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Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets

Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets 4
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Published Date:02-07-2017
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New Farmer’s Guide: Cultivating Success at Farmers Markets by Randii MacNear and Shelly G. Keller © Davis Farmers Market Association, 2012 C a l i f o r n i aTable of conTenT s Introduction 1 About the authors 2 Why farmers markets are good for farmers 4 Traits of successful farmers market sellers 5 Readiness: Is selling at a farmers market right for you? 6 Preparing to sell at farmers markets 7 Pricing and pricing strategies 8 Setting goals 9 Researching prospective markets 10 Getting your documents together 11 Estimating your costs 12 Building relationships with market managers 12 Pitching your farm to a market manager 13 Follow-through builds trust 13 Your farmers market retail stand 14 Displaying your products 14 Creating signs that help you sell 15 Dressing for sales success 15 Staffing your farmers market stand 16 Welcoming customers 16 Offering samples 17 Creating effective customer handouts 17 Expanding your marketing 18 Staying in touch with market managers 20 Tracking and evaluating results 21 Bibliography 22 Readiness checklist 23 Farmers market visit evaluation form 24 Budgeting farmers market costs 26 Farmers market advice from Davis Farmers Market sellers 27 This publication is based on work supported by the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), Agricultural Marketing Service, USDA, under Grant Number 12-25-G-1133 to the University of California Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program, Davis, CA. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Graphic design and photography by Patricia Graves © 2012 Davis Farmers Market AssociationInTroducTIon Davis Farmers Market—established in 1976 by four pioneering farmers who were recent UC Davis graduates—has become one of the premier farmers markets in the country. It is the only California Certified Farmers Market with its own pavilion (built by the City of Davis), enabling the Market to be open twice a week, year-round, rain or shine. Today, Davis Farmers Market operates two markets a week in Central Park (Saturdays, 8 am-1 pm; Wednesdays, 4:30-8:30 pm mid-March through October and 2-6 pm November through mid- March). We also manage UC Davis Farmers Market at the Silo on campus on Wednesdays, 11 am to 1:30 pm in the Spring and Fall quarters, and the Sutter Davis Hospital Farmers Market, on Thursdays 10 am to 1 pm, May through August at the hospital’s entrance. In 2010, the USDA awarded a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant—one of five awarded in California—to UC Davis for a project entitled, “Growing Farmers through Health Care Partnerships.” Davis Farmers Market partnered with UC Davis Sustainable Agriculture, Research and Education Program to research, market and open a farmers market at the entrance to Sutter Davis Hospital. The grant also funded work to implement institutional changes in how the hospital purchases food and promotes local food and farmers to hospital staff and patients. That grant included a training component for new farmers and this guide reveals the information, experience and knowledge Davis Farmers Market staff gained while opening and managing the Sutter Davis Hospital Farmers Market. What we learned about emerging farmers markets is this: new small farmers are key to building new farmers markets. Cultivating those new farmers in small or emerging farmers markets can help those farmers advance to larger, more successful markets. Emerging farmers markets are the training ground and the proving ground for new farmers market sellers. Davis Farmers Market has a history of successful, sustainable growth and we pride ourselves on discovering new ways to grow both new farmers and farmers markets. This manual provides an overview for new farmers, ranchers and food producers about engaging in direct marketing via farmers markets. Plus, you’ll find advice from successful sellers at Davis Farmers Market. You will learn why farmers markets are good for small farmers, and the traits of successful farmers market sellers. You will learn 1 New Farmer’s Guide how to examine your readiness to sell at farmers markets and how to plan, including researching markets, estimating costs, connecting with farmers market managers, creating a farmers market stand that works, delivering good customer service, “If you want to get into expanding your market, and tracking and evaluating results. a successful market like This how-to guide shares what we know from our personal Davis Farmers Market, perspectives: that of a 30-year veteran farmers market manager, you have to have great and a 30-year marketing professional, who work together to promote and grow farmers markets and small farms. product. The best. As you move through the process of becoming a farmers market Be friendly, because seller and gain experience, consider referring to this guide you’re going to meet a frequently. You’ll discover that your new farmers market selling experience will help you see the advice and tips in this guide with lot of people. You need to a fresh perspective. be able to talk, interact and ask and answer abouT The auThors questions. I get a lot of Randii MacNear is Executive Director and Market Manager of questions. The goal is the Davis Farmers Market, one of the largest Certified Farmers to