Market Organic Food

Community Supported Agriculture

Farm to Institution
Farm to Institution is the umbrella for several local food purchasing and education programs which reconnect people to their local food producers by bringing local food into hospitals, workplace cafeterias, and other institutional settings, as well as school and college cafeterias.

Farmers’ Markets

Useful Links

CSAs: Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture quick links:

What is a CSA? Where did it come from?

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the name of a direct marketing relationship between farmers and subscription consumers. As the name implies, this form of direct sale invites consumers to directly support a farm or group of farms by enrolling in a seasonal share in the farms’ operations. While the terms of the membership differ from farm to farm, CSA shares are usually purchased for a set price early in the season in exchange for weekly boxes of mixed produce. The partnership allows consumers to share in the seasonal rhythms of diversified farms, enjoying the successful bounties and helping to stabilize crop failures.

The first examples of CSA concurrently emerged in Japan and Europe in the 1960’s, driven by consumers who wanted to insure the quality of their food and farm communities. These consumers purchased shares in their local farms to help stabilize the farmers’ incomes and support sustainable growing practices. Finding success within those communities, similar models of direct purchasing and partnership have multiplied around the globe under many different names.

In the mid-1980’s Jan Vander Tuin brought the concept from his farm in Switzerland to Indian Line Farm in Massachusetts. Together with Robyn Van En, he coined the term Community Supported Agriculture. Since then, the CSA model has spread around the country with well over 1,000 documented examples in operation today. In reflection of our strength of diversified, direct sales farms in Vermont, we currently document over 65 CSA farms in the state.

CSA has provided a powerful marketing outlet and community tool for many Vermont farms. With interest in eating locally on the rise, there are increasing opportunities for farmers to connect with their communities through CSA. Hopefully, this article will help growers begin to see the potential to create new and expand existing CSA programs. In the sections below, you can learn about: the basic structure of CSA, what motivates consumers to engage with CSA, ways to enhance your CSA membership, market development and innovation, and links to other organizations and resources that can support your research.

How do CSAs work?

Because CSA, by definition, reflects the particular characteristics of the surrounding community, there are many different ways that these relationships are defined. The most common arrangement asks customers to purchase a membership before a given growing season in exchange for regular (e.g. weekly) shares of produce. The shares are typically marketed in boxes with enough produce for a two or four person household. The cost of membership is determined by the farmer based on the cost of production materials and labor, divided among the CSA members.

In addition, some CSA farms include an option or requirement for a work exchange on the farm. This exchange may include helping to pack/deliver member boxes, weekly member field work days, or seasonal work parties. These work exchanges are sometimes offered as barter for some or all of the cost of a membership. Members often appreciate opportunities to get their hands dirty and be more involved with the physical operations of the farm.

The method of delivering the shares is another aspect that differs widely from farm to farm. Many farms set up a CSA farm stand, where members come once a week and choose a certain value of produce or a certain amount of each product available. Some farms deliver pre-boxed shares to one or many locations. Other farms bring their CSA shares to farmers’ markets. For members who have difficulty traveling, farmers sometimes offer home-delivery at an increased price or ask other members to help their neighbors by creating a delivery network. In starting a new CSA, growers should assess which models provide the most benefits within the specific circumstances of their communities.

Why Consumers Support CSA

In a global market of infinite consumer choices and cheap goods, it may be surprising that so many people enroll in a CSA membership where they often sacrifice their choice of specific products. On the other hand, CSA was created in response to a globalized food economy to provide consumers with the ability to secure safe, local food and develop relationships with the people and places that produce that food. While farmers’ markets and farm stands can provide one-on-one relationships between consumers and farmers, CSA expands that relationship and offers a chance for members to become more personally involved in the production of their food. Member involvement in the CSA farm begins at a guarantee to financially support the farm through thick and thin and can become as direct as members providing the farm’s labor. Some CSA farms further integrate members into the farm operations by enlisting them into advisory and administrative roles. Through it all, consumers enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they are directly enabling their local farms to survive and with their membership supporting their local economies and community health.

Strengthening relationships between consumers, farmers, and food is just the beginning of how CSA draws communities together. CSA offers individuals a chance to become part of a social network where they can find common interests with their neighbors and support a community cause. Many CSA farms enhance these opportunities by hosting social events, such as monthly potluck dinners, seasonal harvest parties, or lecture and concert series. For farmers and consumers alike, it is a joy to watch their communities unite in celebration of delicious, fresh, and local food!

CSA members also enjoy the practical and educational advantages of partnering with local farms. Through weekly shares, consumers are exposed to produce that they may not find or try on the open market. This diversity of produce tends to provide consumers with a more varied and nutritious diet. Besides learning about cooking and eating new foods, members also enjoy learning more about the processes of growing and raising food on the farm.

Troubleshooting and Ways to Enhance CSA Membership

The continuing growth of CSA in the U.S. and Vermont is evidence that this direct marketing model is compelling for farmers and consumers alike. However, setting up a CSA requires close attention, finesse, and commitment. This close attention and careful planning is necessary because CSA relies on coordination between the farmer and many community members rather than a single wholesale receiver or retail outlet. Because of the numerous considerations required of CSA, it is important to be confident that you are ready to invest in your community before you ask them to invest in you.

The most common difficulties in running a successful CSA are balancing the CSA shares with other markets (e.g. wholesale, weekly farmers’ markets, farm stands, etc) and in maintaining long term memberships. These challenges arise in different shapes and sizes depending on each situation, so it is valuable to find some experienced growers who can give advice regarding the specific variables and events. However, here are some tips on ways to integrate a CSA market into a wider farm business and on maintaining long term membership.

