It’s National Farmers Market Week , and we’ve got farmers market tips for you.
August 6 – 12, 2017 was proclaimed by U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue as the week for consumers to support local farmers markets.
Along with that support comes support for the small farmers, family farms, organic farming businesses and agricultural producers that sell at farmers markets.
Farmers Market Tips
If you run a farm or agricultural business, here are five farmers market tips to capitalize on National Farmers Market Week.
Gather Selling Ideas at Another Farmers Market
Use this week as the motivation to go shop at a different farmers market. And gather tips to become a more successful seller.
For this exercise you need to walk around as a buyer. Look at what other sellers are doing. Try to identify “best in class” ideas to capitalize on — and mistakes to avoid.
Which sellers’ goods make your mouth water? Remember, shoppers buy with their eyes first!
Also, look critically at table coverings, displays, signage. What’s inviting, what isn’t? Are you attracted to bare tables with illegible scribbled signs and cluttered stalls? Or do the most inviting displays have table coverings, artfully arranged baskets and bins, and bright signs?
Look at sellers’ body language, too. Are they standing, smiling and engaging with shoppers? Or are they sitting, texting or refusing to make eye contact? Sellers can silently send the wrong signals such as “I’m tired, don’t bother me” or “I don’t care whether you buy.”
How do sellers offer samples? Samples can be a powerful draw. A sign stating that samples are available also helps. Be aware of farmers market rules about sampling, however. What you see in one market may not be acceptable in another. For example, some markets may prohibit plastic sampling spoons or hawking samples loudly.
Make a list of ideas as you stroll around like a buyer. Then implement the new ideas into your own farmers market stall in the coming weeks.
Few things are as compelling on social media as food images. Use a high mega-pixel smartphone camera to take photographs of:
- Special events at your local farmers market, especially during National Farmers Market Week.
- Closeups of mouth-watering produce.
- Your market stall.
- Signs highlighting your seasonal specials.
- Smiling pictures of you and/or your team in action. Includes setting up the stall, arranging displays, interacting with shoppers (show only their backs not their faces, unless you have express permission such as for a joint selfie).
Then share those images regularly on social media. Twitter, Facebook and especially Instagram are great places to load your images.
Be sure to use popular hashtags for people to find your images on those social networks. For example, #farmersmarket is a very active hashtag on Instagram , with over 2 million images to date. Another good one to use this week is #farmersmarketweek.
Get Motivated for Your Business Plan
Use the occasion of National Farmers Market Week as the reminder each year to review and evaluate your business plan.
First, do you have a farm business plan? If not, now is the time to start one. After all, if you don’t have goals and a road map for where to go in your business, how will you know if you’ve arrived?
Second, if you have a plan, pull it out and review where you stand. Business plans are meant to be living breathing tools — not static documents on a shelf. Are you working on the things you said you would? How do your financials stack up compared to forecast? See if expenses are in line and sales are where they should be. And how are you doing on special initiatives you planned, such as implementing new technology?
Third, as you create or revise your business plan, get help.
- Start with your local agricultural extension service, Small Business Development Center, or university. Or check for classes at your local farmers market. Often they have programs and classes for farmers to attend.
- Search the Web for education. Look for an outline for an agricultural business plan, such as this one from Penn State University .
- Check out YouTube. You’ll find many farm business training videos delivered by professionals,  as well as video tips from other farmers.
But, you say, ‘I don’t have time right now!’ In that case, at least calendar a reminder right now to do these activities in the off season.
Be a Marketer at the Farmers Market
Don’t just sell what you have in the stall that day. Use your attendance at farmers markets to encourage and develop other sales channels.
Some sellers couldn’t survive without selling to local chefs. Do you use farmers market day or events taking place during National Farmers Market Week as an opportunity to develop relationships with chefs  — chat them up? In those conversations, do you invite them to visit your farm? Do you have special printed materials to give them? Or even just a business card? (I’m always shocked by small business owners who appear at events without business cards!)
What about standing orders for distributors and local markets? If you desire to get standing orders, are you or another person working your stall prepared to discuss your capacity? Do you have a standing order sheet you can pull out? You won’t inspire confidence if it seems like 15 seconds ago was the first time you ever thought about a standing order.
Don’t forget about publicizing your tours, farm store, pick-your-own fields, seasonal events such as fall hay rides, and more. Print up professional looking signs and flyers (subject to market rules).
The point is, use your participation in local farmers markets to help market your other sales channels.
Improve Your Web Presence
Here’s the last of our farmers market tips — but certainly not the least. The final tip is, treat this time of year as a reminder to improve your Web presence.
Check to see if your local farmers market has an online directory of vendors. Get listed, and check all listing details for accuracy. If the market has a blog or newsletter, see if they do vendor profiles and whether you can be profiled. (See this example  at the Ithaca Market.)
Think of a few ways to enhance your own website. For instance, do you have a page on your website just for chefs, with a testimonial from an existing chef customer? What about a standing orders page, to show you want that kind of business? (See example at the Rendezvous Organic Farm site.) Website pages are cheap — use them.
Also monitor online reviews  and local listings. Consumers will leave reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp and other places. They also use mobile maps search and Foursquare to find local places to visit such as for farm tours. Thank people for positive reviews and learn from negative reviews.
One final point of advice: wherever permitted, always load enticing photographs on your website, to local listings and to review sites. Don’t just keep them on social media. Photos are very important today!
Farmers Market  Photo via Shutterstock