So I’ve been doing the farmers market for about a month now. I learned a lot quickly. As I referred to in this post, I had done some research before applying to the farmers market. Then, Covid happened and put a damper on things. Suddenly, this spring I received a call that there was an opening and did I want a space. I said yes of course, but it took at least two weeks before I really had enough items in my booth to look like I belonged. I just didn’t have the inventory. Now a month in I actually have an active plan…
If I could go back in time I would build up my inventory of totes and other crafts before ever starting. Now, week to week I have between 10-20 totes made. Some weeks I have a good variety. Some weeks (like this past market) I have 12 totes and four of them are the same design, plus two more that are identical, that means only 6 other bags. Not surprisingly I only sold one tote.
I have been building up inventory though. I have found that I can sew a popsicle sleeve or freeze pop holder while sitting in bed watching tv. I now have about 8 of those and they are popular with the kiddos. It’s time for me to start crocheting the fun hats too. My intention is to get a small basket to hold these and just keep adding in. These are good to pull in the kiddos now after the library story time, but they will also make good stocking stuffers so I hope to sell a lot of them between now and the end of December.
Fresh eggs are popular at every market every week, and we all sell out each week. I have raised my prices by a dollar a dozen and I still sell out. I’m actually considering more hens. Maybe quail too for variety (plus I have a neighboring Inn that does gourmet meals that might be another place for me to sell quail eggs to).
In the middle of summer, it is even more important to my sales to build up my canned goods* inventory. I sell out of apple butter or peach butter within two weeks of making it. I bought 25# of beets and 50# of carrots and I have been pickling these. Every batch sells out within two weeks also. What makes it tough is that dilly carrots need to sit for three weeks before opening to reach a full flavor. So the batch I made today cannot be sold at the next several markets. I had an abundance of zucchini, so I made a batch of sweet relish too. All of these products are great for inventory and to broaden my sales, but they take time. Not to mention time doing regular household things, putting up our own vegetables into the freezer, and even weeding the garden.
*Each state has different laws, but many have Cottage Laws which allow looser regulations for water bath canned goods and some baking as long as you average under a particular dollar amount annually. You absolutely must understand these regulations as well as basic hygiene and sanitation before you ever prepare and offer food items.
I began the season with no real plan except to attend each week and increase my inventory. It wasn’t a bad plan for a last minute start. But now, I am looking more long range. It may only be the end of July but I’m looking at creating and carrying football and fall themed items next month. Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas sales go hand in hand with autumn. I’ve even considered how to display items best to show a good variety but not have my tables be cluttered. As I said above, I intend to have some baskets for stocking stuffers, and I have an idea of how to hang the hats. Ornaments are my next trick. My ornaments aren’t very durable, so I think I may keep the majority in plastic totes and have just a couple on display with a note that more are available upon request. These should be fun to make. One of my markets ends at the end of October, the other just moves inside. I think I have a decent plan until the December holidays, then I’m not sure. I do hope to build up a big inventory of crafts over the winter to carry me through next summer without always being in crunch mode.
That being said, not all my energy is on home and markets. I am also diversifying by pushing my freelance writing right now to build up a solid base for the cold winter months. I hope to have multiple income streams coming in.
Like any business, there has to be some marketing involved. I make a point of posting on social media through the week about the preserves or crafts that I;m preparing and where we can be found. Then the night before or morning of I include a teaser picture and the location and times tagging the actual event and the town of the event. Once I have set up for the day, I try to do another post, again tagging the actual event. I try to not do too many such location-specific posts, because I do have many followers who are not local.
Looking ahead I can say that my last minute tent/canopy is not great quality. I may need to purchase another one for next year if not the year after. I will want a sturdier one with a cross support. Investing in that should last me a number of years. By the end of summer I think I shall invest in better table coverings. I just got a decent sign. I have been finding old wooden crates and such to add dimension and rustic feel to my displays, not to mention a little order and organization. I may invest in a collapsible shelf. We’ll see how my hat display idea works or whether that will need an upgrade too.
There are so many ideas and things to try that it will be very easy to overextend. I am trying very hard to not fly off in a million directions right now. For example, I wan to include recipe cards with my food products, but I’ve only gotten as far as creating an info-graphic. I want to add flavored salts to our inventory as well as soaps, candles, and soooooo many other crafts. I know that if I do create something and it just doesn’t sell well, that I can use them as gifts, but that isn’t exactly the goal.
I did consider doing baked and/or dehydrated treats for pets, however the regulations for pet foods and treats are RIDICULOUS. Crazy licensing restrictions and requirements. So I won’t be doing that yet. Likewise the beeswax products I have thought about making are on a back burner as I lack our own wax supply and time.
I would love to sell tons of fresh veggies and baked goods, but that is also not a priority this year. Next year, I hope to expand upon that.
I may add another market or two next year. I may also start adding in other venues such as county or state fairs. That was just too much for this year and really depends on the inventory I build up in the beginning of winter – remember many market applications are due by March.
Farmers Markets are an exciting community to be a part of. It is great to see how vendors chat together and help out each other. I know far more about A2A2 cows and their milk than I had ever expected to know. My neighbor at the St Johnsbury Market is Sunday Bell Farm and she sells the most delicious raw milk by the way! I buy a half gallon every week. If you’re considering becoming a vendor, I highly encourage you to try it! Check out this link for how we prepared for our first market experience.
What is your favorite aspect of farmers markets or outdoor markets?
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