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…

Farmers Markets are Opening Up In Your Area!

It’s an exciting time of the year isn’t it? Spring time is here and for many folks that means it is time to go to the local farmers market and pick up some farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Of course we’re partial to strawberries but the truth is there are lots of other types of produce and related items that you can purchase at your local market. See more here.

Are you ready for farmers’ market season? I know I am, and this year will be action packed. Many of our markets are opening up within the next couple of weeks, and there will be an abundance of delicious local goodies. If you did not buy anything over the winter from our local farms, this will be the time to stock up. To get ready for the season, there are a few things you may want to think about before you go to the market. Go early or at least mid-market hours so that you can get what you want. Build a relationship with the growers, and pre-order your items if you are not an early person. Just get there before the market closes. Most of the grower/vendors would love to have pre-orders so they know exactly what they need to bring. Don’t go late expecting the growers to cut their prices in half. These farmers have spent many hours and hard labor to get you the best products available. There is a very small margin of profit in what they sell you, and sometimes it is even at a loss. If we don’t pay our growers what they need to earn a profit, we will soon lose out on our farmers.

Bring a cooler, especially if you plan to grab lunch before heading home. This will keep your frozen meats, seafood and tender fruits and vegetables good for a few hours. If you want to make a conscious effort to buy local, make a meal plan for the week. Start your grocery shopping at the market first. This way you will get the freshest produce (most are picked the day/night before or early on the morning of the market), best price and everything you need.

Going to the farmers market is great for your family too. Children love to see all the different fruits and vegetables and interact with all the different people. Plus, you’re also providing fresh fruits and vegetables to your children which is a great way to promote nutrition as well.

Are You Looking For a Scale to Weigh Vegetables?

On this blog we often talk about digital scales that weigh items and calculate price per pound. Often though we don’t discuss what types of items you can weigh with one of these retail scales. Anytime that a potential customer searches for a scale to weigh vegetables hopefully they will click on this site. Virtually, any of the scales that we have featured on this site in the past would be good choices to weigh most any type of vegetable. The tricky part can be the vegetable size and weight. For example if you were weighing heavy vegetables or a larger quantity then you might need a price computing scale with both a larger weighing surface and/or a larger weighing capacity. If that were the case, the CAS EB scale series could be the right choice for you.

cas eb series price computing scale

The CAS EB Series bench scale style Price Computing Scale with large capacity features your choice of three capacities available, with a maximum capacity of up to 300 pounds. Large Platform of either 13.8″ x 15.75″ or 15.75″ x 20.75″ is great for bulk weighing. And, if you wish a printer can be added to produce crisp, clean receipts and labels with the optional DLP-50 Label Printer or DEP-50 Receipt Printer. This scale could be a great choice for you if you find yourself constantly placing large items or large quantities of items on your traditional counter top digital scale. Of course the CAS EB series is NTEP approved with Certificate of Conformance COC #09-095.

Low Cost Retail Scales

Recently I was doing a search online for a particular scale. As I was searching I came across a new scale that I had never seen before. It was a price computing scale that was being sold for an absolute ridiculous price. I looked it over and read the specifications and took a look at the product pictures. I couldn’t help but recall the last super low cost price computing scale that I had found. It was probably ten years ago and it was by far the cheapest scale on the market at that time. I bought one and tried it out and it seemed ok.  Anyway, we sold a few of them here and there. They did ok but to be honest to this day it is the most failure prone retail scale we have ever used. We get calls requesting replacement parts for this scale to this day.

This cheap scale that I just recently noticed also made me think of another scale that was the low cost scale of choice more recently. We sold a ton of this particular model and it was a good scale for the most part. Sure, it had a few failures from time to time. But mostly the failures were simple like a keypad, rechargeable battery, or AC adapter. All of which were pretty inexpensive. Our real downfall with this scale was the total lack of support that we received from the manufacturer.  All they seemed to care about was “moving boxes”.  I won’t go into great detail but it was one of the worst manufacturers we ever dealt with, and we basically deal with almost all of them.

So I guess my point in this article is to be careful. It’s your money so you can buy whatever item you want. Just understand that if something is priced really, really low there is usually a reason(s) that it is priced cheap. It could be low cost components, cheap load cell, poor quality control, foreign manufacturer, etc… In my experience with retail scales, most customers want a good deal but they also want to have confidence in Continue reading

Time To Get Your Market Scale Out and Make Sure It’s Working

This month is a wonderful time to take out your old faithful digital scale and give it a good work out. Plug it in and make sure it powers up and charges if it has a battery. It might even be a good idea to order a spare battery to prepare for the spring.

Make sure all the buttons on the keypad work. This is especially important if you type in prices per pound using the number keys. Make sure the displays work on both front and back so that you and your customer are not “in the dark”.

Finally, take a look at the selection of Brecknell PC series scales currently available this winter from the sales team over at Central Carolina Scale. You may find a deal too good to pass on. Plus, you can always use a good backup unit or add a second scale to your produce stand so that your customers are able to purchase produce from you as fast as ever.

We’ve mentioned it before but we will say it again… the highest quality at the lowest price is the Brecknell product line. When you see the brand Brecknell you know it’s a name you can trust. What will surprise you is the remarkably affordable price. With the PC series, Brecknell Scale has taken weighing technology to a new level to offer an unbeatable package to farmers market vendors to candy shop retailers everywhere. The scale, available from Central Carolina Scale in Sanford, NC is constructed of ABS plastic with adjustable leveling feet and built in leveling bubble. The backlight is programmable for power saving.

