Farmers markets are a great way to earn extra income selling products you grow or make.
I love farmers’ markets. Everything about them – the people, the products, the whole atmosphere – feels like stepping back to a time when loving care and hard work were poured into every item up for sale.
Getting Started as a Farmers Market Vendor
I am often asked how to get started being a vendor at a marketplace. Well, first, of course, you have to have something to sell. We usually think of a farmers market as a place to sell organic fruits and vegetables that we have grown ourselves. That is a good place to start if you have the ample land that will produce enough to sell.
Aside from the obvious fruits and vegetables, there are many other products that do well at a farmers market. How about cut flowers? Common house plants, including exotic plants, is another great product.
Other farm products could be eggs and honey. If you have a greenhouse, you could make a fair amount of money selling seedlings in the spring. Jams and jellies do well at the market. A good chef could sell baked goods – with the proper facilities and the proper certification for the health department.
Crafts also do well at a farmers market. Aprons and pot holders can be made quickly and economically, allowing you to sell them at a reasonable price while still making a good profit. Ditto for quilted table runners and trivets.
Homemade bath and beauty products may bring in a tidy sum if you know how to make them. Any creative item that you have a passion for and have a knack at crafting can do well.
Step One: Find a Farmers Market in Your Area
The best way to find a farmers market is to search the internet if you have access. You can also contact the local library, extension office, agriculture office, or chamber of commerce.
Contact the managers of the market and find out what kind of paperwork is required. Do you need a license or other certification? Do you need to purchase insurance? Ask if you need to bring your own table or can you rent it from them?
Step Two: Set Up Your Business
Find out what kind of requirements the city and state have for setting up your business. Do you need a state resale number? Must you pay sales taxes? Will you be taking credit and debit cards? It is a good idea to do so. Contact credit card companies and set that up. Several companies offer apps that allow you to scan credit cards and take payment right from your smart phone.
Step Three: Prepare Your Product for Market
Make sure your product is in excellent condition. Fruits and vegetables should be at their peak of freshness. Harvest them as close to market day as possible. Keep them refrigerated or on ice until you reach the market. Make easily read signs that identify the product. List the price per bunch or per pound.
When pricing produce, take into consideration your expenses; the cost of seeds, fertilizer, purchased garden soils, etc. Consider cost of booth rental, insurance, credit card fees, transportation to the market. Will you be hiring help? Organic food from the farmers market is expected to cost more than at the supermarket because the quality and freshness is so much better.
Be sure jars of jams, jelly, or honey are neatly labeled. Wipe the dust off the lids. Eggs will probably be in cartons saved for you by friends and neighbors. That is okay. People expect that.
Plan how you will display your craft goods. Pot holders and trivets would look nice in a basket. Hang aprons and table runners on hangers. Where will you hang them?
Step Four: Setting Up Your Booth
Arrive at the farmers market well before it opens. Bring a broom with you and sweep the area. Set up a visually appealing display. Two tables forming half a square looks nice. Arrange smaller amounts of good on the tables. Large amounts of vegetables could be in bushel or half bushel baskets setting on the ground. Leave room for your customers to closely examine your merchandise.
Have a cash register area. Money can be kept in a box with a lid. Have someone manning the money and pay station at all times.
Always be polite, even if someone criticizes your goods. Do not lower your price unless you are convinced that it is warranted. Most people will love what you sell.
Evaluate Your Experience
After you are home, go over your experience at the farmers market. Did you make a nice profit? What will you do differently next time? Then plan for the next time. You will get better with practice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dalene Tibbs is a master gardener and the founder of Backyard Gardening, a resource site for everything related to gardening. She comes from a long line of gardeners/farmers, having learned much about gardening from her parents as a child, and draws on her marketing savvy as the owner of a neighborhood grocery store.