Although it can seem challenging to integrate a CSA program into a diversified farm business, CSA can be an extremely useful marketing and organizational tool. Due to the flexible nature of CSA, a grower can establish terms of membership that work well into the farm’s other market outlets. For instance, the farmer might want to stagger a CSA pick-up day with a weekly farmers’ market day to facilitate a more regular harvest schedule. CSA can also be an important guaranteed supplement to a farm’s income, arriving early in the season when costs are high but production is low.

To gain access to the benefits of CSA it is essential that a farmer commit her/himself to the program before getting started. In designing the program, you should be realistic about what you can provide to your members and what you will need from them in return. Realistically: How many members can you support? How much diversity of product can you grow? How many delivery/pick-up days are manageable? How long will the season last? Etc. With careful planning and a balanced commitment to the sustainability of the farm and your members, you will likely create a successful CSA.

To address the issue of maintaining CSA membership, it is valuable to look at common complaints members have about their CSA shares. We often hear that members get too much of certain types of produce in a given week (e.g. in early June, boxes are full of greens. In late August, there are too many tomatoes.) CSA members also sometimes regret getting produce they have never heard of and do not know what to do with (e.g. kohlrabi, fava beans).

While there are many different solutions to the above complaints, it is possible that the simplest solution and CSA enhancement is to develop greater communications between grower and members. Because you cannot talk to each of your CSA members every single week, some members may not find time to ask their questions and voice their concerns. An easy way to improve communication with your members is to publish a newsletter that is distributed with each share, offering a place to describe what is currently growing on the farm, to provide recipes and eating suggestions for uncommon produce, and to update members on any community/farm news. This type of communication helps to broaden and deepen the connections between farmer, farm, and consumer. Also, do not forget to ask your members to write a season’s-end evaluation of your CSA program; they will want a chance to voice their appreciation and critique, and your CSA program will benefit enormously from their advice.

Because the Internet has become such a central part of everyday life, it is valuable for growers to look at how they can integrate web communications into their CSA. With a website or web log (a.k.a. blog), growers can create a multi-media journal to convey what is happening on the farm. Besides being colorful, paperless, and convenient, blogs are a great tool for CSA because they are interactive. Members can post messages to the grower and to each other at their own convenience. Having a website or web log can help reach out to new customers and be used as an interactive storefront that members can use to customize their shares. See Helpful Links and Resources section for examples of Vermont farms that maintain web pages and web logs.

Whatever the challenges a CSA program faces, communication between farmers and members and among neighboring farmers is the strongest tool for finding solutions.

Developing Different CSA Markets

With the success of CSA Vermont, CSA farms are tapping into increasingly diverse market prospect. Through these new markets CSA farmers are finding more specific and tailored ways to connect with their communities while also extending their production and sales potential. If you are setting up a new CSA farm or interested in expanding your markets, it is a great idea to explore some of these ideas and look into other places that your community may be lacking all the benefits of a direct farm relationship.

Farmshare and Senior Farmshare

NOFA-VT offers CSA growers an opportunity to have a direct impact on the food security of low-income families and seniors through the Farmshare and Senior Farmshare programs. The Farmshare programs help at-risk families and seniors overcome financial hurdles and gain access to fresh, local produce by subsidizing local CSA shares. There are currently about 20 Vermont farms working with these initiatives and developing food security in their communities. See links to Farm Share and Senior Farm Share for more information.


Besides these two established NOFA-VT programs, there are other openings for CSA farms to support low-income and at-risk members of their communities. For example, your CSA can accept 3SquaresVT/SNAP (formerly known as food stamp) payment for shares.  For a complete overview of how to set up 3SquaresVT accessibility, click here or watch a webinar here.

Another way for CSA to expand its impact is to connect with local food banks and anti-hunger programs like day-care centers and after-school programs. Although there is little precedence for these types of CSA partnerships, they could lead to valuable and educational connections between passionate farmers and underserved members of the community.

Winter Shares

Until recently, most CSA farmers focused their CSA production and marketing on the summer season. With increasing consumer interest in eating locally produced foods throughout the seasons, more and more growers are expanding their production of winter-hardy and storage crops for winter CSA shares. Winter shares are especially strong when partnered with products from other farms and food businesses (see multi-farm CSA). While growers benefit from the increased market potential of extended season CSA shares, consumers enjoy the opportunity to maintain year-round connections with their CSA farm. Many growers who operate winter CSA programs also appreciate the year-round employment opportunities for themselves and their trusty workers.

Multi-Farm CSA

Many CSA farms are realizing the enriching potential of cooperating with near-by farms and food businesses to provide members with a greater diversity of farm-fresh and local products. These partnerships not only produce more diverse and enticing shares for the members, but they also create a stronger local food community, which in turn strengthens the wider community as a whole. Internally, CSA programs develop stability through partnerships because a greater diversity of products can help cushion losses from unforeseen crop failures. These partnerships are often made between different kinds of farms (e.g. vegetable farms connecting with orchards, dairies, and meat growers) and can also work well between farms and local food businesses (e.g. farms connecting with local bakeries, wild-edible foragers, cheese makers, etc.)

There are different ways to market these multi-farm CSA packages. Sometimes farmers will incorporate outsourced products (e.g. bread, eggs, and butter) directly into the member share. Other times, these products will be sold as add-on items to the normal share (e.g. members additionally enroll in a weekly share of a loaf of bread and a dozen eggs). Some CSA farms offer a few share options based around different themes of products (e.g. the bread and butter share, the vegan share, and the omnivore share).

