PHOTO: Melissa Griffiths
January 20, 2015

Farmers’ markets across begin opening any time between March and May, depending on your location and weather, and more and more are starting to be open year-round. During the slower, colder months of the year, a handful of farmers will be selling early greens and few will sell produce grown in greenhouses. While the produce selection might be thin those first few weeks, you can establish a booth that will attract customers and keep them coming through. Even if you stick to a more traditional growing schedule, there are still many things you can sell at the farmers’ market before your crops are ready to harvest.

While your imagination is the limit to what you could possibly sell, don’t think you have to sell a large variety of products to be successful in the off-season. It’s often a good idea to become known for a handful of things. Think about what you are already good at and enjoy doing. Are your pies, cookies or cake pops family-famous? Do you already raise bees and have a surplus of beeswax just waiting for a project? Is quilting, woodcarving or needlework a skill you already possess? Maximize the skills you already have. Dark, cold winter nights—when the holidays are over and the garden doesn’t need weeding—are perfect for working on products for farmers’ market. Here are some ideas to help get you started:

1. Homemade Bath and Beauty Products:

2. Craft/Handmade Items:

    • aprons
    • quilts
    • baby items
    • doll clothes
    • hand-painted nativities
    • Christmas ornaments
    • hand-carved spoons and honey dippers
    • pottery
    • needlework on pillow cases
    • potholders

3. Baked Goods:

      • breads
      • cookies
      • cupcakes
      • brownies
      • specialty/regional items
      • suckers
      • cake pops
      • fudge
      • homemade candies and caramel
      • caramel and candied apples

4. Home-Canned Goods:

      • jams
      • jellies
      • salsa
      • fruits
      • vegetables
      • sauerkraut
      • relishes

5. Resale Items (New or Vintage):

    • cookie cutters
    • vintage glass rolling pins
    • marbles
    • other items that fit your brand and niche (Note: Check with your market to make sure they allow resale items.)

6. Made-to-Order Food:

  • donuts
  • fresh lemonade
  • fresh juices
  • smoothies
  • homemade ice cream
  • crepes
  • tacos
  • anything on a stick
  • popcorn or kettle corn

7. Gourmet Dog Biscuits:

  • peanut butter
  • bacon
  • sweet potato and pumpkin flavored

8. Garden-Starter Supplies:

  • baskets
  • vegetable cages
  • starting trays
  • stakes
  • bulbs
  • seed potatoes
  • unusual varieties of starts

8 Homemade Items You Can Sell at the Farmers’ Market - Photo by Melissa Griffiths (HobbyFarms.com)

Tips for Success

Once you know what you want to make and sell, your success all depends on the execution of your plan and the presentation of your products at your farmers’ market booth. Here are some lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Dependability

I find it important to have a few regular items, such as chocolate chip cookies and my made-to-order fresh lemonade, at my stand that customers can depend on getting each week. However, I’ve also noticed that customers like to shop and to see new things. I’ll occasionally offer a new baked good or different flavors of lemonade. (Strawberry rhubarb lemonade was a huge hit early in the spring while both strawberries and rhubarb were in season locally!) Even though my produce changed with the seasons, my customers have come to know me for my lemonade and cookies.

Packaging

No matter what you sell, be sure the price is obvious. If you’re selling small things, put them in a nice basket or vintage enamelware bowl with a small sign attached. Poster boards and large chalkboards may work for a few things, but plan on pricing being as close to the product as possible. Include important information like what’s in the product, what’s not in it, when was it made, your logo/farm name, care instructions, et cetera. Include a business card for future reference.

8 Homemade Items You Can Sell at the Farmers’ Market - Photo by Melissa Griffiths (HobbyFarms.com)

Rules and Regulations

Don’t just assume that you can set up a booth and start selling. Many states have very specific rules and regulations when it comes to selling homemade foods and products. You’ll need to comply with your state’s laws, as well as the rules unique to the farmers’ market where you want to sell. Contact the market ahead of time for their guidelines and then look up your state regulations online. Utah’s requirements are found in the document called Outdoor Market Requirements produced by the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food. Your states rules will probably be called something similar. When doing online research, get information from an official government site.

Depending on what you plan to sell, you might also have to look up additional details:

  • If you want to sell food products made at home, what do you need to become a legal cottage kitchen?
  • Will you need to obtain a food handler’s permit for foods prepared on-site?
  • What are your state’s regulations for selling cosmetics, like lip balm or deodorant?

Doing your research will not only keep your customers safe, it will keep your business safe as well.



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