Selling at a farmers market can be one of the best ways to move fresh produce. Within that structure, many ways definitely exist that one can maximize the potential and get the most out of every trip.
Specifically, there are methods to increase the number of sales as well as the amount per sale that any farmer should incorporate and adapt to his or her own strategy. Some of these can be incorporated midseason, while others take some planning. Either way, the farmers market is a big investment for the farmer—in time, resources and money—so the better the farmer can utilize that time, the more worthwhile this weekly event will be overall.
Here are four ways to increase sales at the farmers market.
1. Don’t Sell Out
If you sell out of produce or other products too much, that means you don’t bring enough of it. At our farm, we aim to come back with no more than one unit or to sell all of them right before the market is done. By taking good notes on sales, you can decide every week how many carrots were sold, for instance, to decide how many you should bring the following week and how many you should bring next year at this time.
2. Simplify Your Pricing
Excluding most tomatoes, everything on our table is priced at one for $3 or two for $5. It’s simple and straightforward for customer and farmer alike. Everything is separated (in bags, bunches, cartons, and so on) into $2.50 portions. So the customers are rewarded at that price if they buy more items, but they have to pay a little extra just to buy one thing. Plus, $3 and $5 are simple numbers that can make your transactions move more quickly.
3. Season Extension
Season extension is the act of extending the availability of a particular seasonal vegetable of fruit in one direction or the other. One highly neglected area of season extension in my experience is the fall tomato. Every farmer races for the first tomato (as you should, see below), but the late tomato can be an excellent seller for when the weather is still warm and customers are still after that fresh produce. However, season extension is not, of course, relegated solely to the summer crops. If you can push lettuce or spinach into the summertime or deep into the winter, you can have a great market. Anything that customers ask for regularly, try to have it before or after they usually see it.
4. Be First
Speaking of before, the difference in sales numbers between being the first to market with yellow squash, cucumbers, zucchini or tomatoes and having them when every other farmer does is enormous. Customers are already looking for fresh tomatoes in May when the weather really starts to warm up (in our area at least). If you can have them by then, or shortly thereafter, you will be able to sell nearly every tomato you bring based solely on supply and demand. We saw that to a big extent this year when we inadvertently became the first to market with yellow squash—a crop we usually do not push, as it is not a big profit crop for us. This year, however, we had it early and sold out two weeks in a row until, by the third week, every farmer had yellow squash and our sales dropped off. We came back with two-thirds of what we brought. But then we definitely made note for next year—bring more squash earlier.