25 Tips for Small Businesses Selling at Farmers Markets

25 Tips for Selling at Farmers Markets

Farmers markets offer great opportunities for farmers and other small businesses to connect with customers and make sales. But it’s not as easy as just reserving a booth and setting some products out on a table. Here are 25 tips to help you succeed when selling at farmers markets.

Selling at Farmers Markets

Visit Markets Beforehand

One of the biggest factors in your farmers market success is the actual market. You need to find one that fits with what you want to accomplish. And the best way to make that determination is to go and see for yourself.

Furthermore, visiting the markets gives you a chance to observe how other vendors operate, what the general atmosphere is like, and the kind of items that tend to sell well. Note the layout of the market, peak hours, and customer demographics. This information can help you strategically plan where to position your booth and what products to offer.

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Leigh Adcock, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network said in an interview with Hobby Farms, “Every market has its own culture and vibe. Some markets cater to busy shoppers who want to quickly buy their week’s vegetables while others create a more social setting with music and kids activities. Talk to other growers and folks buying at the market to get a sense of what the market is like.”

tips for selling at a farmers market

Conduct Market Research

Some markets cater to busy shoppers who want to quickly buy their week’s vegetables while others create a more social setting with music and kids activities.

Therefore, conduct market research by talking to other growers and folks buying at the market to get a sense of what the market is like.

Doing so will give you a clearer understanding of the kind of products that might be popular, the general pricing structure, and other vendors’ marketing strategies.

Learn the Rules

Every market has its own set of rules. So you also need to check with organizers to see what types of items, tables, and selling methods are allowed before you get started.

Additionally, understanding the rules can prevent any misunderstanding that could affect your business operations. Rules might cover aspects like waste management, booth decor, parking facilities, use of equipment, and health and safety regulations.

Start Small

Starting with a small market without a huge vendor fee or one that requires you to invest in a lot of equipment is a good idea for your first market. This allows you to learn the process and make some mistakes before they’ll really have a negative impact on your business.

This way, you can test your business model, receive customer feedback, and refine your strategies. As your confidence and customer base grow, you can consider moving into larger markets.

selling local fresh fruit and produce

Find a Unique Niche

Differentiating yourself from other vendors selling similar products, like tomatoes and lettuce, is crucial. You can niche your products by offering a unique variety or a certain type of produce. Or you could even package your products into kits or bundles to make your booth different.

For example, if you sell herbs, consider creating themed bundles, such as a “pasta seasoning kit” or an “herbal tea mix.” This not only distinguishes you from other sellers but can also add more value to your customers.

Differentiate Your Products

Your actual products should also be unique in some way. Maybe they’re the freshest tomatoes or the largest watermelons. But make sure that differentiation is clear to those walking by your booth.

Displaying product labels that highlight the unique qualities of your produce can help. If you’re selling organic produce, emphasize that aspect. If you offer a rare heirloom variety, make sure customers know about it.

selling at a farmers market

Do a Dry Run

Before you head out to the actual market, set up your booth at home to make sure everything fits and see if there are any areas where you might be able to improve.

This will give you a chance to fine-tune your presentation, decide the best layout for your goods, and ensure that you have all the necessary materials and equipment. It also gives you a chance to rehearse how you’ll interact with customers and manage transactions.

Keep Detailed Checklists

Maintain a checklist that includes everything you need to bring, from the actual products to the things you need to set up your booth and display your items. This not only keeps you organized, but it also reduces the chance of forgetting any vital items or tasks.

You might include items like cash change, a card reader, packaging bags, promotional materials, cleaning supplies, and a first aid kit on your list.

farmers market

Remember the Essentials

Being prepared with all the essential items is critical for a smooth and successful day at the farmers market. This extends beyond your product and display items – personal comfort and wellness items are equally important. You and your team are going to be working hard all day, so you don’t want to be hungry, thirsty, or uncomfortable. Here’s a list of essentials you should consider:

  • Water: Stay hydrated throughout the day. It’s especially important if the market is outdoors during hot weather. A reusable water bottle for each team member is a good idea.
  • Healthy Snacks: Keep your energy levels up with some nutritious snacks. Fruits, nuts, and granola bars can be good options.
  • Sunscreen: If the market is outdoors, protect your skin from potential sunburn. Remember to reapply as needed.
  • Comfortable Shoes: Standing for long hours can take a toll on your feet. Wear comfortable footwear to help you stay energetic.
  • Weather-appropriate Clothing: Check the weather forecast in advance. Dress in layers if it’s chilly, or wear a hat for sun protection if it’s hot.
  • First Aid Kit: A basic kit with adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relief medication can be helpful for minor injuries or headaches.
  • Cash and Card Reader: Ensure you have enough change for cash transactions and a functioning card reader for digital payments.
  • Portable Charger: You don’t want your phone or card reader to run out of battery mid-way through the market. A portable charger can be a lifesaver.
  • Hand Sanitizer: Regularly sanitizing your hands is a good hygiene practice, and your customers will appreciate it too.

