PHOTO: North Charleston/Flickr
Jesse Frost
September 23, 2016

It is not uncommon that a few hours into market, half of what you brought is sold. But that other half still needs curb appeal, and the table needs to have curb appeal to draw customers in. This is, perhaps, a more important point than some farmers realize.

I worked in wine retail for many years, where customers would regularly gravitate towards buying the last bottle on the shelf. They would assume that because there was only one left, it must be the best bottle. That sort of mentality doesn’t apply so much to farming. When there’s only a small pile of tomatoes—even if that’s because they’re really the best—customers don’t see that. The farmers’ market customer is drawn to a table that is bountiful. So how is a bounty achieved when the bounty part—the excessive pile—gets dismantled? Let’s talk about it.

Think Ahead About Table Design

As with anything, being prepared for this sort of mid-day dearth is best done before the season starts. Every farmer puts some thought into what they’re table may look like at market (or should), and thinking about an empty table beforehand can be hugely beneficial. I recommend designing your display to be easily dismantled and condensed as the bounty wanes. This is easily done by having multiple boxes, bins or containers that can be taken away throughout the day. The fewer empty compartments you have, the better the table will look. If you happened to build a display (as we did, unwittingly), you may need some filler.

Bring Some Table Filler

As space opens up on your table, it is a good idea to have filler around to replenish the space and keep the table looking fresh. Because our own display is currently stationary, we use T-shirts and totes to fill the space. These sell nicely and make the table look full. That said, things like this can take up space in the market truck if you’re setting up every week. (Our current market is indoors where we have a spot rented, so the merch just stays put.)

Use Stuffing

Having some nice paper or smaller boxes to prop food on is not cheating. When the table looks thin, it may be necessary. Find something small and inconspicuous to place below your food or inside your containers, to make it all look fuller. Be sure, however, not to use anything that makes the display look cluttered or messy, and remove the filler as soon as the crop has sold.

Split Your Offerings

Let’s say you still have a lot of one crop left (this is often peppers or squash for us) but you still need to move it. In the past, we’ve made multiple piles of the same crop, separated by crops we have less of. I don’t love this tactic as it can confuse a customer, but it certainly makes the table look more robust. That, of course, is what gets customers to your booth and facilitates a conversation.

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