Farmers Market Marketing Series #9: Ten Bonus Ideas for Success at Farmer’s Markets

So, we’ve covered ideas for ways you make design your booth and engage people at the Farmer’s Market. So, if you use those, you should be well on your way to success. But, if you miss the following ideas, things could be a little rockier than you’d like. So, here are some bonus ideas to help out.

Farmers-Market-Old-Strathcona-1024x607BONUS IDEA #1: Choose the right farmer’s market.

Before you commit to a farmer’s Market, it might be wise to scout out a few, or all of the local ones to see who else is there and what they’re selling. If there’s a farmer’s market with no one offering what you are, that might be ideal vs. one at which everyone is selling the same stuff. It’s also good to get a sense of how much traffic there are at different ones and what kind of people.

In addition to visiting them, it would be wise to talk to the other vendors at the market. How is it? Is today’s traffic typical? What’s it like? What do they like about it? What don’t they like about it? How are the Farmer’s Market managers to work with? What time do you need to wake up to be there? Is that what you want? (really).

I would also, personally, want to chat with the manager of the market to see how much effort and thought they put into marketing and promoting the market and getting people there for you.

This may be the most important decision you make.

Every market has its own culture and vibe,” explains Leigh Adcock, executive director of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, an organization connecting women in sustainable agriculture. “Some markets cater to busy shoppers who want to quickly buy their week’s vegetables while others create a more social setting with music and kids activities. Talk to other growers and folks buying at the market to get a sense of what the market is like.”

It’s also wise to make sure you know the rules of the Farmer’s Markets you’re leaning towards to make sure you can commit to what’s expected of you. These can usually be found on their websites.

Here are some questions worth asking.

  • what you can and can’t sell, does the farmer need to be there themselves or can staff be there?
  • does everything need to be produced in State/Province?
  • do you need to commit to the entire selling season?
  • what are the booth rental fees for the season?
  • If you don’t want to commit to the whole season, what’s the weekly fee?
  • If you’ll need water and electricity for your booth – can they provide that?
  • What’s the insurance set up? etc.)

BONUS IDEA #2: Start Small

Hobby Farms puts it best, “Don’t go overboard—test the farmers’-market waters before investing in expensive tents and gear. See if you can find a market where you can sell as a “daily vendor” to get started. These are markets that will let you commit to one market at a time depending on available space. This way, you can get a feel for selling at the farmers’ market without over-committing. As you do these trial sales, take into account your driving time and costs and sales volume to determine if this particular market is a good long-term fit.”

You might want to consider sharing a booth with an existing vendors for a few markets to see if it’s a fit for you.

40364759_sBONUS IDEA #3: Be Organized

Consider doing a dry run of setting up your booth at home before taking it to the Farmer’s Market to work out the kinks, see what will fit on the table, what sort of display works best etc.

And, once you’ve done it a few times and worked out the best process it will be worth its weight in gold to create a proper ‘preparation check list’ for the Farmer’s Market.

What needs to be done the day and night before?

What time do you need to get to sleep the night before and early morning market?

What needs to be packed? Here are some thoughts to start you off.

  • cashbox
  • meal and snacks for the day
  • float and plenty of spare change and small bills
  • booth
  • spare clothes in case it gets warmer or colder
  • weights for your tent in case it’s windy
  • plastic bags for customers
  • markers or chalk to make signs you might have forgotten

Keep refining this checklist until it’s airtight. Nothing worse than being halfway to the Farmer’s Market and realize you’ve forgotten something important.

BONUS IDEA #4: It takes time. Stick around. 

There are people who will mean to buy something from you all year and never do it. The longer you stick around, the larger this pool of people will become. In the beginning, they don’t even know who you are. Then they meet you. Then they like you. Then they trust you. It can take time to get a reputation established where someone says, “Who do you go to for lamb?” and everyone says your name. But, once you’ve got the reputation, the rest of the marketing is really easy. So stick around. Don’t give up too soon.

BONUS IDEA #5: Promote the farmer’s markets you are at. 

The more everyone who’s coming promotes it the better it will be. You saw some examples of this in Farmer’s Market Marketing Series #6: 76 Real World Examples of Farmer’s Using Social Media. Plus, the Farmer’s Market manager will notice and appreciate it a great deal.


Catherine Graham shares her experience, “We also have a local farm who has a website that you can order online from once a month the most in stock in season fruits and veggies and then go to the church to pick up once a month. It’s such a great convenience and you get introduced to food that you wouldn’t necceßsarily buy, and sometimes they include recipes on how to use say zucchini, or squash etc.”

BONUS IDEA #7: Connect with Other Vendors

David Cameron gives this practical, community building tip, “Do YOUR OWN grocery shopping at the FM-builds vendor cohesion & good vibe (especially important in new/small markets as encourages vendors to show up). At the end of the day, consider swapping and trading with other vendors. They may have the inside scoop on other Farmer’s Markets and ideas on other market opportunities you may have missed. If they can feel that you value their products as much as yours the feelings are likely to be reciprocated and then you get a mutual admiration society. And who doesn’t want that?

BONUS IDEA #8: Same place. Same time.

Deb Vail shares this bit of time won wisdom, “Always have your booth in the same place every week and always go – even if you only have $50 worth of products. We’d visit with people then and make contact with them so they would always come to chat again when we were full. We’d bring our interns to tell their stories and share what they were learning.”

BONUS IDEA #9: Saying thank you. 

As customers leave, say thank you for their business. They could be shopping anywhere. And use their name. A warm, “Thank you Tad!” with a smile will feel better than a brusk, “Thanks!” with no eye contact.

BONUS IDEA #10: Encourage preorders.

The BC Farmer’s Market Association had a great idea: “Encourage your customers to email orders before coming to the market. You can pre-bag their orders so they don’t have to worry abut getting to the market early to find what they want. Services like this help create loyal customers and enhance sales.” This might not work for everyone but, if you let your best customer’s know this was an option it might just make your life a lot easier at the market and make you more money. Plus those customer’s feel special because of the secret arrangement they get to do with you.

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

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