Case Studies
Vancouver Farmers Market

Vancouver, WA

build community, 
improve environment, 
reduce health disparities, 
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Farmers Market, Source: MIG

The Vancouver Farmers Market developed as part of a downtown revitalization effort centered around Esther Short Park. This revitalization effort has attracted millions of dollars of reinvestment in Downtown Vancouver. The market is Southwest Washington’s #1 visitor attraction and home to over 250 vendors. The market is located on the west side of Esther Short Park at Sixth and Esther streets.

The outdoor market operates from March to October on Saturday and Sunday. A unique feature is that the market also has indoor space that makes it suitable for year-round sales. A “garage door”-type building front allows the market to open to and flow onto the street during the warmer seasons. The indoor space is part of a mixed use development that includes low income apartments above, increasing these residents’ access to healthy, local foods.

Farmers Market, Source: MIG

The market is pet-friendly and offers fresh and local agriculture products, quality prepared foods, and original fine artisan products. Music, weekly food-related programs, and play and relaxation in the adjacent park make this market a “can’t be missed” attraction that builds community.

The Market has expanded to a second site at a local elementary school on the eastside of Vancouver. A holiday market is also offered. Governed by a board of directors, the market currently has five paid staff which are supplemented by many community volunteers. The market uses an eNewsletter to publicize events, and provides information about farmers and artisans on its website.

Farmers Market, Source: MIG

In 2011, the Vancouver Farmers Market plans to offer a total of $5,000 in scholarship funding to postsecondary students for the September 2011-June 2012 academic year. This funding is intended to support the education of students wishing to specialize in agriculture, agricultural marketing, and related topics, and to encourage small-scale farming in the Pacific Northwest and the sale of farm products.

Lessons Learned
Potential Benefits:

  • Provide a venue for farmers and other vendors to sell their products directly to consumers.
  • Increase entertainment opportunities and social cohesion in neighborhoods.
  • Revitalize neighborhoods by encouraging economic activity.
  • Increase the availability of nutritious foods.
  • Educate consumers about regional sustainable agriculture.

Farmers Market, Source: MIG

Potential Issues and Challenges:

  • Sustainable Vision & Management Structure: A clear vision and management structure is required to establish and regularly maintain a farmer market. This has involved the following:
    • Have adequate rules and regulations for the types of vendors who will be allowed to participate in the market.
    • Require a well-organized management structure to maintain quality and ensure consumer safety.
    • Ensure the market is profitable in order for farmers to participate.
  • Local Compliance: Vendors must comply with local licensing and health requirements and carry insurance.
  • Coordinate with Local Businesses: Vancouver Farmers Market Staff coordinate with local neighboring businesses about a wide range of issues that range from unfair competition or traffic congestion.
  • Size and Location: The location of the farmers market took into account the following:
    • Ester Park is a visible and identifiable, convenient, easy to find, accessible by transit, reliable, clean and attractive.
    • Well accessed by nearby major roadways
    • Convenient access for farmers’ vehicles
    • Shade and protection from severe weather (natural or manmade).
    • Overall size easily allows for typical tent size which is standard 10x10 pop up with 25’ aisle (list from Lakins, 2007).
  • Complimentary Amenities: For the farmer’s market to be successful, a number of complimentary amenities need to be accommodated. These include:
    • Solid waste disposal
    • Restrooms for the public
    • Sufficient seating


Photo Sources

MIG, Inc.