While the benefits of connecting with other farms and local businesses are compelling, it is important to remember that these relationships require extra effort and commitment from all of the partners. Unless well managed, these partnerships can be overwhelming for farmers who are already too busy.

Farmers interested in multifarm CSA models should obtain a copy of Local Harvest, A Multifarm CSA Handbook by Jill Perry and Scott Franzblau. This 120-page book was produced with SARE funding. Copies can be downloaded for free or hard copies ordered on the SARE website.

Helpful Resources and Links

NOFA-VT CSA Resources:

CSA Research and Publications:

CSA Support Centers:

Web Page and Web Log Resources:

Examples of Vermont CSA farm websites and web logs:

Free web log host sites:

CSA management software tools:

Farm to Institution

NOFA Vermont's Farm to Institution programs connect people to local producers by bringing local food into hospitals, workplace cafeterias, school and college cafeterias, and other institutional settings.

We are interested in improving the connections between local producers, food hubs, distributors and institutions. We like to think of this as more to the third power: more local food to more people more easily!

Farm to Institution Partners:


In 2014 and 2015, NOFA-VT worked with a variety of partners and institutions to research how institutions incorporate values in their local & regional purchasing programs.  

Available Farm to Institution resources »

For more information, or to talk with someone about your goals and ideas, call Abbie Nelson at NOFA-VT - (802) 434-4122.

Farm to Institution Report

NOFA-VT, as a partner in VT FEED, has conducted a statewide survey and analysis of institutional demand and supply chain infrastructure for local produce and eggs. The results of this research are in the report Scaling Up Vermont’s Local Food Production, Distribution, and Marketing, which will provide producers with quantifiable information for scaling up production for institutions as well as information about the current challenges and opportunities in institutional supply-chain infrastructure.

2012 NOFA Farm to Institution Report

Institutions surveyed for this report included colleges and universities, K-12 schools, hospitals, food shelves, state cafeterias, prisons, nursing homes, and senior meal sites. This information increases our understanding of where in the state this demand is located and clustered, if there are similarities in what institutions want, and what opportunities and challenges institutions face through the current local food supply chains. It provides an important building block towards increasing institutional local food purchasing.

A central goal of this research - and NOFA-VT’s continued farm to institution work - is to improve systems and develop creative partnerships that address the gaps in the current supply chain, and to help farmers build viable institutional markets.

Farm to Institution Resources

Webinar Recording

"Put your money where your values are"
Institutional Procurement Tools for Local and Regional Food Buying
Does your organization or institution need a template to assist with articulating your goals for buying local? Over the past two years, Abbie Nelson and Erin Buckwalter of NOFA-VT have worked with a variety of partners and institutions to research how institutions incorporate values in their local and regional purchasing programs. Through this work, we developed tools that support institutions to define and communicate their food purchasing values, and subsequently develop and market a values-based tiered buying system that includes local and regional foods.

In this webinar recording, Abbie and Erin provide an overview of our research and show the tools that we have created. This webinar will be useful for anyone working with an institution setting goals for buying locally and regionally.

Watch the Webinar on NOFA-VT's YouTube Channel »

Research Papers

How to Develop a Local & Regional Institutional Food Buying Program
This research with David Conner and Florence Becot from UVM was conducted as part of NOFA VT’s Farm to Institution work. It summarizes research about how institutions make purchasing decisions and outlines other national systematic procurement or tiered purchasing models. Read a summary of the research (pdf) »

The Case for Values-Based Tiered Buying Systems for Institutions & Wholesale Buyers
This is a paper in which we outlined the research, our observations, and suggestions for establishing values-based buying systems that institutions could develop to further their local and regional procurement programs. Click here for NOFA-VT's approach to values based tiered buying (pdf) »

Farm to Institution posters

Commitment Posters

We have created the resources below for all institutions (adjusted for all states) that are working to develop their local food buying programs and to market these programs to their customers, administrators, or other staff.  

For questions on how to use these forms or to receive technical assistance to develop your institution’s local food buying program, please contact Abbie Nelson or Erin Buckwalter at 434-4122 or

There are three different posters that institutions can choose from depending on the tiers they want to market. All links are downloadable PDF files. 

The following forms can be printed and written on directly or can be edited using Adobe Acrobat software. 

  1. For local & regional commitments: 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17
  2. For area, state and regional commitments: 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17
  3. For area, Vermont and regional commitments 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17
  4. For schools in Vermont: 8.5 x 11 or 11 x 17
  5. Worksheet: "Creating a Local & Values-Based Purchasing Action Plan" (PDF)

2012 NOFA Farm to Institution ReportDemand & Infrastructure Presentation

NOFA-VT as a partner in the Vermont FEED project did an extensive survey of demand and infrastructure in Vermont's food system in 2012. 

Click here to learn more or download Scaling Up Vermont's Local Food Production, Distribution, and Marketing »

Farmers Markets

Farmers' market stand

For 30 years, we have been working to enhance direct marketing opportunities for farmers, to connect farmers and local consumers, and to maintain the viability of rural communities through farm-based economic development. 

Visit the following links or those on the right to learn more about NOFA Vermont's work with farmers' markets.

