How to Sell at a Farmers Market: A Beginner’s Guide
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Perhaps you love shopping at farmers markets and are now at the point where you want to know how to sell at a farmers market, too. The process is not always quick, but it’s generally pretty straightforward, provided you get the right information. Here’s how to begin.
Decide What You Want to Sell
Being a farmers market vendor doesn’t necessarily mean living on a farm and overseeing the daily care of cows and hens. Today’s local markets are incredibly diverse, giving people options for buying and selling everything from candles to candies. Spend some time thinking about what you’re best suited to offer. Do people regularly compliment your raspberry jam or say they love your cute crocheted items? The things others comment about most may give clues about what to sell.
It’s also a good idea to focus on your strengths. If you have a green thumb, people may love to buy your freshly grown herbs or other plants. If you love baking, why not turn that pastime into an income source? Knowing how to sell at a farmers market means understanding what’s easiest and most enjoyable for you to produce.
However, if you need additional guidance, spend time visiting the farmers market for several weeks before filling out a vendor application. What products seem to attract the most interest from the public? Do you notice an abundance of certain types of items? If so, that could make it hard to compete if you sell similar things.
Learn How to Sell at a Farmers Market in Your Area
Farmers markets have various requirements for potential vendors. Sometimes, you just have to pay a fee and give a brief description of the proposed items at your stall. In other cases, the farmers market organizers will ask you to submit a sample of what you’d like to sell. They’ll then judge it to see if the product is worth offering there.
You also may need to complete specific types of training before selling certain items, depending on the guidelines in your state. For example, Wisconsin mandates that farmers market vendors get licenses before selling candies, eggs, and refrigerated foods. However, items including home-baked goods, tomato sauce, and raw fruits and vegetables do not need such permissions.
In Iowa, people with appropriate backgrounds offer health and safety courses to farmers market vendors and others who want to sell things they’ve made at home. Their thought process is that when you know what to do to stay safe, you can steer clear of situations that may cause you to unwittingly sell unsafe foods.
Consider asking people with goods similar to yours how to sell at a farmers market while fulfilling all the requirements. However, the best approach is to contact your local authorities to get all the specifics. Explain that you’re a potential farmers market vendor and want to do everything correctly to avoid complications.
Find Your Unique Selling Proposition
A unique selling proposition (USP) is the aspect that sets your product or farmers market stall apart from competitors. Maybe you weave things made from your own sheep’s wool. Perhaps you make muffins from a family recipe passed down through three generations.
Some experts recommend finding your USP by thinking about how your product could improve someone’s life. It’s also important to take the time to find out what your customers actually want and not what you merely think they’ll buy.
Maybe friends tell you that the carrots from your garden are more flavorful than anything they can find at the supermarket. Perhaps you let a colleague try your homemade laundry detergent and they told you it got rid of stains better than anything they’d ever tried. Think about what your products could offer people, and that’ll go a long way in helping you find the USP.
Once you do, bear in mind that your signage, marketing materials and other assets should ideally highlight the USP. Sometimes, people are just happy to find locally produced items. Consumers have gotten progressively more interested in them during their efforts to live more sustainably. Buying locally results in a smaller carbon footprint, and it often gives purchasers opportunities to talk to those who made their items.
However, if you want to know how to sell at a farmers market successfully, that’ll probably mean doing more than advertising locally made or grown products. After all, most items sold there will likely fall into those categories, so you’ll have to stand out.
Consider the Supplies and Personnel Needed
When you first get the information on how to sell at a farmers market in your area, make sure to see what your stall rental costs include. Do they come with a table and chairs, or do you need to supply your own? If you sell items like coffee and baked goods that encourage people to linger, that may necessitate sourcing furniture to set up a seating area.
Depending on the size of the items you’re selling and the overall setup, you may need to rent a van or a vehicle with ample trunk space to accommodate everything. These are things you’ll want to figure out well in advance to avoid feeling stressed or having to find essentials at the last minute.
Think about whether you need to hire help to staff the farmers market stall, too. Most such events run for at least several hours, and you’ll probably need coverage for bathroom breaks and lunch. That assistance might come from within your family or from someone you recruit specifically to support your farmers market endeavor.
If you need to get help, be sure to plan the setup and tear-down times in your estimates of shifts. For example, the farmers market may last for four hours. However, it may take you an extra hour or so beyond that to get prepared for customers and pack everything up to go home.
You’ll probably have a better idea of time estimates by getting more experience. So, when you’re in the early stages of learning how to sell at a farmers market, try to give yourself more time than you think you’ll need.
Pay Attention to Feedback and Things Learned
Besides applying these general tips, think about making notes about your takeaways from each farmers market experience. Maybe you discover it’d be beneficial to arrive 15 minutes earlier so you don’t feel rushed. Perhaps people frequently comment they’d love it if you’d sell a product in a larger size.
You don’t need to implement changes immediately. However, it’s a good idea to at least be open to them and act strategically regarding what you do and when. Taking notes about each time you sell at a farmers market will help you feel confident before making changes because you’ll have evidence to justify them.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.