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In the planning phase of your garden market address the following project elements:

Note: Before investing time and resources in planning, be sure to get approval for your garden market from the appropriate management in your organization.

Staff and Budget

A dedicated staff is a key success factor for developing, implementing, evaluating, and managing your garden market project, especially at the outset. Carefully consider the time commitment and be realistic about the staffing resources available. This is another phase in which employee involvement can ensure success. Suggestions for staffing your garden market

  • Establish a garden market committee or utilize an existing wellness committee to steer the effort.
  • Include administrative, communication, legal, and marketing/promotions representatives on the committee.
  • Ask for volunteers. Your organization probably has employees interested in helping with the garden market.

Developing a budget is also important. Your organization’s main costs will probably be marketing materials and staff time because the vendor’s costs are usually covered by revenue from produce sales.


Security issues can sometimes be a challenge to a garden market because the vendor brings a truck with produce to the work place. Involve your security department early in the process to make sure you follow all security procedures. The security department may have procedures for cafeteria and mailroom delivery trucks that can be applied to the garden market vendor’s truck as well. The security department can also recommend garden market locations that will be secure enough for cash transactions.


As in many retail situations, a key to success for a garden market is location, location, location! If you choose a parking lot, consider that 5 to 10 spaces may be required for the vendor’s truck and produce stands. The following suggestions can help you identify a successful location:

  • people at the garden marketWork with the security and property management groups to identify several viable locations.
  • Evaluate each location for attractiveness, traffic safety, ease of access, and proximity to the greatest number of people.
  • For a parking lot location, weigh the costs and benefits of using parking spaces, especially if parking is limited.
  • Determine if the vendor needs access to electricity.
  • Identify a back-up location in case your original location becomes unavailable.

Legal and Policy Compliance

Early in the planning process, consult with your legal department regarding legal and policy requirements for your garden market. Some legal issues to consider include the following:

  • A legal contractual agreement should be executed between your company and the vendor. For an example of an agreement, see the Vendor Agreement [PDF-150k].
  • If required, follow a competitive bidding process to select a vendor.
  • Policies or contracts may exist regarding who has the legal or contractual right to sell food on your property. For example, federal agencies must comply with the Randolph-Sheppard Act.
  • County or local ordinances may require permits or zoning approval for market operation. (This consideration may not be an issue on federally-owned property, but check with your legal department.)
  • Verify that liability insurance policies provide adequate coverage for your organization and for the vendor.
  • Verify that the vendor has the required business licenses and liability insurance.

Selecting a Vendor

When selecting a garden market vendor, first consult with your purchasing, security, and legal departments to determine if there are policies or procedures for choosing a vendor. Review the topic that applies to the type of organization in which you work:

Selecting a Vendor in Federal or State Agencies

Federal and state agencies must comply with the Randolph-Sheppard Act, which provides employment opportunities for the sight-impaired, when selecting vendors for concession stands, vending machines, cafeterias, and snack bars. As a first step to your vendor selection process, approach the blind cooperative member at your agency to assess their interest in becoming the Garden Market vendor. If the member chooses not to participate, ask them to sign an agreement stating such. For an example of such an agreement see the Letter of Agreement with Cooperative Service for the Blind [PDF-57k].

As a next step, federal agencies may contact the Department of Defense (DoD) Fresh Program regional office for an approved list of vendors who have contracted with DoD. Produce vendors on the DoD-approved list have contracted with DoD through the required competitive bidding process, have had a security background check, and are licensed to sell products on Federal property. Confirm with your procurement office that this will satisfy requirements of the Federal Acquisitions Regulations (FAR). If so, selecting a DoD vendor can save a federal agency time due to competitive bidding and other procurement regulations.

The Produce Business Unit, which manages the DoD Fresh Program, is the worldwide Provider of Choice for fresh fruits and vegetables to America’s Military Services (Active and Reserve), the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), the National School Lunch Program and Indian Reservations in partnership with the USDA, and other Federal Civilian Agencies. The Produce Business Unit has offices located throughout the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Europe, and the Pacific Ocean that purchase produce through terminal markets, field growing areas, and from vendors throughout the country. Note: neither DoD Fresh nor CDC can guarantee lowest pricing or produce quality and cannot assume any liability for these or any vendor disagreements.

For a list of DoD Fresh regional offices, see Defense Subsistence Office (DSO). Select the appropriate DoD Fresh representative for your geographic area. When you contact them, provide the name of your agency and request assistance with identifying approved vendors who meet your criteria. Be aware that the DoD vendor list contains primarily wholesale rather than retail vendors, so make it clear to the representative that you are interested in a produce vendor who is willing to sell directly to your employees.

If DoD Fresh does not have an appropriate garden market vendor, check with the following:

  • Your agency’s procurement office
  • State agricultural office
  • Local county extension office (See the local phone book.)

Selecting a Vendor in Non-Governmental Agencies

If you’re setting up a garden market for a non-governmental agency, you can use the following resources for finding a produce vendor:

  • State agricultural office
  • Local county extension office (See the local phone book.)
  • Employee recommendations of local vendors who meet your criteria
    Note: This last option is not available if you are setting up a garden market for a federal agency.

Establishing Food and Vendor Criteria

After identifying potential vendors and verifying that all vendor-selection polices are being followed, use your program goals and objectives to establish your final food and vendor criteria.

people at the garden marketSpecifying criteria for food items:

  • Do you want fresh produce only, or are processed/sweetened items acceptable, such as dried fruit, pies, and jams?
  • Do you want organic produce?
  • Do you want nuts, legumes, honey, and/or herbs?

Specifying the business practices you want the vendor to follow:

  • Can the vendor provide the food items within your program criteria?
  • Which days and times is the vendor available?
  • Does the vendor have a reputation for good customer service? (For example: Is the vendor personable? Does the vendor return calls promptly?)
  • Does the vendor carry the appropriate liability insurance?
  • Does the vendor have the appropriate business license and is it current?

Next, use your food and vendor criteria to create a Vendor Interview Outline [PDF-61k] to standardize the interview process. When you have made the final decision on which vendor to select, ask the vendor to sign a contractual Vendor Agreement [PDF-150k] Ask your company’s legal counsel to assist in this step.

Next Steps

After you have competed the planning phase, your next step is to develop a promotion plan for the market. Remember that the first day of your market will probably provide a large amount of information that can help you prepare for its ongoing operation.

Garden Market Example Tools

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