Walking through an unfamiliar farmers market recently, I noticed that all the tables looked nearly identical. I don’t mean that they all were selling the same goods or had the same tablecloths or tents. I mean there was almost no way to differentiate them in terms of their growing practices, their farm location or market niche. There were, in short, far too few signs.
Sure, every place had some sort of sign identifying the farm, but no table had anything beyond that to attract the average customer—which I was that day. I needed something to tell me, in this sea of farmers, whom I should support. Attracting customers with signs, I realized, was one giant missed opportunity.
Here are ways to add or improve your existing signs to help you stand out in a crowd.
1. Make Signs Readable & Visible
Signs can be any different shape or size, but just make sure they are easy to read from at least 20 feet away. If you can’t read them, neither can the customer. So big font with a nice contrast of font color and background. White on green or black, in other words, but not white on a lighter color, or vice versa. Signs should not be too busy, but a nice picture or sketch is fine. It’s better for signs to be professionally printed, but if you have an artist in the family, see what that person can do. That said, a good sign will draw customers in, so it’s a good investment if you have to pay a little for it.
2. Say Where You’re From
If your farm is located very near the market, play that up with phrases such as, “Grown 15 miles from here” or “As local as local gets.” Come up with something fun that will bring attention to just how little your food had to travel from farm to table. Also, if you live in a place with an interesting name, it’s worth putting it on your sign. I can’t tell you how many customers we’ve attracted just by putting “From Bugtussle, Kentucky,” on our sign and the confederations that ensued.
3. Push Your Growing Practices
Especially if you are a practicing organic grower, but are not certified organic, you should have a sign that says something about it. During my recent visit to the farmers market, I only wanted to find a grower who doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Not one person had a sign, but when I spoke to a few vendors I learned they were practicing organic methods. Before we were certified organic, but were practicing, we had a sign that said “We’re proud of the way we grow––ask us about our growing practices.” It started many conversations that turned into sales.
4. Advertise Your Unique Qualities
Are you a female farmer? Permaculturalist? Fifth-generation farmer? First generation? Play it up! If people are trying to decide between 10 farmers selling tomatoes, the one that connects to them personally, or inspires them, will be the one who gets the sale.
5. Tout Your Experience
If you have been doing this farming thing for a long time, say so. People like and trust experience. But also, if this is your first year, don’t shy away from that either. Customers might also enjoy supporting a new farm.