Break Into Your Local Farmer's Market
Farmer's markets are on the rise. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), there are now over 8,500 markets across the country, up 76% since 2008. Given the stats, it's worth considering your local farmer's market as the next sales frontier! We'll walk you through why you should think about it, the challenges you may face, what you can sell, and how to sell there successfully.
Why Sell At Farmer's Markets
While the leading states for farmer's markets are California, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois, most major cities (and even small towns) have nearby markets. By participating as a vendor, you'll be able to sell your goods, market to customers, and build valuable community relationships.
Benefit #1: Direct Sales
The most obvious reason to sell at a farmer's market is to sell! The Western Wake Farmer's Market in North Carolina reports that the average revenue per vendor per session at their market is about $500. And nearly 100% of the revenue stays with the producer, unlike retail sales where makers receive only $0.14 from every sale. That added revenue may be what a small business needs to survive and thrive.
Benefit #2: Direct Marketing
Direct marketing is selling a product directly from producer to consumer, and it's a valuable asset to take advantage of at farmer's markets. Say you need to try a new product line or new pricing model – face-to-face interactions provide immediate feedback.
Benefit #3: Build Community
Farmer's markets provide a place to come together, learn about local businesses and people, and build relationships. Mary Griffith of Ohio State University says, "People are going to the market because they want to know you. Your personality, your values, and your [business] is what you're marketing."
Challenges To Selling At Farmer's Markets
Farmer's markets are not without their challenges. Weigh the following actual and perceived costs before jumping in.
Challenge #1: Vendor Fees
Depending on the market, costs can add up. There are stall fees, staffing expenses, permitting and license requirements, set-up materials, bags for purchases, and more. Money Crashers is a great resource to view those cost breakdowns in detail. Don't forget to consider costs of sampling, too, if that's something you'll want to do.
Challenge #2: Transportation & Set-Up
Farmer's markets are typically held on Saturdays and Sundays. Transporting and setting up all of your goods and materials every week can be a pain. Megan Gordon of Marge Granola explains, "markets are highly physical to set up: the tent is not small; we pack four 25-pound blocks of sand to weigh down the corners; there's a lot of product and tables and signage – you get the picture. Coming to sell wares at the market means a lot of hard work, and logistics to figure out every week."
Challenge #3: Competition & Customers
The communal nature of farmer's markets means you'll encounter vendor competition, and need to hone your customer service skills. How will you react to customers abusing your sample offerings or trying to barter prices? Can you handle a neighboring vendor encroaching upon your space? If this seems like too much for you, consider employing a 'people person' to act as the face of your booth or find an alternative sales outlet better suited for you.
What You Can Sell At Farmer's Markets
Unlike the name implies, farmer's markets aren't just for homegrown food products. Scan this list of product ideas for inspiration.
- Local honey Handmade wares (knitted clothes, leather goods)
- Baked goods (granola, bread, pastries)
- Wood carvings and furniture
- Preserves (jams, jellies, pickled veggies)
- Artwork and crafts
- Sauces & dips
- Bath & body products (soap, lotion, bath bombs, lip balm, shampoos)
- Home-brewed beer and wine
- Flower arrangements
Don't get discouraged if you don't see your business venture included above. There's a place for almost everyone at farmer's markets, including vendors without tangible products. The California Farmers' Markets Association invites musicians, face painters, balloon artists, and more to apply. We've also seen massage therapists and other service-based businesses represented among the vendors.
Tips To Sell Successfully
Farmer's market sales, like anything, take time and practice to master. We've identified a few key themes to get you started.
1. Research Your Market
Begin by researching the rules and regulations of markets nearby to see if you fit their requirements. Once you've determined you fit the market, see if the market fits you. Visit them as a customer. Observe the strategies of other sellers and start of list of what might work for you.
2. Provide Unique Inspiration
People love farmer's markets for the creativity of the sellers. You can find something uniquely different at a farmer's market than you can at most big box stores. Can you turn standard seasonings into a specialty blend or marinade? Inspire customers with your ingenuity.
3. Label Everything Clearly
Customers love clarity. Labeling products, prices, and information clearly and professionally will go a long way. Lauren Arcuri teaches that "Clearly labeled prices are a good starting point." Customers certainly don't want to ask for prices, and being clear helps avoid undesirable haggling. "But go above and beyond," Lauren adds. "Make signs that answer your customers' common questions." You can also use labels to convey your brand throughout your stand and across your products.
Ready to tackle your local farmer's market? Take a peak at these other helpful articles to get started: Product Pricing Guide and Label Design Tips. Or, once you're in, visit us for more advice on mastering the market: Farmer's Market 101 or 4 Easy Ways to Increase Farmer's Market Sales. Questions? We're here to help, call us at 1-888-575-2235.