Is selling at farmers' markets right for me?
Whether your farm is already producing or you're just planning out your business, you should always have your eye on potential markets. If you don't have the capacity to break into a prospective market right now, you may in the future.A common market for small vertical farmers is their local farmer's market.
The decision to sell at a farmer's market should be carefully considered. Be sure to weigh the pros and cons, calculate your estimated potential revenue, and get clear about your potential costs, etc.
Here are a few benefits of farmers' markets to get you thinking.
Fresh With Edge showing off his living herb towers at the Rochester Farmers' Market
1) Farmers' markets present high margin, high demand opportunity
Farmers’ markets are a high margin venue, allowing you to capture a high return for your product.
If you’re in a highly populated area – and/or the market committee has done a good job marketing to area customers – there’s also the potential for high demand.
What does this mean?
Well... money, obviously. But there's another thing.
When somebody buys something that you're selling for a pretty price, they're not just giving you money. They're effectively saying, "Your thing is worth a lot to me." Right?
And that statement explodes in value as soon as the buyer communicates that to another person.
Maybe this communication happens over a dinner that they made with the hyper-fresh basil that you sold them. Maybe they see their neighbor on their way home and explain why they're carrying a bag of chard around and that they got to cut it themselves.
By the time that person has consumed the produce, they, their neighbor, their spouse, and who knows who else has just become another prospective buyer. It's the word-of-mouth multiplication effect, and it can boost your sales and your brand in some incredible ways.
That multiplication that you get from a farmer's market is often more high than the multiplication one might get from a grocery store.
One reason for this is that your customers are already hand-picked for you.
Which brings us to the next benefit of selling at farmer's markets...
2) Farmers' markets present a targeted market
Customers at the farmers’ market are already primed to prefer fresh, local produce.
They know the value and they’re willing to pay for it.
By the time they arrive at the market, they've already been through the vetting process and have proven themselves to be:
- willing to make the time and get themselves to the market
- appreciative of fresh produce
Are you freaking out right now?! (You should be.)
That's your perfect customer!
This not only boosts the chance that that person will buy from you, but these people also tend to be more enthusiastic and engaged... which presents yet another benefit...
3) Farmers' markets are convenient and fun!
Farmers’ markets are an enjoyable, friendly, and fun place to sell.
Anybody who runs or works for any kind of business has encountered those people who are dispassionate and glum.
And if you're human, your attitude can take a real hit from those people.
Everybody - and especially people like the Upstart Farmers who are running against the herd in the agricultural world - needs a little positivity and encouragement to keep up the good work.
Is there anything more refreshing than speaking with people who are excited by what you're doing and enjoying the produce that you're growing?
We don't think so!
The farmer's market can be a wonderful environment to interact one-on-one with your most engaged customers and with other vendors.
Not only is it encouraging, but it’s also an excellent way to earn trust and build a community of people passionate about your hyper-local and super-fresh product. And, that's what it's all about!
4) Proximity to market is a competitive advantage
Alright, so far we've got:
- high margin,
- high demand,
- targeted market,
- and encouragement.
Those are all great, but if you don't attract people to your booth, those benefits can be nullified.
Luckily, you have a competitive advantage: proximity.
Because customers at farmers’ markets are so interested in local markets, the proximity of your farm to the market is a competitive advantage.
Other farmers’ market vendors may not grow their food, or they transport produce hundreds of miles to your location. You have the opportunity to advertise your low food mileage.
Quick tip: You can gain yet another competitive advantage with your display. Set up your ZipGrow Towers so that the customers can walk around the "mini-farm" and harvest their own produce. Learn more about this live sales model here.
5) Opportunity for sales outside the market
Another factor that should go into your decision to (or to not) sell your produce at a farmers’ market is the networking possibilities.
Remember the multiplication effect we talked about? Well that's not the only way that farmer's market sales extend beyond the actual market.
Farmer's markets open countless doors and windows to sales outside of the market. Use this opportunity to meet other interested partners in your community like restaurants, small groceries or food co-ops, and potential CSA customers.
Remember: you’re probably getting charged a commission on all sales you make in the market, but
you can conduct sales outside the market for free. Treat the farmers market as a stepping stone to an
overall larger market share.
Don’t overlook this opportunity!
Hear more about this topic on Upstart Farmers Radio Episode 6!
Well, you tell us!
Do you want a place to sell higher margin, high demand produce at a location ripe with your target market where you can build greater trust with your prospective customers, form relationships that go beyond your booth, all the while boosting your own encouragement about why you're doing what you do?
If yes, then farmers' markets might be a perfect place for you to start selling your produce.
If not, then maybe farmers' markets aren't the best place for your produce yet, and that's totally fine.
Ultimately, if you're wasting your farm's money on a market that's not serving your goals, you should look into another venue for selling your products.
You should wisely consider all of the aspects of this decision, which are stated in detail in our Farmer's Markets Grower's Packet.
We highly recommend that you read through this guide and discuss the decision with your partners and mentors. The Upstart Farmer's network is a great place to do just that.
And as always, we are happy to help you out! Feel free to shoot us a message.
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