Five Tips for Selling at Farmers’ Markets

Here’s a conversaion I overheard recently at an area farmers’ market:

Farmer #1 – “This market s****s.”

Farmer #2 – “What do you mean? This market is great!”

Now, I respect both of these fine farmers, but I have to say, whether a market is “good” or “bad” depends quite a bit on one’s selling ability.

Some vendors are wonderful at selling their products; others, not so much. Here are a few things I have noticed that the successful ones have in common:

  1. Bring a LOT of product. If all you have in your garden is a few heads of cabbage and a tomato, you might want to skip that week and come be a customer. The truth is, there’s something psychologically depressing about an empty table. It says, “well I’m not a very good grower, here’s all I have.”  One farmer told me he didn’t want to put all his stuff out because the kids might knock it over. OK. That’s a legitimate reason to buy a really sturdy table, but not a good reason to hide your product from your customers. If I have to take the LAST item on your table, it makes me think I’m somehow depriving you… no thanks, I’ll just find somebody who has an abundance.
  2. Lifts and Levels – Lining all your little veggies up in a row on the table is tidy, but BORING. Think of how a fancy buffet always has some of the food lifted onto platters elevated above the others. Get it up in baskets, on shelves, whatever! Get it eye level and you’ll sell more. I love it when jewelry vendors display on a mannequin, and yarn vendors bring portable shelving. WARNING – Do not hide behind the shelf. See #5.
  3. Signage – I really can’t stand to see a vendor with no sign. It’s like that game of “Guess Who?” I used to have to play with my kids. Hated the game…. Who is this person? What are they doing sitting here? Who knows? There are 20 other vendors here, and they have signs that say something special about them! Are they organic? Locally grown? Genuine silky haired high-IQ chicken eggs? Whatever…. you know what’s special about your product, so TELL ME! Try, you can get a banner for less than $20.
  4. List your prices – I was once in Thailand, and the street vendors didn’t have any prices listed, because they expected you to bargain with them. Back and forth we went, for each purchase, until we agreed on a price. HATED THAT. I mean, when in Thailand, do as the Thais, but this is the United States. We like things predictable, and we like our prices listed fairly.
  5. Stand up and SMILE – I know you’re tired and nobody works harder than a farmer… believe me, I get that. However, if you’re going to sit back with your arms folded, eyes half closed, am I going to wake you up to ask you to sell me something? Nope.  I am too polite, and I will move on to the next vendor who is awake. And if they’re standing up, that’s even more inviting. Nobody likes to leer over someone else… again, not polite. So please stand. Just don’t stand behind that shelf you put up.  No one will see you!

Those are my TOP 5 Tips for selling at a farmers’ market. What are yours?

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