Provide Technical Support and Networking Opportunities to Vermont Farmers’ Markets:

Evaluate The Economic and Social Value of Farmers’ Markets in Vermont Through Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis:

Assist with On-Site Market Evaluation, Strategic Planning, and Market Grants:

Expand Direct Market Opportunities to Low-Income Consumers:

Promote Farmers’ Markets in Vermont:

Current funding for NOFA-VT’s Farmers’ Market Work:

Castanea Foundation

USDA Farmers’ Market Promotion Program

USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant

Wholesome Wave Foundation

SARE Sustainable Community Grant

Farmers' Market Resources

Vermont Farmers Markets - PLEASE take the time to fill out the 2014 Vermont Farmers' Market Survey by February 16, 2015.  A print copy of this survey is also available by contacting us at 434-4122.

Market resources are arranged by category:


General Resources

This manual covers a broad range of topics relevant to starting and operating a farmers’ market in Vermont. It is available in print or as a free download.

Do you have questions that you wish you could ask other farmers’ market managers? Maybe you have a tip you would like to share with other markets. Join hundreds of market coordinators from around the country on this listserv to access a superb networking opportunity

The VTFMA-L is a free listserv, which allows subscribers to post messages to one address and then distributes them to all the subscribers, as well as allows users to search on specific market topics.  Visit and sign up in the bottom left corner.

In the winter 2012-2013 session, the VTFMA board created a series of best practices documents to guide the work of Vermont farmers' markets.  These documents are intended as guides, not standards.  The intention of the VTFMA is to promote ideas for marketing, governance, and safety practices that if followed will help your markets thrive. 

Follow this blog for informal news and opinions about public markets from You can either read the blog online or subscribe and have it sent to your email.

NOFA Vermont hosts a Direct Marketing Conference every January to provide a networking and educational opportunity focused on direct to consumer marketing.  The target audience of the conference includes producers who sell through CSA programs, farmers’ markets, and farm stands, and farmers’ market managers and board members. 

The Building Capacity project provides an integrated program of education and technical assistance to build leadership in Vermont’s nonprofits, community boards and committees, and local commissions.  All of these entities do so much of the work that sustains the quality of life for Vermonters.  Our efforts focus on an innovative virtual toolbox of leadership and capacity skills organized around learning modules delivered online.  We provide entry-level skills that can be completed alone or combined into larger, more in-depth programs.


Insurance and Governance Resources

Thank you to Jeff Cole of the Federation of Massachusetts Farmers Markets for preparing and sharing this presentation on creating a safer market environment. Understanding risk management and farmers’ market insurance is essential for all market managers, board members, and vendors. 

This document provides a brief overview of different types of insurance available to farmers’ markets and market vendors. It also has a short list of insurance companies that offer plans for farmers’ markets and vendors in Vermont.

Thanks to Jim LeFevre of LeFevre & Associates for sharing this powerpoint about building the right board for your market. You will find an overview of the stages of board development and ideas to consider when developing your board.

This 'Farmers Market Management Skills' resource produced by the University of California UC Farm Center provides an overiew of different types of boards, the responsibilities of the board of directors, manager's relationship to the board, and strategies for strengthening the board.


 Be aware of the 
responsibilities of the 
board of directors.
 Define your 
relationship to the 
 Choose strategies to 
strengthen your board 
and your relationship 
with your boa


Evaluation and Planning Resources

Prepared by Monika Roth at Cornell Cooperative Extension, this form provides an easy tool for evaluating your market’s accessibility and appearance. This form is included on the Shared Wisdom DVD, which is available at the NOFA-VT bookstore.

Thanks to Rose Wilson of Rosalie J. Wilson Business Development Services for preparing this tool, which is designed to help track and plan markets’ financial progress.

RMA is a three part tool designed to give markets a snapshot look at various market characteristics including customer counts, accessibility/appearance of market, and customer preferences. This link contains examples of RMA reports and RMA questions in addition to overviews of how to conduct an RMA. 

Tracking your market’s cumulative gross sales provides essential information about the success of your market. This tool provides a simple, anonymous method for collecting vendor sales info.


Broadening the Market Community

This brochure outlines ways in which farmers' markets benefit communities, and ways that municipatilies can support and improve their local farmers' markets.

This report provides a look at a number of case studies from markets across the country that have used innovative community connections to strengthen the market.

This tool provides easy to use charts detailing different ways to engage more community stakeholders in your market’s success.

From the Project for Public Spaces, this guide explains how and why to set up and promote SNAP/EBT acceptance at farmers' markets.

Promotion, Marketing, and Special Events:

Thanks to Pam Knights of Pam Knights Communications for sharing this powerpoint about creating and communicating your market’s (or farm business’) brand. You will find an overview of marketing materials plus how to use web tools like Facebook and Google.

Thanks to Nicole Fenton of Flavor Communications for sharing this powerpoint about planning and measuring your marketing. You will find an overview of marketing strategies, tools such as social media, and ways to evaluate your marketing.

Effective signage is one of the MOST important tools to hosting a successful farmers’ market. This tool discusses signage best practices and provides examples of excellent farmers’ market signs from around the state.

The 2009 sign law regarding farmers' markets that are members of the VTFMA passed by the Vermont State Legislature.

This publication from ATTRA-National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service--can help farmers and ranchers take advantage of the Internet both to sell products and to promote their businesses.  It has tips for getting started with such popular platforms as Facebook and Twitter and strategies for using them effectively. It also discusses blogging, website marketing, and other options, and it uses profiles of a number of operations as examples of what can be done.