communicate with Markets in California, with a national reputation including being customers. voted “America’s Favorite Farmers Market” in 2009. In 2012 USA Today ranked Davis No. 2 in its list of 10 Great Places to Shop Be prepared to get along at a Farmers Market, and U.S. News & World Report ranked the Market No. 5 in its list of America’s 10 Best Farmers Markets. with everybody at the market, even people who With over 30 years in the farmers market industry, MacNear is responsible for the bi-weekly, year-round Davis Farmers aren’t very friendly. ” Market, as well as the UC Davis Farmers Market and Sutter Lucas Boucher Davis Hospital Farmers Market. She co-founded the industry Boucher Plants Suisun City, CA organization, California Federation of Certified Farmers Markets DFM seller since 2012 and is a member of the statewide UC Davis Farm Center Advisory Group. For eight years, MacNear served on the board of the North American Farm Direct Marketing Association and chaired its North American Farmers Market Coalition. She was a member of the USDA Forum on Farmers Markets, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s Certified Farmers Market Advisory Committee, and WIC Roundtable. She has been a featured speaker at California Farm Conferences, and numerous national and international symposiums. MacNear has consulted on farmers market projects in California, New Mexico, Hawaii and Japan. She currently serves on the board of Yolo Farm to Fork, the Small Farm Center Agricultural Tourism Workgroup, Davis Farm to School Project, Yolo County Ag Futures Alliance, California Federation of Certified Farmers Markets, and Yolo County Visitor’s Bureau. 2 New Farmer’s Guide MacNear has contributed to over a dozen publications about farmers markets, including: The Davis Farmers Market Cookbook (Brennan and Evans, 2012); The Farmers Market Management Series: Vol. 1, Starting a New Farmers Market, and Vol. 2 Farmers Market Management Skills (Small Farm Center, UC Davis, 2005); The New Farmers Market: Farm-Fresh Ideas for Producers, Managers & Communities (V. Corum, M. Rosenweig and E. Gibson, 2001); Cultivating Common Ground: Biennial Report of the UC Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (UC Davis, 2000); Sell What You Sow–The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing (E. Gibson, 1994); and Organizing a Certified Farmers’ Market (Revised), (California Department of Food & Agriculture, 1992). MacNear has a B.A. in Art from Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. Shelly Keller has been marketing and events manager at Davis Farmers Market since 2008, providing marketing, media relations, promotions, special event management, advertising and long-range planning for Davis Farmers Market as well as the Sutter Davis Hospital Farmers Market. Keller was founding food editor and writer for Solano Magazine from 2004 to 2008. From 1986 to 2004, she was president of Keller Marketing & Communications, a small business that produced special events, marketing campaigns, publications and training programs for public agencies, small businesses and non-profits. She has taught two semesters of “Writing for PR” at UC Davis Extension, and “How to Shop the Farmers Market” for Sacramento’s Learning Exchange. Keller’s articles about food and farmers markets have appeared in The Sacramento Bee, The Davis Enterprise, Edible Sacramento, Winters Express, Solano Magazine and Inside the City. Keller has a B.S. in home economics from the University of Maryland, College Park. 3 New Farmer’s Guide Why farmers markeTs are good for farmers Farmers markets have grown in number dramatically in the last twenty years. According to the USDA, between 1994 and 2011, the number of farmers markets has grown from 1,755 to 7,175. Those new farmers markets have added new opportunities for small farmers to sell directly to consumers at retail prices. For decades, farmers markets have helped small farmers grow their businesses in several other ways as well. Farmers markets benefit new farmers in many ways: • Farmers markets are especially suited to the small farmer and markets often function as business incubators. • Farmers markets offer better pricing opportunities, often substantially higher than wholesale. • Farmers markets let the grower set the price, while creating cash flow. • Farmers markets benefit farms that are family businesses. • They offer an inexpensive and efficient way for small farmers to reach consumers. • Farmers markets offer farmers personal satisfaction and social interaction between seller and customer, and among market sellers. • They create a bond between producer and consumer that does not occur in traditional grocery stores. • Farmers markets give farmers an opportunity to try new crops and get valuable feedback from customers. • Farmers markets require farmers to spend little or no money on packaging, advertising or promotion. • Most farmers markets offer exemption from standard size and pack regulations. • They require minimal start-up costs, usually requiring only a truck and a farmers market stand. • Farmers markets create an atmosphere where consumers can learn about farming, farm products, nutrition, and food security. Farmers markets function as business incubators because they offer an efficient and inexpensive means of reaching consumers. 