Packing and unpacking your vehicle every week for the farmers market is like packing and unpacking for a mini vacation—you are doomed to forget something. Having done farmers markets for nearly 10 years myself, I know this well. We have forgotten at least one of everything.
So we have learned that it is smart to devise a checklist and keep it close to where we load up. That way, we can make sure to never forget even the simplest or most obvious (but still forgettable) of items. Believe me, it happens, especially if you’re loading after a long harvest day or early in the morning after a long week.
If this year is your first year at the farmers market, this list can help act as a guide for what you need and for making your own list. Obviously, everyone’s list is a little different, but here are the items on ours as well some information about each.
1. Cash Box
We always bring $100 change, all tens, fives and ones. We also always make sure that we have our card reader for bank cards, and we also bring a supply of our own business cards.
This seems like something you wouldn’t forget. That said, we always take good care to air our tents out if they get wet at all to avoid mildew, so sometimes they are not put back into their cases. Not having them in the same spot every week makes it easy to forget them.
Several options exist for tent weights. We have used cinder blocks mostly, because they stack easily and are relatively easy to pick up and tie onto. Buckets of sand or concrete are effective. A weight must be heavy, though finding something attractive can be difficult.
I recommend collapsible tables with easy handles. Lots of people build their own tables, but they can be heavy, hard to load and hard to move. The 5- or 6-foot collapsible tables are easiest for us and most convenient for packing.
The signs you display include your farm signs and any signs you need for the market. Much of that stuff we personally keep in our market tote as described below.
6. Market Tote
The market tote is our catchall for all the odds and ends that make up the market day. Generally, a small plastic tote with lid holds small signs, our tablecloths, labels, twist ties, organic stickers and even our scale.
Although this often rides in the market tote, we do regularly use our scale as we’re washing and packing so we put this on the list as to remind ourselves to make sure we snagged it before we leave.
If you’re building or bringing any sort of display, that should be listed. Also think about your space before you build a giant display, as this can take up a lot of room. Displays can also be baskets or berry containers, but it should all be easy to locate when you’re packing up.
9. Water Bottle and Sprayer
You and your produce both need water. Also possibly a coffee cup, but that’s just for you.
10. The Product
Double check that you are bringing all of the product that you planned to bring. We have a small walk-in cooler where everything stays, though sometimes crops such as potatoes, garlic or onions—in the middle of the summer as they cure—might not be in there. So we like to write those things on a board close to where we pack so we don’t forget them.