April 20, 2018

What you need to know, from the competition and transportation to your display and pricing

With the growing popularity of eating locally-sourced foods, many people are seeking out nearby farmer’s markets to shop for produce, cheese, honey, and other agricultural products. If you cultivate these foods, farmer’s markets can help you raise awareness about your brand among locavores and chefs, helping you expand your business and make money.

Though it does take extra time and work to book yourself into markets, load your wares and display tables into a utility trailer, set up, then break everything down again, many growers say selling at a farmer’s market is worth it. The festive atmosphere helps you get to know potential buyers, talk about your product and get feedback, make connections and gain customers in urban areas, and see how other sellers are displaying and marketing their products.

You don’t have to have a large farm to start selling at a local farmer’s market, either. Anyone with a steady supply of extra produce, animal products, products made from produce (such as sauces and jams), or even flowers, can have success and make extra money.

Here are some tips for getting started:

1. Check your local laws. Make sure you are allowed to sell the product you are producing at a farmer’s market. Also, many states allow you to sell at these markets without a hawker’s or peddler’s license, but some do require one. 

2. Scope out the competition. Visit several farmer’s markets in the suburbs, rural areas, and nearby cities to see what other people are selling, what the foot traffic is like, and what people are buying. This will give you an idea of whether there’s a market for your product, what types of customers might be most interested in buying, and whether you should carve out a particular niche for your product in order to stand out from the competition.

3. Will you go organic? The market for organic products is ample. But, you have to grow according to special rules and have your produce certified in most places. Check with your state organic farming association (or similar) for more information.

4. Apply to the market. Start by searching for “local farmers markets near me.” Once you find a few markets you think are a good fit with your product, contact the person in charge at each—usually the manager—to find out if there is room for an additional grower and the type of product you sell. Be sure to ask about the market’s rules, what kind of advertising they do, what the fees are to participate, and whether you need your own insurance.

5. Find transportation. Depending on your product and display materials, an open utility trailer offers versatility, because they’re lightweight, come in a variety of sizes, can easily carry tall items (such as displays), and can double as a display area.

6. Collect other equipment. In addition to transportation, you’ll need tables or sawhorses and plywood for displays, shelter such as a pop-up tent, signage, a scale if you sell by the pound (make sure your scale complies with local weights and measures rules), a cash box and seed money (as well as a mobile electronic device if you plan to take credit and debit cards), a calculator, bags, and take-away info about your business and products (cards, brochures/fliers).

7. Create an appealing display. Farmer’s markets have a festive, fun, atmosphere, and you’ll want to contribute to that to make your booth appealing. At the very least, have a bright tablecloth and attractive baskets or other containers to display your wares. Brush excess dirt off produce and put the best-looking pieces up front or on top. Space products well and arrange them so the colors complement each other. Keep the space clean and tidy, removing damaged items. If you can, have an attractive backdrop such as a canvas sign, hay bales, or some other element to create ambiance.

8. Consider pricing. You want to price your goods to cover your costs to make a profit, but also keep the competition in mind. Make sure to display prices clearly and legibly, because a farmer’s market is an informal setting and customers may want to haggle. Decide up front whether or not you want a no-haggle policy.

9. Sharpen your salesmanship. Staff your booth with enough people to serve your customers quickly. Consider dressing them in matching smocks or aprons to make them instantly recognizable as sales people. Most importantly, make sure they know all about your products, including how it was grown, the variety, whether or not it’s organic, and the ingredients (if appropriate to the product). Although it can sometimes be a challenge, treat customers courteously. You build a reputation on your product and service.

Farmer’s markets can be a fun and rewarding way to make money, whether you do it as part of a full-time business or a sideline. When you’re ready to transport your goods to market, be sure to contact your local Everlite dealer to learn about Everlite trailers. You can choose from single-axle and tandem-axle utility trailers in a range of lengths, widths, and prices.