4 New Farmer’s Guide New sellers get exposure to experienced sellers, who can provide advice and answer questions that many new farmers have during the first years of their fledgling business. Small farmers also get a better price for their products at farmers “Engage with your markets than they can wholesale. Farmers can bring varieties they customers. Make eye couldn’t otherwise sell wholesale, and products that don’t make contact with those standard pack and grade. Plus, the cash transactions at farmers walking by. Smile Stay markets also help farmers with cash flow. When a farmer sells wholesale, it’s 30 days out for payment, and sometimes no payment off the phone. at all. This makes farmers markets more economically viable and a better economic model for farmers than selling at wholesale. Offer free samples as best you can in conformance The social nature of farmers markets also provides farmers with positive feedback from consumers, while being good for their with market standards morale. Farmers markets help farmers feel appreciated for their and regulations. Be work. That just doesn’t happen a lot in farming except at farmers generous. markets. Offer ‘bulk’ discounts. If someone wants a whole TraITs of successful armers marke f T sellers box or boxes, recognize Farmers who enjoy success at farmers markets share several that you won’t have to traits. These include: invest as much time per • Enjoying selling to and interacting with the public unit to make that sale. • Participating as a team-player at farmers markets Boil down your display • Understanding the importance of knowing and following to as simple an exercise farmers market’s rules and regulations as you can. Nice looking • Ability to take direction from the farmers market manager for sure, but something • Ability to accept the authority of the market manager as that is easy to set up AND the representative of the market’s governing board pack up and transport. ” • Understanding that while their farm operation is their Rich Collins California Vegetable individual business, in a farmers market each farmer Specialties is part of a cooperative store and they have to abide by Rio Vista, CA DFM seller since 1989 decisions made for the whole market, not just for the individual farmer • Competency in post-harvest handling–this includes knowing when to harvest and still get product to market while it’s looking its best. 5 New Farmer’s Guide readIness: Is sellIng a T a farmers markeT rIghT for you? All new endeavors require a certain level of readiness if you are to be successful. Being “ready” requires knowledge and awareness of what a new endeavor requires, and your willingness to do what is necessary to succeed. It’s difficult to know if you are “ready” if you have no knowledge of how a farmers market functions, what opportunities farmers markets offer, and whether you have the necessary qualities for success. One of the biggest issues is this: if you don’t like to talk to customers, and you do not have the energy to be an active seller– then selling at farmers markets is probably not right for you. You have to understand that your goal at a farmers market is to engage customers and move product during the 4-5 hours of a market. If you don’t like to talk to strangers, if you aren’t a social person, if you do not have the patience to answer questions and interact with customers, you will probably not enjoy success as a farmers market seller. Another gauge of readiness is your ability to follow farmers market rules and regulations. That requires good communication with the market manager, understanding the importance of arriving on time, and being aware of your place in the market as part of a team. While farming allows you to be your own boss, farmers markets require that you are able to take direction from the market manager. That means following rules and regulations that are not of your own making. Selling at a farmers market requires that you participate in a system where you didn’t help make the rules, and maybe don’t agree with them. Following market rules and regulations are a necessary aspect of being a farmers market seller. Knowing if you are ready to sell at farmers markets requires that you do some research. • Which markets do you want to be part of? • Do those markets already have sellers with products that you grow? • How far are you willing to travel (round-trip) to sell? • How much time can you afford to be away from farming? • Who will sell your products if you cannot be at the market? 6 New Farmer’s Guide • Will the time you spend selling at farmers markets produce the revenue you need? • Can you afford the fees of the farmers markets where you “Be honest and be want to sell? consistent. Be reliable • Do you feel like you will fit in at those markets? and be on time at every • Are you committed to being a regular seller at farmers market. markets? You can answer most of these questions by doing three things: It takes a lot of work to sell at farmers markets. 1. Research the farmers markets in your area. If you bring good quality, 2. Visit the markets where you would like to sell. people will come back to 3. Talk to sellers at those markets to determine customer your stand again. traffic, competition, sales potential, ease of working with ” the market manager there, and the personality of that Luis Guevara Rancho Mi Familia Fruit & market. Produce, Inc. Santa Maria, CA The more you know about the farmers markets you are interested DFM seller since 1999 in, the more you will be able to evaluate your readiness. The Readiness Check-list on page 29 can help you assess your prospects for success. PreP arIng T o sell a T farmers markeTs Once you’ve determined your readiness to become a farmers market seller, take time to put in writing the answers to these key questions: 1. What products will I sell? 2. What kinds of customers will I serve? 