The fall can be a difficult time to sell at a farmers market because the customer population tends to decrease. But as many growers know, the fall can also be the most bountiful time in the garden, providing lots of incentive to make the most of the fall market table.
For that reason it’s worth considering some ways to make the most of the customers who do come and sell a nice heaping load of vegetables (or whatever you produce) every week.
1. Consider Gifts & Decorations
Some farmers might complain that a lot of customers don’t look primarily for food at fall farmers markets but rather holiday gifts or décor for the holiday table. Rather than complaining about this, see it as an opportunity. Decorations you might provide include gourds or the Thanksgiving cornucopia, garlic braids for the kitchen, or wreaths for the door. Some customers might simply want something to give the foodies in their lives—a locally produced basket of storage crops and preserves, or maybe some local honey. Some customers might want to sign up a friend or relative for a CSA the following year—so you can display information and label it “Give the Gift of a CSA.” Having some form of gift on your table might be a bring customers in for the food, or have them buy a little (or big) something extra on their way out of the booth for their family or friends. Get creative here—t-shirts, totes, homemade goods, wool … there are so many farm-made items that make great gifts.
2. Keep Quality High
One thing I notice a lot in the fall is that sure, lots of people bring greens such as kale and collards, but lots of farmers also allow these items to sit on the table and wilt. In the fall, any extra effort stands out, so any products you bring should look fresh, vibrant and healthy. Always keep a cooler of ice and keep swapping out any rough looking greens, and remember to mist them with clean and fresh tap water regularly so they look happy.
3. Keep Summer Crops Coming
Certainly, customers expect and want tables piled high with carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, but as long as you can keep tomatoes coming, they won’t complain. We always like to do a late planting that, in our region of 6b, will produce in the field all the way up until the first frosts (early to mid-October). Not everyone does that, so it’s one way, of many, to help you to stand out.
4. Make Your Inventory Look Plentiful
No matter what you put on your table, try to put out a lot of it. Figure out ways to keep your display looking heaped and bountiful; customers always respond better to a full table of goods than a thin or bare one. Be creative here, too, though. Don’t stack more than you can sell and end up wasting food. Try to elevate the stacks of food with boxes and non-food items to make each pile of greens or whatever more visible and appealing. If you get customers into your booth and keep your food looking fresh, having a successful fall market should be a breeze—a nice, cool, welcome one after a long, hot summer.