Tips for Farmers Market Vendors

If you ask a lot of small farmers around the country they’ll tell you a similar story. They started out just planting a few crops here and there and over the course of a few months or a few years, their crops grew and grew to the point where they could start selling their fresh fruits and vegetables to friends or neighbors. Fortunately for many of them a local farmers market is nearby and provides a great location to sell fresh vegetables. In fact, there are literally thousands of farmers markets throughout the U.S. and more customers are demanding fresh home grown produce.

We suggest you check out a farmers market first before you take the plunge. See what sellers are peddling and what are the average price per pound for each type of fruit and vegetable. What type of scales are the sellers using? If you’re new to selling at the market, there are a few insider secrets you should know as well.

1. Do Market Research
Ideally, you’ll identify a potential farmers’ market the year before you want to start selling and visit it several times during the season. Get a feel for the market and attendance flow. Is there enough shopper volume to justify more vendors?

“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.”

2. Learn Farmers’-Market Rules
Understand the regulations of the particular farmers’ market you’re considering selling at. Ask the market manager questions, and make sure you can commit to the expectations. For example, you may inquire about rules regarding what you can sell. Some markets are “producer only,” which typically means you can only sell things you grew yourself, whereas others may allow you to resell other items or include things like crafts.

3. Start Small
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.

4. Identify Your Niche
How is what you’re selling different than other vendors at the farmers’ market? Sometimes it helps to specialize in selling varietals of one distinct item, such as garlic. Another route is to creatively package your items. Sure, a lot of farmers may be selling red, ripe tomatoes, but what if you sold green tomatoes, along with your recipe for fried green tomatoes?

Hopefully with this knowledge, you’ll be able to quickly decide what market(s) to sell your goods, what items to sell, how much to sell them for, and what supplies you’ll need like a good set of digital scales, portable tent, tables, etc…