Your Farmer’s Market Stand
When you’re first starting out, it can be overwhelming and even intimidating to try and compete against well established market vendors. Whether you’re new or seasoned and striving to sell more, these many simple farmers market ideas will help you stand out in the crowd and develop a loyal following.
With so many vendors selling similar produce, just a few simple tricks of the trade can help you and your offerings stand out from the crowd. But really, it’s far more than “tricks of the trade”.
It’s about helping and serving your customers, while building your farm name brand as a personable business that cares. Grow that, and customers will make a beeline for you first, even over price shopping.
Next are some quick tips and strategies you can scroll through to get you off to a great start selling at market.
It’s really all about helping and serving, caring and connecting, with a touch of creativity.
How to Sell at a Farmer’s Market
If you’re looking for how to get started at selling at your local markets, you need only search online for Farmer’s Market my-city. For example, we’re near Winston-Salem, North Carolina, so we’d search Farmer’s Market Winston-Salem to come up with the best options. You can also search Farmer’s Market [my city] Application OR Guidelines, to go directly to the information you’ll need.
It’s highly advisable before selling at any market, to first visit the market(s) as a customer. Take your time; canvas all the vendors there in your category of products and produce. Observe what they’re selling, how they’re selling it and the prices on things you’ll be selling. A simple way to do this research is via a voice recorder app on your phone.
Most smart phones have free apps you can download that allow you to turn your phone into a recorder. Just talk the prices into the phone, preferably inconspicuously, but if the vendor wants to know what you’re doing, don’t hesitate to let them know that you’re hoping to become a vendor and you’re doing research on how much things are selling for. Look at prospective fellow vendors as allies, like neighbors helping neighbors. Most people are glad to help future and fellow vendors. We’re all in this together and losing or gaining a sale or two is not worth enmity or subterfuge.
Observe the vendor booths that appeal to you the most and make note of why. Scouting around will give you more of your own ideas as well as good ones to borrow. There’s a book titled “Steal Like an Artist”, where the message is that most things in existence are derivatives of other things and ideas. So make note of good ideas and add your own unique angle to it.
Farmer’s Market Prices
You can search online for weekly market retail prices in your area. These vary too widely for a national report to be of much help for local market sellers. But you can also just Google the search phrase: weekly produce retail prices [your state].
For example, a Google search of Farmer’s Market Prices brought up these top results in market prices for my area:
Farmer’s Market – Raleigh, NC
Farmer’s Market – Piedmont Triad, NC
NCAg.Gov’s List on Market Regional Market Prices
Other search tips. Search your keyword and also include the term ‘pdf’. That way if there’s a downloadable PDF available, it will show you those results first.
Farmer’s Market Ideas
If all booths are basically equal, and the next booth’s vegetables, fruit, plants and jars of jams look about like yours, here are some tips of things you can do to stand out. Some of these require some skill and artistry, so pick and choose the ones that work for you.
Note: Links below take you to product ideas on Amazon. However, many gardeners are also handy at crafts and making things, so creating things like this could be winter projects that will have you very ready for spring and the market season.
- Use a colorful table cloth
- Make and sell simple wooden signs
- Decorate and display goods in baskets, crates and bushels
- Have flowering plants for sale in cool pots near the front of your table or booth
- Have cut flowers for sale from your display table, in a bright “vase” to attract attention.
- Offer free food samples with utensils, such as food sample cups
- Keep hand cleaner wipes near the food samples
- Keep a clean and attractive trash can nearby for people to dispose their sample containers
- Sell added value products made from your produce
- Decorate canning jars with attractive covers, label, ribbons, etc
- Sell homemade goods in nicer jars, such as the kind with hinged lids
- Got melons? Sell watermelon juice with a spigot like this
- Sell healthy herbal teas, iced, then sell the tea herbs/leaves with a recipe (place these in the hinged spice jars)
- Sell chilled bottles of green juice blended from fresh garden greens, with a recipe
- Create pressed flower greeting cards using pressed flowers from your garden
- Have an urn of water and small paper cups available for thirsty customers. They will be grateful
- Have an urn of herbal tea to sell by the cup.