3. What is unique about the products I will sell? 4. How will I price my products? 5. What does my farm’s brand look like? 6. What does my farm’s retail stand look like? 7. Where should we display my farm’s logo, banner or sign? 8. How can I make my products more appealing to customers? 7 New Farmer’s Guide PrIcIng and PrIcIng sTra TegIes Prices at farmers markets are influenced by two things: production costs and customers’ willingness to pay. When you set prices for your products, it is important to set them at a level that covers all your costs plus a fair profit. Prices are also somewhat dependent on competitors’ prices, and customers’ demand for your products. When there are several sellers offering the same products, competition exerts more influence over the price you can set. Your best selling price falls somewhere between what you need to cover costs and what the customer is willing to pay. Usually, prices at farmers markets fall somewhere between wholesale and retail grocery store or food co-op prices. The first step to pricing your products is to know your costs. The goal is not just to sell your produce, but to make a profit selling it. If you can’t sell a crop for more than your production and marketing costs, don’t grow it. Good recordkeeping–tracking costs and returns for each crop separately–will reveal which crops are profitable and which are not. Trial and error is a natural part of setting prices. Your price is probably too low if other sellers start to complain to the market manager about your prices; or if your prices are substantially lower than other sellers at that market. In some markets, low prices can also be a niche for reaching price- sensitive customers. And remember, farmers market customers are looking for quality first, and then price. Multiple pricing allows you to charge a per-pound price, and then a lower price for higher-volume purchases. For example, you might price a product at 1 per pound, or 3 pounds for 2.50. This encourages customers to buy more and save. Volume pricing–setting a lower price for flats of berries, boxes of tree fruits or 20-pound units of vegetables–increases sales during peak season when customers are freezing or home-canning fresh produce. Bag pricing is another way to attract customers. By bagging produce in half-pound or one-pound bags or 1 and 2 bags, the customer can determine at a glance if that bag of produce looks like a good value. Many shoppers don’t have any idea what a pound of something looks like, and this strategy makes it easier for them to decide to buy your products. 8 New Farmer’s Guide seTTIng goals When preparing to sell at farmers markets, it is important to set reasonable goals. How many farmers markets do you have time to sell at? How far are you willing to travel to sell at farmers “The most important markets? Which farmers markets would you like to be part of? If thing is to visit a few you can devote three days a week to selling at farmers markets, farmers market to see this information can help you when you research prospective if their atmosphere, markets. sellers and shoppers Davis Farmers Market operates four markets in Davis: two are appropriate to your markets in the Pavilion in Central Park, one on Wednesday afternoons and one on Saturday mornings. Davis Farmers Market commodity. also operates the UC Davis Farmers Market on Wednesdays during Spring and Fall Quarters; and the Sutter Davis Hospital We found that the Farmers Market on Thursdays from May through August. farmers markets closest Nearly every new farmer approaches us about selling at our two to our farm are most largest, and most successful markets in the Pavilion in Central receptive. The fact that Park. The waiting list to become a seller at our large markets our farm is close by, gets longer and longer every year because sellers at that market and that they would have been around for years or decades. Successful markets tend to be full, with plenty of satisfied, committed sellers, making be welcome to visit our those farmers markets very hard to get into. But getting into our farm, means a lot to small or new markets is considerably easier to do. Those farmers them. markets are often a perfect match for the new small farmer. As you set your sights on farmers markets where you want to You have to remember sell, consider the size of the market, how long that market has that when you’re selling been operating, and who else sells there. It is also advantageous, food at a farmers when possible, to apply to farmers markets or farmers market market, you are organizations that operate more than one market. Small farmers are more likely to get into one of the smaller markets operated by selling retail food. It is those organizations. important to understand Another advantage to working with operators of many markets is the rules related to food this: as your farm grows, you may be able to move up into one of products and fresh the larger markets when an opening occurs. That’s because you produce to ensure that have developed a relationship with the farmers market manager/ your product is safe operator by selling at a small market, establishing your credibility as an active seller who follows the rules and adds to the market’s because you have a lot to success. lose if your customers get sick. ” Dan Jones Islote Farm, Esparto, CA DFM seller since 2011 9 New Farmer’s Guide researchIng ProsPecTIve markeT s There are several excellent sources of information