The Farmer’s Market can be a great venue for growers, gardeners and craft makers, but is it a venue that will work for you? It may seem easy to imagine yourself sitting comfortably at a stall, touting and selling your wares, but there is a lot of forethought and planning involved before you can be completely sure that this is a viable sales channel for you. As much as Farmer’s Markets are associated with lazy summer afternoons, they are anything but lazy for the people running the stalls. After all, it is still a business, and it helps to think of it that way from the beginning.
Before you start any kind of business venture, begin by doing some research and conducting trial runs. Make sure you have all of your bases covered before diving headlong into an investment and a commitment that may not even be right for you. Before you even start making money, the best way to maximize your sales is to make sure that you start yourself off right.
Before doing anything, it helps to actually visit the Farmer’s Market, and pay attention to what you see. This leg of the project should take place about a year before you plan on setting up shop. You can peruse the one you normally visit, but it may also help to visit other ones nearby, preferably within a reasonable driving distance. Gathering a variety of experiences from different markets can help bolster your initial investigation, and hey, you may even find a Farmer’s Market that you prefer over the others. When going to these markets, make sure to visit on different days and at different times so you can get an idea of the traffic flow and the feel of the place. Each Farmer’s Market has its own heartbeat, like any other kind of community-run establishment. Making sure you visit at different times and days ensures that you will get an idea of what busy times are like, which stalls are the most popular and when, and what the overall culture of the Farmer’s Market is. Some markets tend to focus on produce and baked goods whereas others include crafts, music and food trucks.
You may even want to go for a trial run during this period, even if it seems like it is still a season too early. If you already have good quality crops at home, even if it is not of the same volume you imagine yourself selling in the future, it can provide you with an excellent opportunity to gain some experience. Share a tent with another vendor and see if you even like selling at the market before signing any agreements or making any large investments. While you are figuring out how well you fare at the Farmer’s Market, ask the other vendors about their sales, schedules and if they have any advice. This can help you get a better idea of everything involved in setting up shop. As a shopper, you arrive and leave the market as you please, but the vendors need to wake up, pack up their vans and set up, sometimes well before sunrise. Since it largely depends on what you are planning to sell, it helps to ask vendors selling items similar to the ones that you wish to sell for advice.
Speaking of similar vendors: is there a market for your product? Taking note of what products are already widely sold and at what prices at the market can be crucial. Selling something that another, already established vendor already has success selling can put you out of business fast, and it also may not help when it comes to making friends with other vendors. It helps to specialize in a specific item or crop that may not be sold in large quantities, or is something that you simply excel at growing really well. Packaging and presenting your product can be key, as well. If you have a cute packaging idea, a funny slogan or name, or selling recipes alongside appropriate produce, then you will have a much better chance of finding your niche market.
Once you have all of that down and you are absolutely sure you want to sell at the Farmer’s Market, research the rules and regulations of the market you want to sell at, look at their rates and stipulations, and also pay attention to your state’s laws as well. You will need to register yourself as a business so it helps to do everything legitimately and ahead of time before the next Farmer’s Market season picks up. This should all occur during or towards the end of the current season. This will give you plenty of time to begin growing your crops, coming up with a marketing plan, and practicing setting up shop.
The faster and more efficiently you can set up your shop, the better. There are a lot of things to consider and a lot of things to prepare for. Being ill-equipped can cost you a lot of money, and it may even cost you your business. It also helps to start out small, as well. Don’t take on too much work, especially since you are not yet sure what you can handle. Having more to sell will also mean requiring more setup time before the market even opens.
Vendors who are not prepared for weather changes or are not equipped to handle their wares will not last. Make sure that you have a big enough tent with the proper weights to keep it down in case of wind or rain. If your produce needs to be kept cool, have all of the equipment you will need to ensure their freshness throughout the day. Always have enough bills and coins to make change, which is absolutely essential, and have a safe place to keep your earnings where you can keep track of it safely. And having a nice tent and tablecloth design will go a long way as well – one that is presentable and clean is great, but if you can find a way to bring in a color scheme that matches or complements your products will be even better.
And remember, like any other career or business, networking can be crucial. Knowing other vendors can be extremely helpful when starting out and your relationships with them will only grow along with your business. A Farmer’s Market is a great way to get your produce or products out there, but it is also a community. By selling your wares, you are contributing to that community, so connect with your fellow vendors and with your customers and watch your business blossom.