I can’t believe we are actually vendors at a farmers market! We set out to accomplish this goal last year, and it is awesome to see it come to fruition.

I’m not going to lie, I was a nervous wreck the week leading up to our local farmers market. I had made a farmers market supply checklist, as well as a to-do list that all needed to be accomplished in a week’s time.

Farmer's Market vendor checklist

Preparing for the Farmers Market

Fortunately, I had thought ahead somewhat and ordered a canopy earlier (although it wasn’t supposed to come in until the Sunday AFTER the market, but I was confident it would be in stock earlier). 

SPOILER: It was!

I had also ordered a table, but luckily that was in stock at our local Home Depot.

I spent quite a bit of time looking for the perfect checkered table cloth before arriving at the conclusion that we didn’t actually need one and it would be easier without it.

We also had no idea what we were going to do for a sign, so I was brainstorming for that as well.

Fortunately, this pandemic time has led me to become interested in woodburning, and although I am very much an amateur, I found some wood in the basement, sanded it, stenciled our logo onto it, and got a-burnin’.

It turned out alright. What do you think?

Sweet Fern Organics Vendor Sign

Since we did not have any actual veggies to sell at the very first farmers market of the season, we still wanted to be there, so we decided to sell lettuce seedlings since that was all we had!

We use soil blocks to start our seeds, so we needed a container for the customer to take them home in since they were not in pots.

So, I went scrounging at some grocery stores where you can box your own groceries for small boxes.

However, I found the best place for finding boxes was Walmart. They stock their shelves in boxes or trays for the most part, so if you are willing to move a couple of cans onto the next tray, and face some shelves, you can find a ton of boxes in various sizes.

This was perfect! I wouldn’t waste my time box hunting anywhere else. 

Granted, people may look at you oddly when you’re wandering around with a cart full of empty boxes, but who cares!

I also needed to plan how we were going to display our lettuce starts. Our plan is to make crates out of pallets, but since our pallets are still in pallet form, we needed to come up with something different.

So, I went looking around the house and in the sheds to see if what I could find.

We ended up using baskets and a berry flat for our display and I think it looked pretty good!

farmers market display

We needed a couple of cash boxes, since we are dealing with cash only. Again, I went looking around the house to see what I could find. My son has a cash box, so I knew we could borrow that for the day (and every market day, haha!) but I needed one more.

I liked the look of a wooden box, so I went exploring in the basement and found a nice wooden box with some sort of drill bits inside. I knew it was not used very often, so I just emptied the box, put the drill bits on the shelf, and helped myself to the box. It worked perfectly.

We wanted to set out our business cards as well, so I grabbed a phone stand to display those. Worked really well.

For signage, we used some chalkboard stickers and markers, that coincidently, my sister had on hand!

I had also wood burned a sign for prices, but I think I like the chalkboard ones better.

I read in Curtis Stone’s The Urban Farmer, that he displays a tablet with pics of his farms on a slideshow and I thought that was a pretty good idea. So, I grabbed another phone stand so we could display the tablet on our front table as well.

To be honest, the tablet was hard to see outside, so I am not sure if we will continue with that. I think we will try moving it more inside the tent and out of the sun to see if that helps next week.

Setting Up Our Vendor Stand

The farmers market officially starts at 8am, and vendors are allowed to start setting up at 6:30am. Since we had never set up a vendor stand and everything was brand new, we arrived at about 6:45am to set up.

We were met by the market organizer when we got there and she showed us where we were to set up.

Luckily, there was a parking lot adjacent to the market so we could easily unload our van and put our supplies in our spot. We then moved the van a couple of rows over so that other vendors could use a prime spot for unloading their supplies.

We started by setting up the canopy, which went smoothly to my delight! I thought it may be a huge pain, but it was pretty straightforward.

We then set up the tables and got our display ready.

We were pretty much good to go by about 7:30am. I liked having the extra time to relax a little bit before the market actually started, so we will probably stick to this time frame for future markets.

It also gave us a bit of time to talk to some other vendors and introduce ourselves.

I was pleased to see that all of the vendors we met were really nice and offered some insight into what usually happens at the market. 

There was even a market farm vendor a few stands away, and he was really helpful with info about his (and his wife’s) market farm and the experiences they have had. He even offered to show us around their farm, which we will definitely take him up on!

Meeting Customers

This was probably the most nerve-racking part of it all – interacting with customers!

Now, I am an introvert to begin with, so willingly starting a conversation with somebody is not really my forte. 

Jon, on the other hand, can talk to anyone about anything!

When the market opened at 8am, there were some early birds and as they walked by, I would call out ‘hello’ or ‘good morning.’

Then at around 8:40am, a customer came into our tent and wanted to buy some lettuce seedlings!

Now at this time, Jon was chatting with the vendor across the aisle, so I was left to fend on my own, eeeekkkk!

Now, I was a little flustered, so I forgot to get her to put her money in the cash box in front of the stand (Covid protocol) so she hands it to me, and I put it with the ‘clean’ money (whoops!).

But I did manage to find a box and put the three seedlings she wanted in it without crushing them and said, ‘You are our first customer, thank you!” 

She was happy to hear that! 

I was so relieved to sell something, so if that was all we sold, I would have been ecstatic!

My worst fear was to not sell anything, so after having that first sale in the first hour of the market, I was more relaxed for the rest of the day.

Surprisingly, I had a lot of fun saying hi to customers as they walked by, trying to get them to come into our tent and see what we were all about. 

I learned that if someone just pauses for a second looking in, you need to engage with them and draw them nearer.

It is a skill I will be working on all summer, and probably a lot longer. The art of a sale is not that easy!

I also had fun just talking to customers in general, even if they were not really interested in lettuce seedlings.

We even met former market farmers who just retired last season, and guess what? They invited us to come and look at their farm as well.

Honestly, what I thought would be the scariest part of the farmers market (meeting new people) was actually the most fun. And it’s true, the more you do something, the more comfortable you become.

The more I talked to people, the more relaxed I became and I actually want to start a conversation. Crazy!

I also learned that many people wanted to know what the lettuce tastes like, so it’s important that you know all about your products you sell so you can be knowledgeable and sound professional and answer every question that is asked.

Overall Vendor Experience

If you couldn’t tell, I loved being on the vendor side of the farmer’s market. Our particular farmers market runs from 8am to 1pm, so it’s a pretty large chunk of time. I’m not going to lie and say that the time flew by. I mean it did during the times when there were customers, but there was a lot of downtimes as well.

We were definitely not the busiest vendor stand around, but we pretty much knew we wouldn’t be as we were only offering lettuce seedlings. Our main purpose was to make our presence known to other vendors and potential clients.

We did not make a fortune by any means (we sold a few plants an hour), but it was definitely worth our effort to get out there and start to get comfortable being vendors.

Some main points we took away from this experience are:

  • Be prepared (make lists and check them thrice)
  • Arrive early to set up (better than rushing!)
  • Know your product inside and out (to answer any questions)
  • Engage potential clients (say ‘hello!’)
  • Smile (even under your mask)
  • Be pleasant (so customers will want to talk to you)

That was our first experience as vendors at a farmers market in a nutshell.

Do you have any vendor or customer experiences you would like to share? If so, please comment down below.

Stay Local,

Kathy & Jon

Your Friendly Neighbourhood Growers


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