about farmers markets. The USDA’s Directory of Farmers Markets has information on location, days and hours of operation, size, “Go to farmers markets and number of vendors. The website,, also and look for products provides information on farmers markets. Another web site, that are missing or in, provides contact information, times, short supply. Don’t try locations, size, and operator of a particular market in your city, county or region. You can also search this website for farmers to come into a market markets based on size (under 10 sellers; 10-20 sellers; 21-35 with peaches or squash sellers; and over 35 sellers). or something that’s really To map your prospective markets, mark the location of your farm common. and draw a circle around it that represents the distance you are willing to travel to sell at farmers markets. Now you can search Look for markets whose the databases above to come up with a list of prospective farmers size will support you. markets that meet your needs. Markets should be big As you consider markets, pay close attention to the days and enough to support your hours of each market’s operation. Often you can piggyback small product. If you only go markets, selling at a morning/mid-day market and an evening market held nearby later that same day. This creates efficiencies to one small market and that small farmers need to succeed. Even if you can only be away expect to make a living, from the farm three days a week, you might be able to sell at as that’s probably not going many as six markets in a week. to happen. If you sell at Knowing which farmers markets you want to be part of is the multiple small markets, first step. Visit the markets you’re interested in. Evaluate their or get into one or two potential for you as a seller. And remember that small farmers who don’t grow organics, probably shouldn’t be part of a market larger ones your sales that focuses on organics. will be higher. While you can learn a lot about farmers markets from researching Connecting with the Internet–market age, location, hours, rules, regulations and fees–nothing reveals as much about a farmers market as visiting customers is not it. With your map and farmers market prospect list in hand, about sales; it’s about visit each market and assess traffic, customers, seller pricing, education. A farmers competition, space available, and marketing style of sellers. market is farming for The Farmers Market Visit Evaluation form on pages 30-31 can cooking. Be prepared to help you choose the farmers markets that offer the best fit and the talk in depth about how most potential for you and your farm. to cook your products and be excited about it. If you don’t love to continued on next page 10 New Farmer’s Guide geTTIng your documenTs T ogeTher Each farmers market has different requirements for documentation, depending on the county they are located in, cook and eat what you and the rules and regulations governing that market. Every small grow, how can you share farmer who sells at a California Certified Farmers Market will need to have a Certified Producer Certificate (see below for the that enthusiasm with link) before they can be admitted into a farmers market. You customers? should have this document before you begin to contact farmers market managers about selling at their market. You can get any People are buying raw other necessary documents together once you are admitted to a ingredients, and if there farmers market. is a market seller who Farmers markets differ in how to apply to be a vendor, and you is excited, customers can find this information on the web site of the farmers markets share that excitement. you are interested in. It’s important to have While all farmers markets are different, here is the process those conversations, and we used at Davis Farmers Market: Farmers may apply to the Davis Farmers Market with their agricultural products (fruits, that shared experience of vegetables, herbs, mushrooms, nuts, honey, flowers) and their being excited about your non-certifiable agricultural products (meats, poultry, eggs, food. dairy products, aqua-culture). All products must be grown in ” California. In order to sell certifiable agricultural products, Kristy Lyn Levings Cache Creek Meat your farm must be certified by the Department of Food and Company Agriculture in the county where the products are grown or raised. Esparto, CA You must have your current Certified Producers Certificate on file with the farmers markets where you sell. Certified Producer Certificate online application: http:// Certified Producers Application to Sell: The application requires your signature which attests that you have read Davis Farmers Market Association’s Rules and Regulations, and which states you agree to abide by those rules. Fees: Stall Fees are calculated as a percentage of the seller’s gross sales for that Market Day. A minimum stall fee will be collected for each space used, even in case of no sales. • Members: 6% of gross sales (30 minimum on Saturday, 20 minimum at Picnic in the Park on Wednesdays, 4:30-8:30 pm and 10 minimum at the UC Davis Farmers Market) • Membership Dues: 40 first year, 25 subsequent years • Non-Members: 8% of gross sales, 26 minimum (you must be a member to sell on Saturday or at the UC Davis or Sutter Davis Farmers Markets). 