- Create popular value items such as herb gardens and salad bowls. You can sell these for more than individual plants and customers see these as having added value.
Creative Booth Ideas
We know that many of you are also crafty and artistic. Add your creativity to your shop and offerings and hat will attract to your booth. Imagine the icebreaker conversation starter of something like these super creative squash birds below.
Farmers Market Ideas – Marketing Tips for Market Gardeners
- Attract customers to your booth with creative displays. Imagine folks walking over to your booth, already smiling because of a simple creative display.
- Try to have extras of your art accessories, as some will want to buy those from your too so they can make their own at home.
- You will soon discover plenty of ideas of things to grow, make and sell that will attract and delight more customers.
Every creative thing you try will provide valuable market data about your customers and prospective customers, their likes, dislikes and interests. For example, you may not have intended to be in the business of selling crafts, but if you’re growing pumpkin sticks and create a display for your table, it make just be that people will want to buy that.
Here’s a YouTube video on how to make a salad garden bowl:
NOTE: You may need to get approved for selling added value products at market, and the Farmer’s Market policies do not allow the selling of items not grown or made by you. These rules may vary for other markets, so check into it before adding other items to sell, such as an insulated market basket
Further below is a , Robert Hays.
For more tips on building your brand to be a favorite go-to farmer’s market stand, here’s a video interview of market garden ideas with long time market seller, Bob Hays of Hays Berry Farms.
We also enjoyed the conversation with Bob about his blackberry farm, which you can find on GardensAll.com.
Market Garden Ideas Right in Front of You
As Bob Hays says in our interview, talk to your customers. Help them find what they’re looking for, even if you have to send them to another booth.
Your farmer’s market booth is your personal market research laboratory. Listen to what people are asking for and wanting. Make a list of everything someone asks you for that you don’t have.
Imagine at the end of the week… and by the end of the year, the list you’ll have. In the evenings during the week, go over your notes. Make a list of each thing and put a hash line next to each one, crossing it off your note pad as you write it down.
Start noticing which items people ask for the most that you don’t sell. Is it something you could grow and sell? This is your market research data culled directly from your customers. When they see that you try to serve their needs, that’s just one more reason they’ll keep coming back to your market booth.
Farmer’s Market Supplies
If you need some market supplies, we’ve done some research for you on best sellers and best prices here.
If you haven’t already joined our community of growers, you can check us out at Planting for Retirement Facebook group.
For additional articles on how to sell at garden markets, you may enjoy this article on Stretcher.com.1)
Tips for Attracting Customers and Growing Your Following:
- FREE MEDIA COVERAGE: Contact your TV, newspaper and radio stations and invite them to your booth at the market to cover local growers.
Local growers is a growing hot topic, so might be the thing for if they’re having a slow news day.
- SOCIAL MEDIA: Post at least once daily on your Facebook page. It can just be a picture with a caption… help tips, recipes, asking them what they’re growing, what they want to buy at market, etc.
- COMMUNICATE – Day before and day of market days, post what you’ll have at market. (Post a different photo and intro text on the second post and remember that most people do not see your posts, thus the reason for reposting things for a better chance to reach more people.
- BOOST YOUR POSTS – Test spending just $1/day on Facebook ads to your exact area demographic, and for just $7/week you will gain market data, fans and likely customers to your page.
- PROMOTIONS: Run a promotion to your Facebook and/or email audience with a special discount on “XYZ” if they show up at market and tell you the special code. (Make it easy to remember and change it week to week. That may keep them heading to your page to look for it).
- GROW YOUR FOLLOWING: At market, invite people to join:
- Your Facebook Page. (If you have a pad or laptop with you, go ahead and let the add themselves right there at your booth, or else they might forget to or forget your business name.
- Create/Grow an Email List: If you like to write and communicate with people, you could also start an email list. If you do, then take a notebook with lined paper and make a simple sign-up form where people can write in their email address if they want to be kept apprised of what you’re bringing to market each week, and where they can also communicate with you if they wish to.
