,  but I don't think it applies. I could cross out the "r" and use a Sharpie to write "f" instead, since we do have a vendor selling frozen grass fed beef. But I don't think everyone appreciates my sense of humor.  So I'll pass on that flag. Anyway, I'm back to browsing the Internet for some appropriate vertical flags.

I also use colorful sandwich signs. As I've already mentioned, I have 2 "Market Ahead" signs on the highway, and one at the entrance that announces - tourist info - vendors - food - demo - toilets. I'm making another right now that says : Open Air Market / Safer Shopping & Food (there's a coronavirus scare here now). And I'm encouraging vendors to make signs for along the roadway to advertise their products, such as fresh breads, local fruit jams, handmade soaps, etc.

Once folks are in the market area, I'm using sandwich signs to help direct people to special events, such as a demo at 11:30.  I don't want to over use signs because I think that would be confusing, but some signs are needed.

So far I'd have to say that the roadside signs announcing the market ahead are the most important for getting customers into the market.

One more note. I'm keeping signs simple. I've noticed that other markets have commercially made signs that are very pretty to read when you're standing in front of them, but are impossible to figure out when you're driving a car past them on the road. The only reason that I know what their signs are talking about is that I'm already aware of their market ahead. But I don't think that tourists would get the message easily. So I'm keeping my signs simplistic and very readable on a drive-by.
 
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Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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I have a collection of "house flags" which are generally 2X3 feet, double sided fabric banners.

These come in every style you could imagine, from flowers to animals, with 'welcoming messages' to sports teams to national/regional themes. Most run around $30, unless you hunt the "sale" ones like I do where they are under $10.

They are beautiful and a collection definitely attracts attention. Can be hung individually or threaded on a long pole side by side.
 
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