11 New Farmer’s Guide esTIma TIng your cosTs In addition to the costs associated with growing your crops, there are costs specific to farmers markets, including membership fees and daily market fees. Other costs include: county certificate fees; transport and delivery of your products; pop-up tents, tables and chairs; scale, calculator and cash register or cash box; reusable crates, boxes or baskets plus packing materials for transporting and displaying produce; supplies for sampling (containers with lids, tongs and gloves); customer shopping bags; farm sign or banner; pricing signs; labor costs of staffing your booth; and printed fliers about product storage and recipes (if you choose to use them to promote your farm and your products). Whether you staff your own booth, or pay a family member or employee to sell for you, be sure to account for the value of your own time spent at the farmers market. You can use the Budgeting Farmers Market Costs form on page 26 to estimate costs. b uIldIng rela TIonshIPs WITh markeT managers Market managers are the gatekeepers of the farmers markets they manage. You only get one chance to make a first impression with a market manager, and if you want to sell at his or her market, you want to make a good one. First, be sure you have your Certified Producers Certificate (CPC) before you approach a market manager. Your CPC needs to be displayed at every farmers market where you sell, and every market where you sell needs to have a copy of your current CPC on file. Download the application for any farmers market where you want to sell, and bring the completed application with you, even if you do not know if there is space in that farmers market. These two documents help the market manager learn who you are, what you sell, and how committed you are to selling at his or her market. Because market managers have different management styles and preferences about communication, it is not usually a good idea to just show up at the market and expect the manager to have time to talk with you. Call or email the market manager to schedule a time to talk. Find out their preferred communication style. Do they prefer email or phone? Do they have a slow time at their market when they have time to talk with you? Market managers receive dozens of inquiries from small farmers, and you want to begin your relationship by valuing their time 12 New Farmer’s Guide and respecting their styles of communication. Most market managers prefer emails to phone calls because of their efficiency. But finding out early how the manager likes to do business will go a long way toward getting you and your farm into the farmers markets you favor. PITchIng your farm T o a markeT manager Market managers want to know about you and your farm. How long have you been farming? How committed are you to being at his or her market every week? What makes your products desirable and unique? Is it the variety of products, the quality, or product uniqueness? Knowing your sales expectations can help the market manager place you in a farmers market that is a good match for you as well as the market. Your willingness to start in a small market helps build trust with the manager, while getting your relationship with the manager off on the right footing. Above all, farmers that are new to farmers markets cannot expect to start in the bigger, more successful markets. That rarely happens. follo W-Through buIlds TrusT By developing a person-to-person relationship with the market manager, you begin your partnership in a way that promotes learning and communication. Study your farm to see what products are coming to harvest and keep the market manager informed. Be consistent and organized. Market managers will appreciate your professionalism while you build trust and credibility. 13 New Farmer’s Guide y our farmers markeT reT aIl sT and Think about what your style is. What is your décor? The days of putting out an old, dirty table with boxes on it are over. Good markets are looking for more than that. If you don’t know what “Our philosophy has kind of booth you want, look at displays at farmers markets and always been, the more figure out which style feels like you. It really pays off to see what variety you have, the successful sellers’ booths and stands look like, so you can create better. That allows us to a selling space that reflects you, your farm and your style. Realize that the most successful sellers have a style and a décor that they sell as much as we can brand for themselves and they carry it out at every single market. to each shopper. It’s high And a recognizable style helps customers find your stand at the management and more market. difficult to do, but all that Do you need shelter for your booth? A pop-up tent can protect variety pays off when product quality and provide customer comfort while defining you have a great display. your selling area. Most farmers markets are held rain or shine, and a pop-up tent can protect your products, your customers and I think display is you. A white fabric tent is best because blue and green fabrics make fruits and vegetables appear discolored. everything. Presentation is so important. You’re creating an art palette dIsPyI la ng your ProducTs when you create In farmers markets, display is defined as the general layout of your farmers market your market booth or stand, including the fixtures you use to hold your products. There are two secrets to a good display: display. Make sure you abundance and neatness. An attractive display is key to attracting have tablecloths, use customers, and distinguishing your farm–and you–from the contrasting colors, and other farms and farmers in the market. Customers buy more pay attention to how you when displays are bountiful. Display your products so that they are easy for