How to Sell at Your Local Farmers Market

Are you interested in selling your products at the local Farmers Markets? Many small mom and pop food crafters get started selling their artisan breads, homemade cakes, cookies, pies, biscotti, candy, seasoning mixes or regional barbecue sauces direct to customers who visit local farmers markets and farm stands. What better way to start than with those visiting the local farmers market; a captive audience expecting a wide variety of seasonal fruits and veggies; along with specialty products that are unusual, homemade and not overly processed.

Stay on Top of Food Trends

If you are going to sell at your local Farmers Market, you will want to stay abreast of food trends by using Goggle Alerts to locate what's hot and what's not. What was a huge seller last year may not be this year, and although people loved those buttercream topped cupcakes last year they may be seeking smaller versions like cakepops this year; cutting back to help both their health and wallet.

If you bake breads, you might want to consider offering value-added items, such as homemade jams, jellies and fruit butters. Remember however, some value added products can be costly, so select accordingly. There are also numerous legal restrictions and health regulations that need to be followed before selling your value-added product and you may have to use a incubator or licensed commercial kitchen facility, so check with your regulator agency.

Every food processor should also note that a farmers market is not the best location to sell every food product. People who visit and make purchases at local farmers market are looking for bargains. They are not interested in paying an exorbitant amount for a pound cake, custom cookies or homemade divinity fudge. I learned the hard way that although my sweet potato pies were exceptional, no one wanted them on a windy fall day in November. The venue was great, the product was not. I would have faired better selling my signature chocolate chip butter cookies, 3 for $2, a simple snack that customers could enjoy as the strolled through the market, drank warm apple cider and shopped for fresh fruits and vegetables. I also would have faired better if I were selling miniature sweet potato pies; but like everything in the home-based baking biz, you live and learn.

Setting up Your Farmer's Market Display

Getting ready to take your product to market is sometimes be a stressful endeavor. You want to make sure you don't forget anything and you want to display your baked goods in an attractive manner.

If you are at a local market, where the volume of customers is small you will want to display as much as you can as opposed to a large market where you may display some products now and some later, as items are purchased.

In fact, there are a couple of schools of thought:

(1) Display everything now and sell "fast and furious".

(2) Display a few items, don't crowd the table and replace items as they are sold.

With display suggestion number one, you run the risk of having open space on the table when you run out of products, and with display suggestion number two you are able to replenish as needed. It all depends on how much product you take to market and how large or small your display table is.

Another suggestion is bring a list of your products to pass out to customers should you begin to sell out; and consider creating a portfolio of your goods (photographs) so customers can see what they missed. If the photos are well done, it may entice them to order. The most attractive display table is one with a variety of products and ample space for sample plates/trays. Plus you may also have to comply with market rules regarding how your product is displayed.

Remember large items to the back and small items up front; pay close attention to the color of your baked goods too. Place dark items like brownies and gingerbread apart. Stand in front of your table and take a customer side view and adjust accordingly. After you have participated at the market a few times and visited other display tables you will get the hang of it.

If you are only selling one item, for example, Carrot Cake, you might want to place fresh (clean) carrots around the table in a large basket with straw. A lovely fluffy white stuffed bunny might be a nice touch too. Let you imagine roam, not too far though and if this is not your strong suit ask a friend or family member for help.

Display Suggestions

  • Keep it simple, creative and attractive.
  • Display with a sense of pride.
  • Be ready for business (don't wait till the last minute to set up).
  • Never have items on the ground, but at waist level.
  • Prop any boxes or baskets at a slant so your customers can see inside.
  • Place paper fillers at the bottom of your boxes or baskets to give the illusion of being filled.
  • Avoid crushing any product.
  • If at all possible, attempt to refill containers as items are sold (no one likes to purchase the last of anything).
  • All items should be easy to reach.
  • Use props from home. For example, red checker table cloths or a simple cotton table cloth, cleaned and pressed for a "down-home" appearance (you can even use a clean white or pastel colored bed sheet-flat).
  • Make sure your display is neat, clean, attractive and inviting, providing ease of movement throughout.
  • Display your products neatly and make them easily accessible to all people, including the physically challenged.
  • Incline your containers so customers can see the products easily and from a distance, while simultaneously giving prospective buyers an impression of choice.
  • Post product and price signs above every display container or on a blackboard, indicating clearly and legibly the unit price.
  • Make better use of vertical display space by using portable fixtures that allow customers to see the products from elbow to eye level.
  • Create eye appeal by using contrasting colors, sizes and shapes as you display your products.
  • Bring only your highest quality products to market. If you have broken cookies or cake ends, place them on a tray and allow customers to sample the goods.
  • Layer your display from the ground up onto your table by using bales of straw, crates or baskets.

Other Things to Consider

Insurance
Product liability insurance is recommended if not required at some markets.

Safety
Keep your dog at home. Hopefully your customers will do the same. If the market chooses to have farm animals on site as an attraction, make sure the animals are there for visual effect only and not for petting. Food safety and people's safety should be your primary concern and no one wants to smell the little pig and purchase your brownies.

Dress the Part
It's not necessary, but old fashioned aprons or plaid shirts in the fall months are always a nice touch or have on your signature Tee shirts that showcase the name of your bakery.

Remember to have your cash box in a safe yet handy location and take enough to make change for large bills. You may also want to have an "email list", you know, a sign-in sheet so you can gather the name and email of the individuals who purchase your products. Remember to tell them you are placing them on your mailing list, and print JOIN OUR MAILING LIST, across the top of the sign-in sheet so there is no doubt they will receive email from you. This also gives you the opportunity to say "thank you" and invite them to join you at the market in the coming weeks/months.

Farmer's Markets are growing in numbers, and if you don't know where to locate the market in your area, you might want to check out the website Local Harvest.

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