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Making Money On The Homestead: How To Sell At A Farmer's Market Part 1

April 02, 2015

Farmer's Markets are popping up all over the country everywhere from small towns to large cities.  As more people are interested in the "shop local" movements, they become popular places to both shop and socialize.  Farmer's Markets are typically well advertised, have an established local following and are relatively inexpensive to participate in.  If you are interested in selling products you either make or grow, this can be the perfect place to start and run your business.

I've separated this series into 2 parts so I could make it a bit more in-depth and user friendly for those of you who are just starting out.  Part 1 will focus on the basics of applying and beginning the process and Part 2 will be things to consider for your booth and business success.

The first step is to figure out what you will be selling.  Most markets require that you either make or grow the product.  Some get even more specific with a percentage of items that must be locally sourced in products you make while others may have specific requirements on location {be located within a specific town or county}.

Also important to think about, is how you will make it all work.  If you are going to sell baked goods, for instance, you must first determine if it will be required that your items are baked in a commercial kitchen.  Then, when will you actually make and package them for that weekend's market?  Once at the market, do any of your products require refrigeration?  Can they all tolerate mid-summer heat?  How long will your products last? 

And yet another thing to keep in mind when determining what you will be selling is that many markets may have rules on how many of each type of vendor they will allow so their market is not saturated with the same items.  This leads us to the next item....

Visit any markets in person that you are considering.  Look at the set-up, what is being sold and try to identify your niche.  If you are a vegetable grower and there are many veggie stands, maybe there is a product or two that aren't represented.  Speak with the other vendors about their experiences.  They may share with you what seems to sell and what doesn't, what products people ask for that aren't represented, busiest times of day/year are, etc.  Look at the market set-up.  Is there any shade?  Do they require a canopy/tent?  What size?  Look at the other booth set-ups and figure out what you think works/doesn't work.  This will help you start to figure out what you'll need as far as tables and props.

While you are at the market, look at pricing.  For instance, the first Farmer's Market we sold at, a dozen eggs sold for $3.00 a dozen from most vendors.  This is pretty low for our area.  The second Market we participated in sells them for $3.50 to $4.00/dozen, which is more inline with the surrounding stores.  If we went into the first market and priced our eggs at $4.00/dozen, we likely wouldn't sell any because of the other vendors prices.  You should set your own prices depending on your calculations regarding what you need for productivity, but remember the balance between the cost you need to recover and the prices set by your fellow vendors and surrounding stores.  Trying not to undercut the other farmers while offering a well-priced item is a delicate balance.

Consider all aspects of a market before committing.  Selling at a Farmer's Market is a HUGE time commitment.  You can't pick and choose which markets to attend, you really must make sure your products are there every week.  This is the only way to build a following and the way the market will succeed.  If you need to have someone else run your booth for a day or two, remember to choose that person very carefully.  Shoppers will see them as the face of your business.  Make sure they provide the level of customer service you expect.

Find out, before applying, the market's rules.  Make sure you are in agreement with them and can {and will} follow them.  Find out ahead of time what your total costs will be and when payment is expected.  This helps you figure out how much you will need to sell to help determine if it is cost-effective or not.  Research what types of things will be allowed/not allowed.  If the market requires unannounced visits to your facility, find out what that entails. 

Research the laws of your state and town regarding what you will be selling.  Ensure you have registered with any and all organizations and have the correct licenses in place.  This includes insurance - find out if you will need coverage specific to your product or just a general liability insurance.  Even if your market doesn't require it, it certainly is something you should look into to protect your assets and yourself.

Will you need to charge sales tax?  If so, determine if your prices include all applicable taxes or if you will need to calculate tax for each sale.

Will you accept only cash or checks, or will you accept credit cards?  In our experience, most shoppers come with cash knowing they will be paying this way for most items, however, if you sell handcrafted items or items of higher cost, you definitely want to consider taking credit cards.  Taking into consideration how you will process, and the fees that will be incurred, you will have to decide depending on your estimated sales, if this is the right choice for you or not.  Most vendors at our market use Square on either their cell phone or iPad, but there are many companies out there, including through a lot of local banks, that you may consider.

Look at it as your place of business.  It seems like common sense, but we've certainly run into vendors that hadn't really thought of it this way.  Advertise, use social media, set up your booth according to good traffic flow rules, etc. as you would if your business was a store on main street.  Make it easy for customers to shop, use displays that will be inviting, and mark all of your products with easy to read signs.  Use any tools you have - website, facebook, twitter, etc. to promote your "store" to your followers.  If each vendor uses social media and advertisement to get their customers to the market, all vendors will benefit.

If you are considering selling at a farmer's market for the first time, thinking through the process and doing a little research ahead of time will set you up for a successful business venture.  Check back for part 2 where we'll discuss the specifics of your booth.

Other Home-Based Business Posts:
How To Start A Blog
25 Ways To Add Extra Income To Your Homestead
10 Tips For Starting A Home-Based Business

Disclosure: In an effort to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendations, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog. Thank you for your support and please know that I will only feature products I love.

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