Remember, happy and comfortable sellers make for a more enjoyable and successful market experience!

Display the Best Looking Foods

The aesthetic appeal of your booth can significantly impact sales. Don’t set out a bunch of brown apples or wilted spinach. Choose your best products and display those front and center.

Clean, vibrant, and healthy-looking products not only attract customers but also communicate the quality of your produce.

Stack Your Items High

The way you arrange your items can also make a big difference in how people perceive them.

Urban Farmer Curtis Stone shares the philosophy “Pile it high, watch it fly.” Creating the illusion of abundance can make your products seem more appealing to passersby.

Not only does it catch attention, but a well-stocked booth also sends a message that many others are buying from you, instilling a sense of trust and popularity.

Decorate Your Table

Adding visual elements to your table can elevate its appearance and draw in potential customers. Beyond just showcasing your products, a well-decorated booth can give an insight into your brand’s identity and give you an edge over competition. Here are a few tips:

  • Use Branded Tablecloths: Branded tablecloths can instantly make your booth look more professional and visually appealing. They also offer a consistent and clean background against which your products can stand out.
  • Display Quality Trays or Baskets: Use attractive trays, baskets, or crates to display your products. They should be clean and in good condition to enhance the presentation of your produce. Choose materials and colors that complement your products and brand image.
  • Add Natural Elements: Incorporating natural elements like flowers, plants or rustic wood can create an appealing, fresh, and organic look to your stand, which can be particularly attractive at a farmers market.
  • Use Signage: Clear and attractive signage can communicate important information about your products, like prices, origin, and unique selling points. This can help customers make informed purchasing decisions.
  • Incorporate Lighting: If you’re participating in an evening market, consider adding some lights to your stand. Not only will this make your booth stand out, but it will also make it easier for customers to see your products.
  • Display Photos of Your Farm: Images from your farm can create a personal connection with your customers, giving them a glimpse into where their food comes from.
  • Showcase Customer Testimonials or Press Features: If your farm or products have received positive reviews or been featured in media, display these proudly at your booth. This builds credibility and trust among new customers.
  • Incorporate Brand Colors: If your brand has specific colors, incorporate them into your table’s decoration. Consistency in branding helps create a memorable impression on customers.

The key is to balance functionality with aesthetics. Remember, your booth should reflect your brand’s values and the quality of your products, while also being an inviting space for potential customers.

Present Yourself Well

You’re also a big part of how shoppers perceive your booth. So don’t show up with messy hair and dirty jeans. Be comfortable but clean and professional so people feel good buying food items from you.

Your personal presentation can reflect the care and dedication you put into your products, thereby enhancing the overall credibility of your business.

Stand Up

Standing up rather than sitting at your booth can make a big difference. This puts you at eye level with your customers and lets you interact with them more naturally.

It communicates your enthusiasm, readiness to serve, and helps you engage more effectively with potential buyers.

Make Eye-Catching Signage

Signage can draw shoppers’ attention and let them know exactly what they can expect from your products. Effective signs are not only eye-catching but also informative.

They should provide information such as the name of your farm or business, what you sell, and any special features of your products.

Hire a Designer

Your signs should look professional and represent your business. So unless you’re really confident in your artistic skills, hire someone or ask a creative friend to help you put together some good-looking signage.

Investing in professional signage can significantly enhance your booth’s appearance and brand credibility.

Clearly Label Prices

Customers don’t want to have to ask you for the price of every item at your booth. So put out signs with prices that are clearly marked and easy to read.

Clear pricing helps to facilitate quick decision making for customers and allows for smoother transactions, resulting in a better shopping experience.

Be Friendly and Talkative

When people approach your booth, greet them in a friendly way and make sure they know you’re available to answer any questions. Don’t be pushy, but do engage them in conversation when the opportunity presents itself.

Building rapport with customers can lead to repeat business and also provides an opportunity to get direct feedback about your products.

Create a Consistent System

Establish a set system for things like taking money and packaging sold items. Make sure bags are easily accessible and everyone working at your booth knows the process for accepting payments.

This consistency can streamline the purchasing process for customers and enhance their overall shopping experience.

Create an Operations Manual

John Suscovich of Farm Marketing Solutions suggests creating an operations manual that covers every step of the process, from packing your items for transportation to how you package them when customers buy. This allows you to keep all of your employees or helpers on the same page, making it easier for you and creating a more consistent experience for customers. An operations manual also aids in training new team members and ensures that quality and service standards are consistently met.