Hosting a youth vendor day at your market is a great way to engage a new set of customers.  The links above provide information on how to organize a successful youth vendor day and a flyer that you can use as a template to advertise your event!


Vendor Resources

Prepared by Monika Roth at Cornell Cooperative Extension, this DVD is available at the NOFA-VT bookstore, or some portions are available for download at the link above.

A free downloadable issue of the magazine Growing For Market which focuses on improving your market display and sales.

This 1 hour webinar features farmers' market consultant Sue Johnson and representatives from the VT Dept of Health, VT Agency of Agriculture.  It covers basic vending regulations and best practices.  

University of Vermont Extension has launched an on-line price reporting system for direct-marketed vegetables, berries and bedding plants. All commercial growers who sell at direct markets in Vermont are invited to participate.  Growers can enter prices by following this link.

This is a guide to price-setting at farmers' markets and beyond. It was developed by India Farmer at the Rutland Area Farm and Food Link with new farmers in mind, but offers great advice to any producer struggling with how to set prices.

From The Project for Public Spaces, this handbook is available as a PDF download for $15 or in hard copy for $32.25.

Regulations and Laws:
This guide provides an overview of Vermont laws and regulations that all vendors should be familiar with.
This guide provides an overview of Vermont laws and regulations that all vendors should be familiar with.
This guide directs prepared food vendors on safe food handling practices and applicable state laws and regulations.
This guide is relevant for agricultural vendors selling food by weight and has information about meat labelling.
In this webinar, Sue Johnson discusses why risk management is important at farmers' markets, common risky practices, and best practices for addressing these issues; Mike Mitchell of the Agency of Agriculture discusses agricultural regulations including weights and measures, labeling, and temperatures; and Elisabeth Wirsing of the Department of Health discusses food handling and regulations at farmers’ markets. Click here to watch a recording of the webinar.

Organizing & Maintaining Your Farmers Market

A complete guide to farmers' market start-up and maintainance, Organizing and Maintaining Your Farmers' Market is an essential resource for market managers and organizers.

A print copy can be requested from the NOFA Vermont office, or you can download the manual, in whole or by section, below.


Download by section:

  • Cover and Table of Contents
  • Section one: Introduction, Forming a Farmers’ Market Organization, Creating a Legal Market Entity, Business Identification Numbers, & Insurance for Vermont Farmers’ Markets And Their Vendors
  • Section two: Finding a Site, Finding Financial Support for Your Market, Market Managers, & Vendor Recruitment, Vending Spaces and Fees
  • Section three: Promoting Farmers’ Markets, Programs Assisting Low-Income Customers, Vermont Farm To Family Program, Accepting Electronic Cards: EBT, Debit and Credit, & Special Events
  • Section four: Shop Fresh with the Chef, Including Children at Farmers’ Markets, Assessing Your Market’s Success, Vendor Taxes, State Regulations for Farmers Market Vendors, Tips for New Farmers’ Markets, & Links and Further Resources
  • Appendix I: Sample Documents
  • Appendix II: Market Rules that Work
  • Appendix III: State and Federal Regulations
  • Appendix IV: Risk Management and Liability Concerns
  • Appendix V: Tips for Successful Market Set-up and Displays
  • Appendix VI: Farmers' Market Assessment Tools
  • Appendix VII: State Tax Schedule Charts

Rapid Market Assesment

Rapid Market Assessment (RMA) is a simple tool that markets can use to take a snapshot of a given market day.  To be most effective, it is best to plan regular RMAs throughout the market season; however, even just conducting the assessment once will collect a lot of information about customer habits and perceptions, market successes and challenges, and areas of the market that can be improved. 


The full RMA consists of three components, which can be done together or individually:

1. Customer Counts:

All incoming customers are counted for 10 minutes every hour.  This number is then multiplied by 6 (to give an estimate of total customers in an hour) and then by the number of hours of the market (to give an estimate of total customers over the course of the market)

2. Dot Survey:

The Dot Survey is a tactile, interactive way of collecting information about perceptions, preferences, and habits from market customers.  Four survey questions are displayed on large easel paper, and customers are given dot stickers to place on their answers to the questions.  Unlike many surveys, Dot Surveys tend to be very popular, with customers asking, “Can I do the dots?”

3. Market Evaluation:

One of the best parts of the RMA is partnering with another market.  Partner markets can help count customers and make general market observations from and educated but neutral point of view.  Typically, partner markets will exchange 3-5 market representatives (including managers, board members, and vendors) who take time to walk through the market and make observations about customer activity, market infrastructure and flow, vendor booths, management techniques, etc. 


Finally, the information from the Customer Counts, Dot Surveys, and Market Evaluations are compiled into a report that can be shared with the manager, board, and market membership.  The report provides critical information about the current status of the market and opportunities for improving market feel, vendor sales, and customer engagements.



General Rapid Market Assessment Documents:

These documents provide an overview and best practices for conducting RMA. 


How to Gather Market Information 

by Zachary Lyons for Growing for Market (Feb 2007)


A Learning Approach to Strengthening Farmers’ Markets

by Larry Lev and Gary Stephenson for Oregon Small Farms Report (Aug 2002)


Tools for Rapid Market Assessments

By Larry Lev, Linda Brewer, and Gary Stephenson for Oregon Small Farms Report (Dec 2004)

Includes best practices and sample Dot Survey questions


NOFA-VT has other tools and resources (including tally counters) that are available to your market.  For more information about these resources, contact the farmers’ market program at or 802-434-4122.

