Organizing a Grand Opening Celebration

As the opening day for your farmers’ market approaches, it is time to start making plans for your grand opening celebration. This is your opportunity to make a great first impression upon your customers and potential customers. When planning your grand opening, you will want to focus on the farmers and vendors, on the market site, on the customers, and on special events to mark the day.

Farmers and Vendors at the Grand Opening

This is the day when your plan for the farmers’ market will be put to the test for the first time. When designing your farmers’ market you identified where farmers and other vendors would set up and park. Create a diagram showing this information and relevant landmarks at the site that help orient your team and the farmers and vendors to where they should set up. Have copies for all of your staff and volunteers who are present to help facilitate the market setup.

It is a best practice to make reminder calls to your farmers and vendors a few days before the grand opening to remind them of the market day and the time they need to arrive. You may want to fax or mail them a map to your location to help them make it on time.

The Market Site on Opening Day

Dressing up the farmers’ market site on grand opening day is a great way to let the community know that something special is happening. Common additions on opening day include colorful helium balloons and streamers hung from each of the tents in the farmers’ market. These help to create a sense of motion and excitement in the market.

On the day of your grand opening every customer will be there for the first time so it is important to give them information that encourages them to become repeat customers. Hang posters throughout the farmers’ market that include all of the essential information about the farmers’ market: opening and closing times, the frequency of the farmers’ market such as whether it operates weekly or every other week, and the seasonal dates of the market. You may also want to print postcard-sized versions of the poster that customers can take with them.

Recognizing Customers on Opening Day

You may also want to think about ways to show your appreciation to your customers for coming out to the market. Promotions such as free reusable shopping bags can engender goodwill among customers and serve as ongoing reminders of the farmers’ market. To control costs you can offer them to the first 25 customers or whatever number your budget will support.

You can also use special offers to encourage your customers to try products from more than one farmer or producer. For example, you could offer free strawberries to customers who spend $10 or more on vegetables, or a free bouquet of flowers to customers who buy five or more pounds of fruit.

Special Events on Opening Day

On grand opening day you could follow a traditional route, like that typically used by chambers of commerce and have a ribbon cutting, mimic sports teams by throwing out the first pitch (or peach), or create a unique celebration that reflects your community, perhaps incorporating music or dance celebrating the local culture.

If you choose to do a ribbon cutting ceremony you don’t need a pair of giant scissors. You can simply bring multiple pairs of common scissors and put them in the hands of special guests, farmers, or ordinary customers. You can find wide ribbons at arts and crafts stores. The advantage of a ribbon cutting ceremony is its tradition and easy visuals which are instantly recognizable as marking the beginning of something new.

Regardless of what special event you use to generate excitement and mark the grand opening, you should look at the grand opening as an opportunity to form the market in the minds of your customers, recognize special guests and local leaders who helped make the market possible, and to generate publicity. Short speeches that thank those who worked to create the market and that encourage shoppers to return throughout the season are appropriate for the occasion. Encourage speakers to keep their comments brief so the ceremony does not impede upon opportunities for customers to shop.

Remember to respect local rules and ordinances concerning amplified sound for the speeches or music or dance performances. You don’t want to start off the season with a citation.

Hopefully opening day will be a huge success with lots of customers and lots of happy farmers and vendors who the leave the farmers’ market optimistic that the market will be a good outlet for their products.

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