customers to reach. Keep used boxes, trash and put things together. damaged produce out of sight. Is your farm name prominently displayed? Does your display look abundant? Is your produce We used to handwrite clean, neatly arranged and regularly inspected to remove prices on the tops of damaged products? cardboard boxes and set Display fixtures can be wooden flats or crates, wicker or bushel them next to the produce, baskets, or burlap bags over cardboard boxes. Customers like but we ended up with a stand that looks natural. A country look and old-fashioned a lot of trash because containers can give your booth a farm atmosphere. Keep color in mind when selecting display materials and go for simple but products and prices effective color to dress up your display. Green, earth colors, and change from week to checked or gingham fabrics look great beneath fresh produce. week. Now we use very Whether you like baskets, or farm boxes and old lug boxes, create a plan for your booth and display, and work to improve it continued on next page throughout the year. 14 New Farmer’s Guide Finally, while plastic bins, plastic boxes and plastic containers may offer durability, convenience and ease of transport, go easy on using bright plastic in your display. The most colorful thing on your farmers market stand should be your products. small chalkboards, which is easier and part of our décor. crea TIng sIgns Tha T brand your farm Signs can provide information to help you sell, add color to your Since you’ll have different stand, and help “brand” your farm. The three basic types of signs produce from week to are: price signs, information signs, and brand signs. week, you can’t set up Price signs are important and should be clearly marked near the your stand the same way products. Food shoppers are used to shopping retail stores where every time. It makes they don’t have to ask about prices. If they have to ask about the sense to have versatile price, some shoppers may not even consider shopping at your stand. A large chalkboard or white board can be used in place of produce chalkboards—so individual signs if you don’t have too many products. Or you can you can switch them, and create price signs on cardboard, or purchase small chalkboards to change them. display the price near each product. Some farmers markets have rules regarding price signs, so check your market’s rules before Get to know your deciding how to display prices. customers’ names, and be Product information signs include signs saying “organic” or willing to chat and have “picked today.” Some include information about storage or real conversations with cooking tips. If you offer a new or unusual variety of produce, label it with a sign and think about having a flier explaining how them. That’s why people to store it and prepare it. And be sure to be aware of the labeling come to the market. They laws regarding organic produce. want that interaction Brand signs are used to convey your farm name, and develop with the farmer. That’s name recognition. When a customer returns to the market, they why it’s important that are more likely to revisit your stand if they remember your name the farmer is the seller. or what your farm sign looks like. It’s an opportunity for the farmer to have dressIng for sales success an exchange with the You and the people who help you sell are part of your display. If customers. You need to you don’t have aprons or t-shirts with your farm name on them, be there yourself as much wear a farmers market apron. Consider wearing a hat–with either as possible. your farm name or the farmers market name on it. And wearing a ” nametag lets customers approach you to say, “Hello, Joe” Annie Main Good Humus Capay, CA 15 New Farmer’s Guide sT affIng your farmers markeT sT and While one person can staff a small booth, having two people to wait on customers, re-stock the display and allow for breaks, is optimal. That’s not usually possible for new farmers. If you cannot be at every market, it’s important to use the same crew to sell at each market. Familiar faces help increase every customer’s comfort level when they shop at your booth. Most shoppers expect to be able to speak directly to the farmer, or someone who works on the farm. It is one of the appeals of buying directly from the producer. There will be times when you, the farmer, cannot staff your farmers market booth or stand. Many farmers involve family members in selling at the market. Some farmers bring their farm workers to help sell, while others employ people just to sell at the market. Whenever you have family members or employees selling your products, you need to train them and provide guidance about how you expect them to interact with customers. Make a list of tasks when you involve family members or hire employees. Be specific, including when to arrive at the market, what to do regarding set-up, where to place signs, how to greet customers, and how to weigh produce and make correct change. WelcomIng cusT omers Making eye contact is the best way to welcome customers. If a shopper cannot make eye contact with the person selling at your stand, that shopper may move on. If you don’t want to lose the “people touch” that encourages people to visit and shop your stand, be sure employees and family know your rules about customer service, especially about being friendly and readily accessible. Tell your employees your rules regarding texting and talking on the phone, reading a book, using computers, or visiting with neighbors when the market is busy. And be sure employees are