Appendix C: Farmers’ Market Safety

The safety of your staff, volunteers, farmers, vendors and customers should always be a top concern for you. Many of the safety requirements for farmers’ markets are common sense and not unlike any workplace safety rules: look out for trip hazards and low hanging obstructions, keep electrical cords away from walkways and wet areas, etc.

One of the more unique safety requirements for farmers’ markets is the presence of pop-up tents. Your local fire marshal or fire department may have requirements for the fire resistance of the fabric canopies that can be uses, as well as restrictions on how many tents can be adjacent to one another before there must be a break. Talk to your local fire inspectors to learn how they interpret state laws concerning tent structures.

It is equally important to secure your tents well! Be prepared for the wind to pick up the tents in your market. It is extremely important to attach weights to your tents such that they will not lift up, or flip over. Here are some ways of doing so; if you are able, employing one of these techniques on each side will be most safe.


Above: A cinder block and bungees create a sturdy weight.


Above: Fill bags with sand for an inexpensive weight.


Above: Once you line up your tents, you can bungee the adjacent legs together for added stability.


Above: Vehicles parked behind tents provide great shelter and foundation to bungee to.

 Additional safety tips:

  • Double check your tables!
    • As farmers’ markets are “pop-ups”, most people tend to use portable tables. Be aware that most tables have some sort of locking mechanism that should be employed so that the table won’t buckle.
    • Regardless of the lock being used, use your common sense about how much weight a table should hold—no one enjoys the aftermath of a table full of fruit buckling and pushing its contents onto the asphalt.
  • Watch your hands and fingers!
    • It can be easy to hurt yourself putting up a tent, table, or moving bevy boxes of produce, especially why you’re in a hurry. Be careful and always have a first aid kit nearby.
  • Watch your valuables.
    • Regardless of the character of the neighborhood, you’ll want to encourage producers and customers alike to pay attention to where they set down money or keys.
  • Check for tripping hazards
    • Pay attention to the flow of pedestrians, particularly if there are curbs, sprinklers, or other impediments that might not be noticed by someone excited to pick out their produce. You can work with farmers to reconfigure how their tables are set up to lessen these accidents, and/or place cones to warn shoppers.
  • Maintain high vehicle safety standards
    • Provide firm rules about vehicles entering and exiting the market to your producers, and create an obvious demarcation to prevent customers from accidentally driving into the market.
    • Monitor shopper safety as vehicles are entering and exiting the market well, and work with your producers so that they learn to be your extra eyes in the market, too.
    • Enforce very slow speed limits as producers move vehicles in and around the farmers’ market to help ensure they don’t accidentally clip someone or something in the market.
  • Potentially hazardous produce
    • While whole, uncut fruits and vegetables are generally safe products, be aware that there are products that can be potentially hazardous, for example:
      • Some plants may have certain parts that are poisonous, while other parts of them are not. (e.g. rhubarb leaves are poisonous, while the stems are edible)
      • Produce that contains a lot of water is potentially hazardous once cut open. This means that, while a customer may prefer to buy a half watermelon or kabocha squash, it is a risk to allow this practice to occur. While you may see this happen at other outdoor markets, note that an inspector will likely issue you and the farmer citations up for participating in this practice.



A Guide to Opening Small Farmers' Markets in San Jose, California