The scale displays weight in kilograms, pounds and ounces. From 30 pounds to 60 pounds in a choice of resolutions to meet your needs – with NTEP CoC #11-116 Class III legal for trade approvals to suit the state inspector. This scale even shows weight and prices in ounces and kilgrams too. The PC30 has a 480 ounce capacity with readability of 0.2 oz. The PC60 scale has a 960 oz capacity and readability of 0.5 ounces. The scale operates on standard AC power or the built in rechargeable battery which has a standard operating time of approximately 70 hours without backlight or about 35 hours with backlight.

Brecknell Price Computing Scale Overview

We’ll include the video version of this overview as well but today we wanted to take a quick look at the Brecknell PC-30 and PC-60 price computing scales. If you’re interested in a basic, no frills, simple to use, not many bells and whistles retail scale, then the PC series might be just what you’re looking for. This scale is really easy to use, accurate, reliable and features brand name quality.

We want to take a quick look at the Brecknell price computing scale which is available in two different capacities – thirty-pound or sixty-pound and this is what we would call our basic price computing scale which has the price computing function. It also displays weight in lb, kilogram or ounces. The scale features built-in rechargeable battery. Basic price computing function is pretty easy. Just place your item(s) on the scale and enter the price per pound that you want to charge your customer. The scale will then compute the total costs that your customer owes you.

PLU or Price Look Ups are an easy way to program popular items in your scale for quicker recall. Let’s say that you sell a lot of strawberries. You could program strawberries into your PLU number 1 button at $3.99 per pound. Now when someone brings a bucket of strawberries to the scale, place an empty bucket on the scale, press Tare and then press PLU button number 1.

One question that we are asked often is backlight display options. The Brecknell PC30 and PC60 have three different backlight choices. You can have the backlight display “auto” which basically means that the back-lite will display when something is added to the scale platter. You can turn the backlight off totally which will help to increase battery life. Or, you can have the backlight on all the time.

Label Printing Scale For The Neighborhood Grocery Store

Don’s first job not counting his paper routes was in the same meat shop that he owns today and renamed D. W. Whitaker Meats in 1991. He waited on people and cleaned after school and weekends for the family who had owned the meat shop for 45 years. Don says, “They taught me a lot. ‘Make sure the customer is happy.’ I always wanted to have my own business and I was eager to learn.”

Don keeps that old-time, first name relationship with his loyal customers and takes advantage of the most sophisticated weighing, pricing and labeling equipment. “When I first bought the shop, I worked 60 hours and more a week. I had two employees. Now I have five people full time and eight part-time people on weekends. We’ve added so much more. Now we have homemade chicken and turkey sausages. We opened a new deli meat case in October and added two more Ishida Astra scales that label the deli bags very neatly. We custom cut and trim our fresh pork and poultry and wrap it in butcher paper. We needed a price-computing scale that printed labels with all the food information and our distinctive logo. We needed all the equipment linked together and to a PC.” The Astra communicates via an RS-232 serial connection, and Don uses his netbook portable PC for all PLU and price updates. The easy-to-use Astra label-printing scale offers more features for less cost. The operator-friendly keyboard speeds up transactions with up to 88 preset keys. Astralink PLU editing software allows customization of the operator keysheet inserts. The Astra can store hundreds of PLUs and comes standard with eight label formats.

If you go, a Westside Market veteran advises shoppers to hone bargaining skills and bring cash—small bills, fives or tens, and a shopping bag. To get the best of these offerings you must do what your grandparents did—forge relationships. Forget how you behave at the grocery store; this is no grocery store. This is a place where your butcher knows your name; your fishmonger personally scales your fish; where you can spend 30 minutes tasting and buying cheese. Click here to see the entire article.

Selling Fruits and Vegetables To Customers By Weight

When you sell your fresh produce at the market or the produce stand you have several choices. You can sell your items pre packed in a bucket or container for a fixed price or you can sell your items by the pound. As we’ve mentioned in the past, we’re fans of selling and buying produce by weight. This way both the customer and the seller know what they are exchanging. Let’s face it we’ve all purchased something over the years that we felt like wasn’t a good deal. One example might be a bucket of strawberries that a local u-pic farm was offering. They offer it at a certain price but how many strawberries did we really get? Take a look at the info below that discusses Illinois regulations.

Selling by Weight
Commodities must be sold by net weight. The weight of the commodity must exclude any materials that are not considered to be a part of the commodity. These materials include containers, bags, labels, and wrappers. Commodities sold by weight must be weighed using a certified scale.

Scale Requirements
All scales used in commerce must have a National Type Evaluation Program (NTEP) Certificate of Conformance issued by the National Conference on Weights and Measures. Scales receive an NTEP Certificate of Conformance after the successful completion of the evaluation and testing of the device.
The Certificate indicates that the device meets applicable requirements for commercial weighing and measuring equipment in the U.S. Scales must be purchased from a registered service company.

If you’re a loyal reader of our blog you understand by now that we are believers in buying NTEP Class III legal for trade scales. These scales are usually a higher quality product and are designed for accuracy and typically are built with a slightly more expensive parts list. This means that these scales usually have better load cells inside, better A/D boards, and just generally a better more solid structure.