In this week’s episode of Tent Talk we tackle another round of tough questions sent in from our market manager listeners. Listen along for sage advice from our resident market manager experts. We cover complex issues like booking market musicians, rearranging vendors when your market site is under construction, and what to do about Yelp reviews.

Adding music to the mix

Question: “I operate a growing community farmers’ market and this year I would like to add some music but am unsure about how to do this. We don’t have a large budget, so I don’t know how much we could pay them. Where do I find musicians willing to play at the farmers’ market?”

Anyone who’s been to a farmers’ market knows that music adds good vibes and makes the day more pleasant for shoppers and vendors. It’s also a great venue for musicians to make a little cash and get exposure. Music at the market can be a win-win as long as market managers set up a system that works effectively for their organization.

There are many ways to go about adding musicians to your farmers’ market. Some markets pay their musicians as employees, but this option will require the market to pay attention to overtime, breaks and possibly benefits. Other markets hire musicians by implementing a contractural relationship. While it may be easier for market managers, this option is less attractive to musicians because they are then responsible for paying higher taxes and providing insurance coverage.

Our suggestion? Keep it simple by allowing musicians to busk. The musicians get to keep what they make in tips, and the market doesn’t add any liability to their operation!

When your market is a construction zone

Question: “A large construction project is scheduled to begin in a few months and will uproot part of my weekly market. How do I manage vendors that will be impacted by the construction? Any advice appreciated!”

This is a common issue market managers face, especially in busy urban markets. There isn’t a whole lot market managers can do to make sure the construction stays on schedule and doesn’t interfere with the market footprint. The best thing to do in this situation is make sure you communicate openly and continuously with your vendors and shoppers.

As soon you have a grasp for the level of impact the construction will have on your market, inform your vendors and shoppers. Then remind them 1,000 more times. Encourage your vendors to help spread the word on their own social media pages and through their e-newsletters.

If you do have to move vendors around, it can be helpful to move them in pods so they can stay next to other vendors they’re familiar with. Be aware when restructuring your market that you don’t put too many similar vendors next to each other – you don’t want to have too many bakers or hot sauce makers on the same block. The bottom line is to give your vendors lots of notice ahead of time to process the change and make a plan for their transition.

Flat rate vs. percentage

Question: “Currently our market collects booth fees based on percentage of sales but we are considering switching to a flat rate. We’ve been over the pros and cons list a million times and are still torn. The main concern we have is upsetting our vendors that have lower sales. How can we make this transition without pricing out our vendors?”

There are numerous pros and cons to both collecting a flat rate and charging a rate based on percentage of sales. We suggest that you choose the option that works best for your farmers’ market organization’s business model. No matter what you choose some vendors will be happy and some won’t be.

If you’re worried about pricing out vendors by charging flat rate, remember that you don’t always have to charge everyone the same price. You can set up payment tiers based on how long a vendor has been in your market, what type of item they are selling, or where their booth is located. Whatever you choose, be direct and clear in your communication with your vendors.

Yelp: a blessing or a curse?

Question: “The market I manage is thriving and vendors are doing well, however we have a poor rating on Yelp and Google business, which I’m concerned will impact us during busy tourist months. Mostly the complaints are about lack of parking and not enough ready to eat hot food (i.e. too many farmers and not enough carnival-esque vendors). Is there any way to fix our ratings without moving our market or compromising our values? Should we even care what Yelp says?”

Yelp and Google business can be infuriating, but in the digital age, dealing with online comment sites are just part of the game. Most often people comment on Yelp and Google business to vent or to ask questions. If you respond promptly and politely you can resolve the situation positively.

Rather than take negative comments personally, look at them as an opportunity to learn something new about your market. If someone is complaining, this may be an area where your market can improve. And sometimes commenters are griping about things you have no control over and you just have to take it with a grain of salt.

Don’t be afraid to ask happy shoppers to comment about their positive experiences on your Yelp or Google business page. You can also post your own photos so there are quality images of your market. The more you engage, the better chance you have of improving your rating.

What other farmers’ market questions do you have?

If you have any farmers’ market questions, please send them our way! We would love to answer them on one of our future podcast episodes. You can email them to us at, send us a message or leave a comment via Instagram at @intentsbusiness, or just post your question in the comment section below.

We also answer tons of questions and talk in-depth about all sorts of farmers’ market issues in our monthly Vendor-101 course and our annual InTents Conference!

Where can I listen to full episodes of Tent Talk?

You can listen to Tent Talk on iTunes and Stitcher. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any episodes. You can also stream this week’s episode by clicking the player below.

Please let us know how you like our podcast by leaving us a review on iTunes or Stitcher. Reviews let us know what we’re doing right and they help other people find us online.

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