The Vermont Farmers’ Market Association

VTFMA logoFor more information about the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association, visit

The purpose of the VTFMA is to encourage and establish successful farmers' markets in Vermont that enhance direct marketing opportunities for market vendors while building direct connections between vendors and local consumers.

To fulfill this purpose, the VTFMA will collaborate with other organizations to:


  • Facilitate communication, information sharing and networking among farmers' markets
  • Coordinate projects and provide services of value to all farmers' markets in the state
  • Collect data and conduct research on the status, needs, and benefits of farmers' markets, including the level of outreach to communities to identify how farmers' markets support businesses
  • Promote farmers' markets throughout the state
  • Provide training and technical assistance for market vendors, managers and boards
  • Create a voice for farmers' markets in the state
  • Work to increase access to farmers' markets for low-income customers
  • Develop strategic partnerships with public and private organizations to support farmers' markets
  • Pursue other objectives as determined by the membership
  • Raise funds as necessary to support the VTFMA's activities and programs.




Board Chair: Jon Cohen, Bellows Falls Farmers’ Market

Members at Large:

Alan Lepage, Barre Farmers’ Market

Sherry Maher, Post Oil Solutions Farmers’ Markets

Curtis Sjolander, St. Johnsbury Farmers’ Market

Bushrod Powers, Royalton Farmers’ Market

Kevin Thompson, Capital City Farmers’ Market

Nicole Fenton, Five Corners Farmers' Market

Greg Cox, Rutland Farmers' Market

Kelly King, Jericho Farmers' Market

Steve Hoffman, Norwich Farmers' Market

Jack Stouffer, Derby Farmers' Market

Brooke Decker, West River Farmers' Market

Farmers' Market Funding Opportunities

Funding Opportunities

  • There are currently no open grant programs through NOFA-VT at this time. 


Contact Erin Buckwalter
By email:
By phone: 802-434-4122

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)

Vermont Farmers Market EBT and Debit Cards Project


EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) Cards are debit cards bearing the value of food or cash in federal program benefits. They have taken the place of paper food stamps, generating a necessity for businesses to have a greater technological capacity to accept food stamps, i.e. the need for an electronic card service machine.

Informal points of sale such as direct markets - farmstands and farmers markets - are conveniently accessible, provide nutritious foods and support local economies. However, the majority of these locations are not outfitted with any form of card service machine, whether for EBT, Debit or Credit cards. The use of EBT cards benefits both the consumer and the vendor(s), by allowing consumers receiving federal financial support to purchase from local markets, which expands the customer base for vendors. Additionally, card service machines at farmers market have the capacity to accept debit cards, further increasing the opportunity for sales by eliminating the need for consumers to have cash on-hand (particularly useful for capturing tourist dollars).

States throughout the nation have implemented programs for introducing the use of EBT and Debit cards within farmers markets. The Vermont Farmers Market EBT and Debit Cards Project is a collaborative effort of Hunger Free Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Vermont Agency of Agriculture, and Vermont Department for Children and Families that has helped farmers markets develop EBT and debit card service since 2007.

Opportunities for Vermont

Vermont receives over $11 million per month in food benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP - formerly known as the Food Stamp Program).  In Vermont, the SNAP program is called 3SquaresVT. The Vermont Farmers Market EBT and Debit Cards Project helps recipients of the federal Food Stamp Program a support the state’s agricultural community and to obtain the highest quality of foods.

Increasing 3SquaresVT purchases at farmers markets allows small farmers to capture more of these federal resources. 3SquaresVT recipients also benefit, not only because they can purchase locally grown foods, but also because benefits can be used to purchase vegetable starts, honey, meats, dairy or maple products, and prepared foods such as cider or pickles.

Each Vermont farmers market participating in the Project is equipped with a card service machine that accepts EBT, Debit and/or Credit. This increases the opportunity for fresh produce and other local products to be purchased by limited-income Vermonters and for markets to improve overall sales from an improved consumer base. This increase in potential consumers promotes the success of the market, while improving the incomes of market vendors. Overall, the expected result of EBT and Debit availability at Vermont’s farmers markets is a growth of local economy and an option for low-income individuals and families to shop with their neighboring farmers rather than national retail chains.

What Markets Participate?

For a complete list of participating farmers' markets, farmstands, CSA programs, and other retail stores, please visit

Project Partners

This project is made possible with the help and cooperation of our project partners, listed below.

Daniel McDevitt - EBT Director, Vermont Department for Children and, (802) 769-6096

Mary Carlson- Food and Nutrition Program Coordinator, Vermont Department for Children and Families, (802) 769-6264

Drake Turner - Adult Nutrition Initiatives Manager, Hunger Free VT, (802) 865-0255

Abbey Willard- Local Foods Administrator, Vermont Agency of, (802) 272-2885

Over half of Vermont Farmers' Markets accept EBT and Debit Cards!

For consumers looking to find out more about an EBT market near you, please dial 2-1-1 or visit

For EBT markets seeking resources, please contact Erin Buckwalter with questions at, 802-434-4122.  For information on Crop Cash, please contact Mike Good at, 802-434-4122.

Resources for EBT and Debit Cards at Markets: 

EBT and Incentive Program Webinar
On May 7, 2014, we recorded a webinar with updates for VT EBT Farmers' Markets and the Harvest Health Coupon program for the 2014 season.  Although the information on the Health Health Coupon Program is no longer relevant, we discussed the Outreach Toolkit (2014) developed by Hunger Free Vermont and how markets can use it to promote EBT at their market.  To watch the webinar, click here.

