If you’re just starting out as a market gardener, selling your produce at a farmer’s market should be high on your list of viable market streams.
I know for us, as first-year market gardeners, our number one market stream is going to be selling at our local farmer’s market.
We think it’s important to build a customer base (duh!) and what better place to do that than the farmer’s market?
Farmer’s markets are the easiest and fastest place to start selling your produce.
We plan on having a CSA next year, so meeting people who are interested in subscribing to our CSA will most likely be attending the farmer’s market.
It’s a great place to educate customers about CSA programs and other goings-on around your market garden.
As well, it’s a great place to meet local chefs and potentially open another revenue stream.
Furthermore, you get to witness firsthand customers enjoying the fruits of your labour. These are the people who truly believe in what you are doing and want to support your efforts.
They will also most likely be interested in you as a farmer and want to hear your story. This is how you become your own brand.
Your story is what makes you unique and is part of the reason people go to the farmer’s market in the first place.
Remember, you’re not only selling veggies, you’re selling an experience.
When people buy produce from you, they should get your undivided attention.
Smile, and answer any questions they throw your way.
You don’t get that kind of treatment at the grocery store, so value your customers, and they will reward your time and effort with a purchase, and quite possibly, repeat business.
Since I don’t yet have any farmer’s market selling experience, we will learn from the man himself, Curtis Stone from The Urban Farmer for the following sections.
What To Sell At The Market And How To Sell It
For the most part, Curtis pre-bags or bunches everything before it’s brought to the market as opposed to weighing it out at the market.
- Keep things simple with regards to pricing.
- Round everything off to the dollar ($2, $3, $4, etc.)
- Avoid numbers like $2.50, $2.75, etc.
Following these principles will make transaction times a lot faster, which is better for you and the customer.
Generally speaking, it’s better to have larger units at a higher price than to have smaller units at a lower price.
Curtis prices his items at $3 each or two for $5. This is for all bunches of radishes, kale, chard, as well as bags of greens, pints of cherry tomatoes, and bags of microgreens.
However, this system does not work for everything. For example, small bunches of herbs, large heirloom tomatoes, or larger bags of items like carrots or spinach.
To make things simple at his booth, he places all the items that are priced $3 each or two for $5 in one area, and everything that is separately priced somewhere else.
It’s all about making it simple to clearly see where things are.
Price things depending on your production. For example, if you have a ton of greens one week, create a $5 bag that weighs more than your $3 bag to encourage volume purchases.
Tips For Selling At The Market
Selling your veggies is the name of the game, so let’s figure it out together!
Work on Your Customer Service Skills
Learn to be polite and friendly with people. The beauty of the farmer’s market is that people generally want to chat. That’s part of the reason they go there.
You’re gonna have to get used to chatting a lot about your farm and telling your story over and over again.
The more you tell it, the better you get at it.
It’s important to identify who your most supportive customers are. Who are the people that come to your stand week after week?
It’s often said that 80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.
Identify that 20% as early as you can and learn everything about them. Treat them like your friends. Remember their names, what they do, and what they’re passionate about.
Welcome them every time they come to your stand and make conversation. Do not be fake about this. Be sincere.
What will happen over time is that those people who are consistently buying from you will become your biggest advocates.
Once you establish a strong rapport with them, they will sing your praise and keep bringing their friends to your booth. They will introduce you like family, and that’s where you want to be.
Anytime A Customer Complains About Something, Don’t Hesitate To Compensate Them
Give them whatever they purchased before plus something extra. Just do it.
Hopefully, it’s not something that happens often, but undoubtedly it will come up.
Every time someone comes to you with a problem, you are presented with an opportunity to make things better. Jump at the opportunity!
When you show a person you care about them and what they think and you’re willing to make it right, you’re extending gratitude towards them.
The next time they come back, they might just bring a friend!
Create The Illusion Of Abundance And Be Creative With Your Limited Space
People respond to the look of abundance.
“Pile it high, watch it fly.”
People are drawn to the look of a pile.
Market farmers don’t typically have mountains of product, variety yes, but usually in small amounts.
You need to manipulate your space to create the illusion of abundance.
This can be accomplished by pushing different products close together and stacking them as much as you can. Try to use as much vertical space as possible.
Always Have Promotional Material At Your Stand
When you’re starting out, always keep flyers, business cards, and any other type of promotional material close by.
Printed posters that show pics of the farm plots and some written information about the farm hang from the sides of Curtis’s booth. He also keeps a tablet running all day, playing a slide show.
The more stuff you have to look at, the more you will keep people at your booth.
This is important because crowds draw more crowds.
Whenever you have a group of people at your stand, people passing by will wonder what’s going on, and they’ll come on over to take a look.
I hope these tips help you fellow newbs at the farmer’s market this year! I know I picked up a few ideas to implement. That tablet idea is fire!
What special marketing do you do at the farmers market that helps draw a crowd? Please let us know in the comments below.
Kathy & Jon
your friendly neighbourhood growers