- Do not underestimate the power of growing your audience of repeat customers. People like to connect with people and do business with someone they know.
How to Market Your Business on Facebook
If you want more information on how to create a business fan page on Facebook—and why you should build your tribe—you may be interested in these linked articles. Also if you need to know how to create memes — those images with quotes that are so popular on Facebook (and why you should), you can read how to create memes here.
And be sure to have a great sign! There are some cool ones available on Amazon.
Market Garden Ideas – Promotions to Grow
In a recent conversation on the Planting for Retirement Facebook Page, the topic of promotional ideas for selling non-perishables came up. Sharing that here for you as well.
Freebies and Giveaways Don’t Work so Well
Regarding trying to grow your audience via freebies, contests and giveaways, our experience is that they don’g work so well. There are many frugal people who “shop” for freebie things and make it a hobby or even full time venture, some of whom earn a living through the arbitrage of buying and reselling.
We understand thrifty and frugal folks but the majority of those rarely become paying customers.
Freebies and giveaways may grow your audience, but it may not grow an audience of folks who want to buy from you.
Deliveries Are Costly – Pick-up Locations Are Better
The traveling to deliver single orders would quickly eat any profit, given fuel and time. Better if you could grow an audience of regulars who could drop by XYZ location on their way home from work each Thursday between 3 & 6pm to pick up the goods. That would also give you a way to interact in person and offer additional items. E.g., have a table or tailgate setup of specials.
Gift Boxes, Baskets and Flowers
- From your social and website, you can offer gift basket or gift box creations that you ship to the recipient.
- At market, place flower arrangements to add beauty and color to your table.
- Herbal teas and sachets, e.g.,
We really like the efficacy of making things as decorations that attract attention and traffic to your table, which can then also be sold. E.g., make it available for purchase by placing a price tag on whatever extra things you make to sell.
Remember Labor And Time
All of these are labor intensive individually, but can add up to greater profitability with more scale. And each interaction with customers helps grow a loyal fan base as you get to know folks, and they, you.
Rural Sales Challenges
If you’re in a rural area, a common problem for market gardeners is that many folks garden and preserve their own goodies. That means less demand to buy from others, plus more competition of those selling it.
Ideas for Competitive Markets
- Assess what’s popular but harder to grow or process. Chances are, if it’s harder or less common, fewer people will do it. E.g.:
- Pumpkin on a Stick ornamental eggplant –
- popular for fall decorations
- can sell wholesale to florists
- sell a seasonal tabletop arrangement
- Longevity spinach (Gynura procumbens) – less common – sell rooted seedlings and dried leaves for teas and powders to:
- local health food stores
- Exotic honeys, e.g.:
- echinacea honey
- lavender honey
- Sell unusual tea blends such as blueberry and blackberry teas
- Pumpkin on a Stick ornamental eggplant –
- Added Value, such as products sold with:
- info cards on the nutritional/medicinal benefits
Ask Your Audience!!
Ask your Facebook fans a series of questions. E.g., once/week, something like a “Wednesday Wondering” post that rotates questions that help you get to know your audience and what they’re interested in and in need of.
Some Sample Questions
- What kinds of canned garden goodies and products are you most interested in?
- Do you make your own lip balms?
- We have blackberry jam available… do you ever buy homemade jams or do you make your own?
- Do you buy most of your canned goods and jams or do you make your own?
Etc, etc. Just come up with a bunch of questions that will help you learn more about what folks want and what you might have and be able to do that would be a good fit.
Your interest in your customers will make them more interested in—and loyal to—you. You know… the way it used to be.
~Planting for Retirement
Common Mistakes Sellers Make
Most small business owners struggling to earn from their market gardening, crafts, art, etc., share a common malady.
The need to earn causes us to fixate on how to sell what we have. Instead, we need to turn it around and find out more about our customers, who they are… what they want, and figure out how to make it for them.
To grow a business isn’t about selling stuff, it’s about serving your customers wants and needs. Serve those and the selling will take care of itself.