Vendor and Market Training Materials:

Budget Tracking Materials:

Double Value Coupon Incentive Program

Crop Cash

  • Looking for information on Crop Cash? Click HERE

Promotional Materials:


Wooden Tokens

  • Most VT markets get wooden tokens from Maple Landmark in Middlebury.  If you participate in the Vermont Farmers' Market EBT and Debit Cards Grant, they have your artwork on file.
EBT/Debit Machine
  • Most VT markets use Efunds/FIS to process their wireless transactions.  If you have a question about your machine's functionality, call: 1800-558-6980 x3422.

Outreach Materials:

Resource Guides:
  • 2013 Market Currency Feasibilty Report:  This study funded by a Specialty Crop Block Grant and completed by Independent Farmers Market Researcher Darlene Wolnik studied both the feasibility of merging various food benefit programs and incentive coupons with the card technology systems that currently allow farmers markets to accept credit, debit and EBT cards, and feasibility of adopting a different technology option for processing EBT at Vermont farmers markets.
  • SNAP/EBT at Your Farmers Market: Seven Steps to Success: This guide, from the Project for Public Spaces, explains why and how to set up and support EBT acceptance at your farmers' market.
  • SNAP - Putting Healthy Food Within Reach: This guide has been prepared by the USDA - FNS to help improve 3SquaresVT/SNAP participation.  It has excellent guidance around proven language and outreach strategies.
  • Real Food Real Choice: This guide from Community Food Security Coaltion and Farmers Market Coalition explores policy recommendations to strengthen EBT sales at farmers' markets.

Celebrate National Farmers' Market Week

National Farmers' Market Week
August 3-9, 2014

National Farmers' Market Week Photo Contest posterIt's time... for the Farmers' Market Photo Contest! 

In celebration of National Farmers' Market Week we invite you to show us why you love the farmers and vendors that make your market great. Take a farmers' market selfie - a picture with a farmer, your favorite produce, eating the best baked goods you’re ever tasted, or having a good time at the market’s entertainment. Be creative and silly. 

Enter the contest by uploading your photo on the Vermont Farmers’ Market Association Facebook page. Tag your photo with the name of the market and #VTmarketselfie. The photo with the most "likes" wins a farmers' market shopping spree!

For full contest rules and prize details, click here.

National Farmers’ Market Week Photo Challenge Official Rules


Challenge: Take a selfie at your favorite farmers’ market that shows what you like best about the market. Photos should be creative and fun to encourage viewers to support farmers throughout the state of Vermont. Contest winners will be determined by the photos with the most “likes” on Facebook, so encourage your friends to like the VTFMA’s Facebook page and like your photo.


  • We encourage photo creativity.
  • Photos must be appropriate for all ages.
  • Participation is open to everyone.
  • Photos must feature a Vermont farmers’ market.
  • You may enter up to 3 photos in the contest.
  • Please include a caption stating which farmers’ market the photo was taken at and the hashtag #VTmarketselfie
  • Photos must be entered between 9am July 21, 2014 and 5pm August 2, 2014.
  • Photo voting ends at 5pm on August 9, 2014.
  • By submitting a photo to this challenge, you agree to share rights to the photo with NOFA-VT and VTFMA. NOFA-VT and VTFMA will retain the right to use the photo in their promotions of farmers’ markets.

Prize Details

Contest winners will be posted on the VTFMA Facebook page and notified individually through Facebook by August 9, 2014.  Prizes must be claimed by August 31, 2014.

Grand Prize:

  • $100.00 gift certificate to farmers' market of choice and $100 advertising stipend* to the farmers’ market featured in the photo

2nd place:

  • $50.00 gift certificate to market of choice

3rd place:

  • $25.00 gift certificate to market of choice

*Advertising must be complete by October 31, 2014.  The money must be requested and receipts submitted by November 15, 2014.

Farmers' Market Data and Research

Here you can view our annual Farmer's market report and conclusions, as well as special projects related to farmers' markets, including the results of the 2010 Vermonters poll and a pricing study that NOFA Vermont is conducting.

Farmers' Market Annual Reports

NOFA Vermont administers an annual survey collecting information from farmers' markets across Vermont. 

2013 Report

2012 Report

2011 Report

2010 Report

Report Summaries 2000-2009

 Year  Number of Markets
2012 58 organizations, 64 sites
2011 57 organizations, 60 sites*
2010             87
 2009            73
 2008            64


 2006            56
 2005            55
 2004            51
 2003            46
 2002            45
 2001            44
 2000            37
 1996            27
 1995            27
 1994            24


*In 2011, the VTFMA started a formalized membership and the survey was targeted towards the VTFMA membership.  The 2011 and 2012 number reflect just markets that are members of the VTFMA.

Income from markets

In 2012, 41 of the 48 reporting markets collected gross receipt data of their vendors. The totals reported were divided into 3 major categories: agricultural sales, food sales, and crafts. The total reported gross sales amount for these 41 markets was $8,309,040.32 (up from $5,340,396.13 reported in 2011 from 54 markets). Agricultural products accounted for $4,204,475.59, prepared foods $2,417,671.36, and crafts and other services $1,049,896.97. Some of the reporting markets did not break down their total sales into any categories, which accounts for the discrepancy of these subtotals not equaling the total amount reported. Seventy-eight percent (28 out of 36 respondents) reported that their agricultural sales increased over the past year. Eighty percent (24 out of 30 respondents) saw an increase in craft sales. Of the markets that reported, 74% said their gross sales increased, 21% said their sales decreased, and 5% said they remained about the same compared to the previous year.

