The environment benefits from buying locally, but it’s not always easy to find local produce that’s both healthy and affordable. Fortunately, some cities have taken the initiative to promote farmers’ markets through which small growers can sell their wares directly to consumers, as well as related food products like eggs, cheese, honey, and more. To start your own successful farmer’s market in your area, keep these five tips in mind.
5 Tips to Help You Grow a Successful Farmers’ Market
Tip 1: Start small
It’s better to test a smaller farmer’s market first before expanding your business. Let customers know you are new and find out what they like about your products or services before trying a larger market. If you do start small, offer free items to attract more people to your booth.
Also, check out your competition. Find out what kind of customers they attract, and find out how they price their items. Pay close attention to product differentiation so you don’t price your items too low or too high and under or overcharge your customers. Pricing isn’t static; it changes based on competition and product quality.
Tip 2: Research
It’s important to do your research in preparation for participating in a farmer’s market. It’s recommended that you visit at least two farmer’s markets in your area before applying.
Doing so will give you valuable insight into how things are done, as well as help you identify key players and learn what kinds of questions you might be asked during an interview with market management. Most importantly, it will give you confidence going into your first time out.
Tip 3: Know your customers
Before you spend money on marketing, make sure you know who your customers are. The USDA reports that between 2008 and 2012, farmers’ markets experienced strong growth in several participants and total visits. However, not all locations have thriving markets only about half of the farmers’ market managers say that their markets have been very successful.
Tip 4: Take care of yourself
Farming is hard work, and it takes its toll on your body. There’s nothing wrong with taking a break when you need one. If you love what you do, though, don’t let yourself get burned out. Make sure you take care of yourself physically and mentally. If something isn’t working for you or if something feels off, address it before it gets worse or becomes too much for you to handle alone.
Asking for help doesn’t make you weak; in fact, asking for help can make you stronger than ever. Learn how to ask for help by developing strong communication skills with your friends and family members, as well as any business partners that are involved in your farm. Remember: there are no dumb questions! Asking questions helps clarify details about what needs to be done and how things should be done.
Tip 5: Build relationships with vendors
One of your primary goals as a vendor is to network with other vendors, both those you interact with regularly and those that you don’t. If another vendor offers an item or service that I don’t offer, I am always happy to recommend them to my customers, says Stephen Sutton, owner of Blue Moon Farm in Southern California.
Many times they are not aware of items they need or want that we have not yet sold at our market. It helps me grow my business by referring people to others who do things better than I do. This is also true for customer relationships; if one of your customers has a birthday coming up, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask another vendor if they can create something special for them—and then refer them back to you when it comes time for payment.