Nick Burton has lots of experience visiting, filming, and selling at farmers markets. Over the years, he’s collected a lot of tips and tricks for getting into competitive markets, impressing managers, and keeping customers happy.
On Thursday, May 25, 2017, Nick shared all of his accumulated Farmers’ Market tips with us in a webinar with a Q&A section. We’ve bundled up the best bits into a comprehensive Farmers’ Market Success Course, which you can take here.
In this post, we’re going to get a sneak peek at that content with three tips that Nick has collected from the best vendors at markets across the world.
3 ways to be the best vendor at the farmers’ market
Farmers’ markets are dynamic, busy, and vulnerable to the changes in weather and local events. This makes them a very fun place to sell if approached correctly. The best vendors at the market are constantly thinking, preparing, and taking opportunities to excel in the farmers’ market environment.
There are several things that a great vendor does. In this post, we’re going to explore three: be a good neighbor, have a neat display, and search for opportunities.
1) Be a good neighbor
Every farmers’ market is a two-way opportunity for farmers. Farmers help the market by participating, and the market helps them by bringing in customers. As a farmer, your job is to show up and create a good environment not just around your stall but for the market in general.
You can contribute to the overall market health by being a good neighbor. If the tent next to you is having trouble, lend a hand. Lend them change when they run out. Watch their tent when they need a bathroom break. Help them grapple with rogue tarps in wind gusts. You’re in this together.
A huge part of being a good neighbor is being prepared. Someone will always lose a pen, run out of receipt paper, or have to tie down a tarp in a hurry. When something goes wrong, you can either get stuck looking for help, or you can be the one with the solution. It’s not hard to put together a quick “MacGyver bag” with extra change, pens, invoices, cash bag, and a roll of duct tape.
Not only will the “good neighbor” attitude contribute to the overall environment of the market, but it will help you build the community around your farm. Farmers’ market seasons are long seasons, and you will often have the same market neighbors for years in a row. Sometimes, you will be the one who runs out of one-dollar bills and it will be good to have an ally in the next stall. As you build relationships with other vendors, you’ll find opportunities for co-marketing, trades, and information sharing.
In short: make yourself the best neighbor at the market by being prepared and lending a hand.
2) Have a neat display
A neat, approachable stand is a best practice for any farmers market. Consider buying a professional-looking farm sign with your logo and name, and invest in signs, table clothes, and other re-usable tools to keep clutter hidden and attract people to your stand. Think through your entire set up before going to market and keep a packing list so that you aren’t left trying to jerry-rig things at the last minute.
Here are a few of Nick’s tips for farmer’s market display:
- Don’t use cardboard boxes
- Don’t have sloppy signs
- Do have a theme
- Do decorate for holidays
- Do create a “funnel” and put the cash register at the end
In short: imagine how you want your customers to experience your space (easy movement, clear communication, pleasant colors, etc), and then create that experience.
3) Search for opportunities
A lot of farmers enter the market without a clue what they’re doing. How do I set up this tent? Which crops should I bring to market? How do I get customers interested in my stand?
There’s a very simple strategy that anybody, whether a current farmer’s market vendor or not, can do in three steps:
- Go to the market!
- Ask questions
- Take notes
(By the way, if you do those last two steps, that’s a survey. Surveys are a key part of market research.)
As you take notes, you’ll begin to find opportunities where you can excel. This could be a product that no one else offers, a price that no one else offers, or an experience that no one else offers. There will be places where you can improve on previous vendors. Take these opportunities!
When you take these opportunities, you are adding value to your customers’ lives, and you are filling a hole in the market. This makes the market as a whole stronger. And when the market is strong, you are strong.
In short: when you intentionally ask questions and take notes, you uncover opportunities that are a win for you, a win for your clients, and good for the market manager.
Farmers markets are an incredibly fun and rewarding market to enter. Prepare to be the best vendor at the market by adopting some of these best practices and staying consistent with them time after time.
Have questions or ideas? Leave them in the comments below!