Most markets determined their gross sales using an anonymous reporting form for each vendor. The form has the date and an area to write in a dollar amount for agricultural products, prepared food, and craft sales sold during the market. The form is either returned at the end of the market or at the following market. 


Farmers’ Market Research Projects and Special Reports

2010 Vermonter Poll:

661 Vermonters responded to the Vermonter Poll, a phone survey conducted annually by Center for Rural Studies at University of Vermont. The following three questions pertaining to Vermont farmers’ markets were part of the poll:

1) In 2009, how many times did you visit a farmers’ market? (The average number was 15)

2) Were there any products that you couldn’t find when you visited these farmers markets? If so, what were these products? (75% of respondents said "no")

3) When you see a food product labeled as “local,” do you assume that it’s organic? (84% said "no")

To view the methods and full results, click here.


2010 Vermont Farmers’ Market Price Comparison Study:

During the summer months of 2010, NOFA-VT is conducting a price comparison study at 12 participating farmers’ markets in Vermont.  The study will last 2-3 months and compare farmers’ market prices of 12 items (mostly produce) with prices at surrounding grocery stores. Prices will be gathered 3 times a month. For the full report, click here.

The History of Farmers' Markets in Vermont

Farmers' markets started being organized in Vermont in the 1970s. They began in the larger cities and towns, and by 1986 had spread throughout the state. When NOFA-VT first formally surveyed farmers' markets in 1986, 19 were active. Their numbers have been rising steadily since, and the 2008 survey reported a total of 64 markets.

The seeds of the Vermont Federation of Farmers' Markets (VFFM) started in 1980 when a group of marketers met in Randolph to share ideas and technical support. The VFFM was incorporated in 1982 to"promote the marketing of Vermont products and to promote farmers' markets." The VFFM provided information and assistance to markets and individual vendors on the "nuts and bolts of organizing and running markets." In addition, market liability insurance was provided through the organization. Jay and Janet Bailey of Brattleboro provided important leadership of the VFFM until 1995 when Joe Newell was elected as President. The Vermont Federation of Farmers' Markets disbanded in 1998 due to a lack of coordinated leadership. 

In 2000, the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Market (VAAFM) and NOFA-VT partnered to administer mini-grants. Funded by the VAAFM, these grants were awarded by NOFA-VT from 2001-2004. As part of the evaluation of the mini-grant program, we asked the farmers what role NOFA-VT could play to support the development of farmers' markets in Vermont. A majority of those responding asked for NOFA-VT to reinstitute a network of farmers' markets in Vermont, and to reexamine the role of a Vermont Farmers' Market Association. With that call, we started holding networking meetings of farmers who direct market (farmers' markets, farm stands and Community Supported Agriculture) in 2003.

In the winter of 2004-2005 NOFA-VT held regional meetings in Norwich, Hardwick, Manchester and Bristol for market managers and board officers to ask, "What steps need to be taken to elevate farmers' markets in Vermont, and what role could an Association take to get us there?" Based on the input from those regional meetings, a 2005 Farmers' Market Work Plan was drafted and presented at a statewide Vermont Farmers' Market Forum in the end of January, 2005. This work plan is still being used to direct NOFA-VT's work to support farmers' markets in Vermont.

In 2006, NOFA-VT contracted with the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) to meet with representatives from farmers' markets (managers, vendors, board members) and market supporters (non-profits, state agency representatives, researchers, educators) to design an organizational framework for a Vermont Farmers' Market Association (VFMA) and draft by-laws. In 2007, the markets in Vermont were asked to formally vote to create an Association, the first meeting of which was held in January 2008. At this meeting, the VFMA voted in a 13 member Board of Directors and ratified the organization's purpose. In February the Board of Directors held their first meeting, which established project priorities, committees and board officers. The VFMA Board of Directors elected to continue to operate under the umbrella of NOFA-VT, with NOFA-VT providing fiscal sponsorship, until the VFMA becomes an autonomous organization.

Useful Links

Farm to Plate Stragetic Plan

The Farm to Plate (F2P) Initiative, approved at the end of the 2009 Vermont legislative session, directed the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund, in consultation with the Sustainable Agriculture Council and other stakeholders, to develop a 10-year strategic plan to strengthen Vermont’s food system.


This publication reports on the history of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in the U.S. and discusses the various models that have emerged.

Farm to College

This site presents information about farm-to-college programs in the U.S. and Canada collected by the Community Food Security Coalition.

Farm to Hospital

Introduces interested farmers and hospital food service departments to the ins and outs of developing partnerships between hospitals and local farms.

Farmers' Market Coalition

Dedicated to providing resources to farmers markets nationwide, The Farmers Market Coalition serves a rapidly growing industry with information and representation at state and federal levels. We help to build networks, link peers and connect farmers markets old and new with tools and resources for success.

Online Markets

These websites provide ways to list and market your farm and products online.

Robyn Van En Center for CSA Resources

Small Farm Program: Farmers Markets

The Small Farm Program has several publications related to farmers' markets--written for both farmers and market managers.


Webpage on Community Supported Agriculture

Vermont FEED

The FEED project works with school kitchen managers to integrate fresh, local foods into lunch programs, and to increase students' acceptance of fresh vegetables via a series of classroom taste tests and nutrition education lessons.

Vermont Fresh Network

The Vermont Fresh Network builds innovative partnerships among farmers, chefs and consumers to strengthen Vermont's agriculture.