dressed appropriately. You can build a relationship with each person who buys your products with a friendly greeting, a thank you, and taking time to visit. If a customer is looking but not buying, offer them a sample, or suggest a product that is at the peak of the season. One way to get repeat customers is to ask them to come back and tell you how they prepared your products. Keeping the “people touch” with customers, no matter who is doing the selling, will impact how much you sell at every farmers market. If you hire 16 New Farmer’s Guide someone who is friendly and cordial, you are going to sell more product and make more money. Finally, tell the farmers market manager if you want his or her observations on how employees are doing. Also let the employees “My biggest piece of know you are asking the market manager to check on them. advice for new farmers entering markets is find something to grow that offerIng samPles nobody else is growing, Savvy sellers know that sampling is the most effective marketing or figure out a way method you can use. Sampling helps familiarize customers with your products. It’s not only great advertising, it’s inexpensive. If to grow it BEFORE giving away 50 in product makes the difference between a 300 everybody else has it (like day and a 600 day, it’s worth it. we do with tomatoes and Sampling also helps shoppers choose your product because melons). of taste, freshness and quality of the sample. And remember, shoppers are more inclined to sample if it is offered to them. Be Be flexible when it sure to talk to the customer about what they are sampling. It’s comes to attending also a good idea to have a sign near sample containers that reads : markets, ‘bloom’ where “Try a free sample” the manager needs Your samples should be fresh and their containers clean. Don’t you to be–it does no cut up too much product at one time, so you can offer the freshest samples. Check with the market manager and county health good for anybody to be department about regulations concerning sampling. Follow antagonistic. health department guidelines. The most common regulations are: samples must remain covered; perishables must be iced; Make your stall space sellers doing sampling must wear food service rubber gloves; welcoming, bright and and samples must be offered using a disposable utensil or tongs colorful. Nothing is without anyone’s hands touching the sample. worse than looking at a stall and seeing stuff just crea TIng effecTIve cusT omer handouTs thrown on the table. Many successful farmers market sellers have learned that fliers with product storage tips and simple recipes can help sell Be polite, honest and more product. Today’s shoppers are looking for ways to use the helpful, and dress produce and products they buy at farmers markets. appropriately. Sharing storage tips with shoppers–whether verbally or in print– helps them use every bit of product they buy without waste. And ALWAYS bring Nobody wants to waste money on fresh food. Customers also like plenty of change. ” recipes–the fewer ingredients, the better–and everyone loves new Debbie Ramming ideas for what to cook for dinner. Pacific Star Gardens Woodland, CA DFM seller since 2002 17 New Farmer’s Guide Avoid printing full-page handouts. To be cost-effective and environmentally friendly, go with half-sheet or quarter-sheet fliers and recipes. Be sure to add your farm name, web site and email or phone number to your fliers. This helps brand your farm “Farmers market and your products and increases the likelihood that shoppers managers and sellers are come back for more. all in this together. It is a privilege to have a space exP andIng your markeTIng in a good market. One of the considerable advantages of selling at farmers markets is that you don’t have to do any advertising or publicity because Every seller needs to the farmers market handles that. But there are affordable, and actively participate in relatively easy ways to promote your farm beyond the farmers the market—by being a market. good seller and a team On-line directories and web sites offer free listings for player, by helping other small farmers, especially those who sell through farmers sellers, and making markets or Community Supported Agriculture boxes (delivered to customers). Be sure to sign up to be included on these web customers feel welcome. sites:;; and your State Every seller has a role Department of Agriculture web site. in making their farmers Hosting a web site for your farm is not a necessity for most markets better. small farmers. But today, creating a web site has never been easier. Customers are going to “Google” your farm one day. Play that role–to the Give them a website with basic information to land on Even if hilt. your web site simply states your farm’s general location, your ” products, the farmers markets where you sell, and how to contact Randii MacNear Davis Farmers Market you, this is often enough information to promote your farm. Market manager Whether a customer is trying to find out when a certain product since 1978 will be coming to market, or the markets where you sell, or wants to place a large order for canning or freezing, a web site is a good way for them to find you and get in touch. Your web site can be simple, and should include: • Your farm’s name and/or logo • Phone number where you can be reached quickly • Location of your farm (not necessarily your address) • What you grow • List of farmers markets where you sell • Photo(s) of you and/or your family on your farm • Link to email you. 18 New Farmer’s Guide