Andy Fleming writing on homesteading…
Farmers markets can provide income for your self-sufficient lifestyle, and connect you with local farmers and the larger community.
You don’t have to have a big operation to make use of market trading. Setting up a stall to sell varieties of kitchen-grown herbs or homemade knickknacks at a weekend market can be a step into the lifestyle. In fact, growing some herbs in the kitchen for sale can be a great way to break into the community and get some experience with the lifestyle before you even move to a homestead or farm. Keep these tips in mind and you’re sure to get a strong start selling your wares.
1. Visit Your Local Markets
Many farmers markets require a season-long commitment if you’re going to vend. Before you sign up for something long-term, make sure you’re committing to the right market. You can do a google search for “Local farmer’s markets” or visit LocalHarvest to search for markets near you. Check out as many as you can, and make multiple visits during the season if possible.
You’re looking for markets with lots of buyers. If the market feels empty or it looks like no one is selling much, you might want to shop around a bit more. See if you can spot “holes” in the market. If there’s a bunch of vendors selling veggies and only one with fresh fruit you can potentially fill that gap for a profit. This will also give you a good idea of how local farmers are pricing their goods. It’s not a bad idea to take notes on prices so you can figure out potential profits down the road.
Also, check out each market’s rules while you’re there. The really busy markets might have waiting lists that you’ll want to sign up for ASAP. Some markets also offer trial periods or “daily vendor” offers that will allow you to set up a stall for a short time before you commit to a season. This is usually the best option, at least until you get a feel for the market scene.
2. Design an Attractive Stall
Having an attractive storefront is important. If design isn’t your strong suit, consider hiring an artistic friend to help. Take a look at booths with high traffic to see if there’s any common threads to their appearance. Good lighting is important. The sun won’t always be out to illuminate your signs. You want lighting to be natural and inviting, not washed out or overly florescent. If you can, conceal your lighting under tent canopies or with other decorations.
You should also make good use of height. Having a stall with elevated shelves will keep people from having to bend over to view your goods. Think about how grocery stores display multiple goods at different heights and try to replicate this look. If you can, try to color coordinate signs and decorations at your stall. Companies brand their products in a color-coordinated manner for a reason. It helps customers remember you and your particular goods and encourages repeat business.
3. Make a Plan to Attract Buyers
Think about how you’re going to set yourself apart from other vendors and what you’ll be doing to attract people to your booth. Offering free samples is one of the most tried and true methods of pulling in customers. If you’re working with a partner, having them walk around with a tray of samples also provides the opportunity to engage buyers in conversation. People who shop at markets don’t just want to buy from anyone, they often want to know the people behind the product. You can offer more than just edibles as samples, flowers can be handed out with info about your farm or business cards attached. A little effort goes a long way.
4. Make Connections
Having the opportunity to connect with other local farmers and customers is an invaluable part of the market experience. Keep a sign-up sheet at your booth and encourage everyone that stops by to leave their email address. Setting up a newsletter to send out information about your farm and where you’ll be selling goods can help encourage repeat business. You can sign up for an account with a newsletter service like MailChimp, which is free as long as you’re not sending out letters to a huge number of people. You should also set up a Facebook page for your farm and encourage customers to friend you. This can be used to post updates on new goods or different locations where you might be selling wares.
Forming personal relationships with customers is invaluable. As you become friendly with repeat customers consider bringing recipes to share with them or pictures of crops growing on your farm. Loyalty to your “brand” is important, and you never know when someone might offer you some invaluable help or advice.
P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.
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