In this manual, it might be useful to include the following:

  • Product Catalogue: List all the products you intend to sell at the market, with detailed descriptions, prices, and if applicable, their unique selling points.
  • Packing Process: Outline step-by-step instructions on how to pack your products for transportation, ensuring they reach the market in the best possible condition.
  • Setting Up The Booth: Include details on how to set up the booth from start to finish. This could cover the layout, product arrangement, signage placement, and decor setup.
  • Sales Procedure: Document the process for accepting payments, including handling cash, using credit card processors, and dealing with discounts or refunds.
  • Customer Service Standards: Define expectations for interacting with customers. This could include how to greet customers, answer questions, handle complaints, and maintain a friendly, professional demeanor.
  • Health and Safety Guidelines: Outline the health and safety regulations that need to be adhered to while selling at the market. This might cover food handling procedures, cleanliness standards, and emergency protocols.
  • End of Day Procedures: Describe the steps for wrapping up, including how to pack up unsold goods, clean the booth area, tally the day’s sales, and safely secure the cash.
  • Inventory Management: Offer a method for tracking inventory before, during, and after the market, to ensure efficient stock management and minimize waste.

By detailing all these aspects in an operations manual, you can ensure your team operates cohesively, maintains a high standard of service, and contributes to a consistent and satisfying customer experience.

Keep the Line Moving

If people walking by your booth see a huge line, they might just pass by without stopping. So try your best to move through the line quickly without pushing customers away.

A fast-moving line reduces wait times and enhances customer satisfaction. To do this, consider implementing methods such as a clear queue system, an efficient payment process, and having enough staff during peak hours.

Create a Flow for Your Booth

Creating a flow for your booth can help in managing crowd and keeping your display tidy. Signage indicating where people should stand while waiting to complete purchases, or a clearly marked path through your booth, can help keep things organized.

A well-organized booth can enhance the shopping experience for customers, making them more likely to return.

Answer Questions While Selling

Being able to multitask effectively is important. Practice accepting payments while answering questions from other customers to keep the line moving even while others shop.

This not only enhances efficiency but also provides a chance for you to interact with multiple customers, promoting a friendly and service-oriented environment.

Create a FAQ Sign

If you find that many customers ask the same questions, consider creating a FAQ sign. This can speed up transactions, save your time, and empower customers to self-service, leading to a more efficient operation overall.

Common questions could revolve around product origin, cultivation methods, or shelf life.

Display Photos from Your Farm

Sharing pictures from your farm can help customers feel connected to your business and understand the process behind the produce they are purchasing.

Photos depicting the cultivation process, the team behind the operation, or the farm’s surroundings can add an element of transparency and trust, enhancing your relationship with your customers.

Share Recipes

Creating unique displays or packaging for products that offer recipes and cool ideas for what people can make with your items can add value to your customers and differentiate you from other vendors.
This can also help stimulate demand for your products as customers get new ideas on how they can utilize your produce in their meals.
Checklist ItemWhy It's Important
Visit Markets BeforehandUnderstanding the atmosphere and demographics helps in planning your selling strategy.
Conduct Market ResearchThis informs you about the potential demand, popular products, and pricing structure at the market.
Learn the Market RulesFollowing market rules prevents misunderstandings and ensures smooth operation.
Start SmallIt allows you to learn the process, gain experience, and make mistakes without significant consequences.
Find a Unique NicheDifferentiating your products can make your booth stand out and attract more customers.
Differentiate Your ProductsUnique or superior features can draw customers and justify premium pricing.
Do a Dry RunIt helps to fine-tune your presentation, layout, and operation before the actual market day.
Keep Detailed ChecklistsChecklists ensure you don't forget any crucial items or tasks for your market day.
Remember the EssentialsKeeping personal comfort items ensures you're energized and comfortable throughout the day.
Display the Best Looking FoodsAttractive displays communicate the quality of your produce and draw customers.
Stack Your Items HighAbundant displays attract attention and can instill a sense of trust and popularity.
Decorate Your TableIt adds visual appeal to your booth, enhancing the shopping experience.
Present Yourself WellA professional appearance can reflect the care you put into your products, enhancing credibility.
Stand UpStanding up puts you at eye level with customers and facilitates better interaction.
Make Eye-Catching SignageAttractive and informative signs can draw shoppers and provide important product information.
Hire a DesignerProfessional-looking signage enhances your booth's appearance and brand credibility.
Clearly Label PricesClear pricing facilitates quick decision-making for customers and smoother transactions.
Be Friendly and TalkativePositive interaction can build rapport with customers, leading to repeat business.
Create a Consistent SystemA consistent transaction system streamlines the purchasing process, enhancing customer experience.
Create an Operations ManualIt ensures consistent quality and service standards, making it easier to train new team members.
Keep the Line MovingA fast-moving line reduces wait times, enhancing customer satisfaction.
Create a Flow for Your BoothA well-organized booth enhances the shopping experience and keeps the display tidy.
Answer Questions While SellingMultitasking enhances efficiency and allows for more customer interaction.
Create a FAQ SignA FAQ sign speeds up transactions, saves your time, and empowers customers to self-service.
Display Photos from Your FarmPhotos add transparency, build trust, and help customers feel connected to your business.
Share RecipesSharing recipes adds value for customers and may stimulate demand for your products.

Farmers Market Photo via Shutterstock

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

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