Ready For Your First Farmers Market?

Picture of a stall filled with fresh fruit and vegetables at an outdoor market.

Have you thought about having a spot at the local farmers market? Do you love the idea of selling your crafts or produce every week? Here are our tips for starting at the market:

Picture of a stall filled with fresh fruit and vegetables at an outdoor market.

Our Plan for the Farmers Market

A year ago we applied to be a vendor at a local Farmers Market. We were going to sell our totes, garden/kitchen products, and crafted items. We researched, looked at our calendar, got our tax id number and such from the state, then applied to the farmers market. Then the Covid Pandemic happened. The world shut down public interactions and the farmers market was put on hold indefinitely. The market did actually start up in a limited capacity at the end of summer, but it wasn’t worth it to me to reach out then. I have still been considering being a vendor at markets and even looked at which towns had markets on which days.  Enter 2021, and a little over a week ago the woman who co-runs the market called me up that they had a sudden opening. I could have had a spot the next day, but said I needed a week to get ready. A spree of online ordering for a tent, table, and cellophane bags. A focus on creating a variety of bags (good thing I had a few made for other orders!). What a crazy week it is!

First, your background information

Before you start selling there are several steps to do. Luckily, I did these last year. Do your research on when, where, and what times the markets are. Find out what fees they require. Are there annual memberships and a fee each week? Find out what they currently offer for wares and if you will have a niche. Find out how successful the market typically is. Find out how often there are other events (festivals, live music, construction, good and bad factors) that may affect the attendance. Think about how you will handle all the seasons and types of weather. Lastly, find out what licenses, fees, and labeling requirements there are for you as a vendor and your products locally, state, and federally. Leave plenty of time for this paperwork to be completed before you need to apply to the market itself. 

Second, choose your products

So truthfully I have a ton of hobbies that could lead to sales at a local farmers market. But I don’t want so much diversity that I am always running out of the products and am unreliable to my customers. Therefore I am choosing to focus on two main categories/products, and I’ll carry other things as I have them. Soon, this will branch to three categories, but a week wasn’t enough time. 

For this first market, with a week’s notice, I am bringing as many of our reusable tote bags and I can have ready. I am also bringing baked goods. I am focusing on cookies and mini muffins for this. I chose the mini muffins and cookies for two reasons. One, I’m good at them and they are easy. Two, they are a great sort of sample to show customers what I offer. Third, yes I didn’t say three reasons, and leftovers will be devoured at home over the weekend. I am also bringing some crocheted items because I have them. Next week, I’ll branch into my third category of fruit butters and preserved goods. Fruit butters are almost a “set and forget” product so that inventory can be built up quickly. 

Third, prepare your space and supplies

Before I actually had the phone conversation to fully commit to the weekly market (but after being invited this year) I hopped on Amazon to replace our pop-up tent canopy and to order a folding table. I even splurged and ordered a canopy with sides to keep me comfy on the rainy days and this fall. I have old laundry bottles and the like to fill with wet sand (maybe just water this weekend) which I’ll beautify at some point. Meanwhile I am making arrangements to borrow a table and canopy in case mine don’t arrive before Saturday. You want to draw up a full list of EVERYTHING you need. Keep the list to double check that you have packed everything before you leave. 

  • Canopy tent with weights and/or stakes. Also sides or a tarp are a good idea.
  • Table
  • Chair? (many people suggest not to sit if you can help it as you look less inviting and ready to help, but you need to take care of yourself, too.)
  • Products
  • Signage with what you offer
  • Signage with prices
  • Signage with how you accept payment
  • Signage or business cards with your name
  • Some way to record your sales (inventory) whether a notebook or spreadsheet, multiple writing utensils
  • Small bills and coins to make change. Bring farrrrrrr more than you think you need.
  • Secure way to hold your money (apron or something on your person is best if there is any danger of you being distracted or taking your eyes off of it).
  • String and clothespins or clips to hang items
  • Tape, scissors, and extra pens
  • A way to collect addresses for a mailing list
  • A way to collect anyone who wants to order a subscription or preorder for next week
  • Packaging materials
  • A trash bag
  • Your water bottle and snacks
  • Hand-sanitizer and maybe lotion
  • Extra masks if you will be wearing one
  • A way to record suggestions for next week

Fourth, packing your vehicle and setting up your space at the farmers market

You can have the greatest plan in the world but if you can’t get all your supplies to the market, none of that planning helps. Definitely try setting up the table and canopy before your first big day. Look at your display options and try several layouts. Take pictures so you can look again later – you may see a glaring problem or stunning idea later that you don’t see in the moment.

Just like trying to set up before the big day, it’s also a good idea to test out any Square, PayPal, Venmo, etc. before. You don’t want to be wasting time troubleshooting and lose a sale. 

Pack as much in your car as you can the day before. And pack it so that it is easy to unpack and set up once you arrive. Now with me with baked goods and eggs, some of my items need to be packed the day of, but my bags and crafts, the canopy, weights, tables, signs, etc. can all be packed. 

Fifth, Be kind to yourself

You know how you handle stress, do what you need to do to be in the best state of mind and body possible to be outgoing a friendly to shoppers. Some people need a hearty breakfast, some people need to bring snacks – you do you. 

Take a little time after your first market to see what worked and what didn’t. It is almost a guarantee that you will want to adjust some things. That’s ok. Reflection is good, it allows yu to improve, but relish what went well, too.

Sixth, Relax and then get ready to do the farmers market again!

This might sound self-explanatory, but it is a step sometimes overlooked. Make sure you allow time to recover or relax after your day at the market. However, don’t just sit back, you need to prepare for next week’s market also.

I need to decide whether to just do the one market a week, or if I want to participate midweek in the sister market. It will completely depend on my sales, my time, and how much I enjoy interacting with customers. 

So what are your plans? What is your best idea for a farmers market booth? What tips can you offer us fledglings?

 

You may find these articles helpful:

Decide between craft fairs and farmers markets

Turning a hobby into cash

Easy Side Hustles

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