How To Not Sell Food At The Farmers Market

Want to have a successful market day? Avoid these farmers market no-no’s.

by Jesse Frost
PHOTO: iStock/Thinkstock

If you’re like most market farmers, you work long weeks in the fields but only spend one or two days at the market. With the amount of time you put into growing versus how little you spend selling, that time suddenly has a lot of value—you need to make the most of it. However, I often see farmers doing things that I know makes at least some of their hard work for nought. We can all learn from these farmers and avoid repeating their tactics. Sure, we are all guilty of doing these things from time to time, but the more aware we are, the more we will sell.

Bring Unwashed Food

A little dirt on your produce is OK—it may even be a nice show of authenticity—but if your customers find themselves with half an inch of topsoil in their sinks when they buy from you, they may very well seek other, cleaner sources next time.

Don’t Greet Your Customers

A good way to miss a sale is to not engage a casual passerby. Often a simple “good morning” or “hello” will open up a conversation and rapidly turn into a sale. You don’t have to be loud, funny or even clever, just friendly. A smile and some eye contact is better than nothing, but adding a kind hello is an effective and time-tested trick on our farm to increase sales.

Sit Down On The Job

Naturally, not everyone can stand all day at the farmers market. That said, at least one person should always be standing, ready for questions and greetings. With growing competition, it’s best to be and look ready to sell. It’s more inviting to new customers and shows them you are there to help.

Bring The Fatigue

You’re whooped from a hard week in the fields—I know the feeling. You stayed up late bunching and washing—it happens—but the customer can only be so sympathetic. Do what you can to minimize your workload on the night before market day. Split up your harvest days, hire help or just quit at 2 p.m. Whatever you need to do to take a rest, freshen up and be ready for another day at market is important because you work too hard to not be able to sell the food you grow.

Leave Prices Unmarked

Sure, allowing customers to ask you the price may give you an opportunity to talk them into something else, but we often find customers ask you how much something is regardless because they want to make sure they are correct—even with the price listed. You will get your opportunity to up-sell if you so desire when you ask them if they’d like anything else, maybe some garlic to go along with that tomato.

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Be Pushy

Although up-sells are fine and can even be fun, customers do not love to feel trapped. Try to be conscious of the mood of your customers before selling or talking too much. Maybe they want to chat, maybe they enjoy a good sales pitch, but maybe they are just running late and need some potatoes. Sales is about knowing what your customer needs before they tell you, but it’s also about knowing what they don’t need—like a lecture on food politics or a detailed description of how your week went. Some may love that, but let the customer initiate and dictate the greater conversation. And just avoid politics altogether. It’s safer that way.

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