In the full swing of the farmers’ market season, there can be a great deal of competition and an even greater deal of repetitiveness—in the spring everyone has lettuce, in the summer it’s tomatoes and cucumbers and squash. So what are some ways you can compete and get customers to come to your table? Luckily, you have quite a few options, and the more of them you pursue, the more success you’re likely to see. Here are six things you can do to sell more at the farmers market.
1. Grow Staples
Tomatoes are all well and good, but people need carrots, onions, celery and potatoes year-round. These are crops that will, by sheer proximity and access, help you to sell the other stuff that is well saturated at the farmers’ market. As farmers, we can be as charming and friendly as we want, following all the below tips, but we find that nothing quite sells our lettuce in the middle of the spring quite like also having carrots and green onions on the table.
2. Push Your Seasons
Of course, to complement the above suggestion, having crops when other people don’t is also an easy way to sell more food. On our farm, we focus on lettuce all through the summer when other farmers don’t bother, and we try to be the first to market with tomatoes, peppers and squash. Before these crops really start rolling in for everyone else, growing them first gives you a great marketing advantage as you can charge a reasonable amount and have the market to yourself.
3. Pile Up
Pile it high and watch it fly (or kiss it goodbye, or whatever your local adage might be). Putting large piles of produce on the table makes your farm and display look bountiful and will attract customers like wild.
4. Tidy Up
One easy mistake to avoid is letting your table get barren instead of putting out new produce or consolidating what’s left to keep the display looking bountiful. As things sell out, we often discard an entire table and heap it all onto one or two remaining tables. Also, spending a little time to take sure your display is nice and attractive is an important piece. It does not have to be elaborate, but some nice tablecloths, signs and perhaps boxes or baskets make a difference and help you stand out.
5. Greet Every Passerby
One mistake I see farmers making at market is sitting down and waiting for the customer to come to them. Remember, markets can be intimidating places for a lot of people already, and the idea of approaching someone who seems comfortable sitting in their chair only adds to that intimidation. We greet everyone we can and try to engage them. If you have to sit down, that’s understandable, but try to have someone there with you so that a person can stand and greet at all times.
6. If You’re Certified Organic, Make It Clear
It’s all well and good if you do not spray chemicals and use only compost, but if customers can’t discern that by looking at your booth and signs, they might walk right past your booth. For years, our farm was “not certified but organic,” but as soon as we got that sign and label, we no longer had to explain what we were all about. We not longer had to force customers to ask if we “sprayed.” The label and signs told a whole slurry of new customers what they needed to know, and they supported us immediately.