How to run a successful farmers’ market stand

It is slightly premature in our journey to focus on this subject. However, as it happens I am starting to attract everything called farmers’ market! On my lunch break from packing supertan lotion on this leap day at vanguard speciality coffee co. I picked up an issue of New Zealnd lifestyle block magazine.

Nina Planck, founder of regional food council in the UK and the woman behind the 1st farmers’ market in London in 1999 is the author of this article. I thought it was worth banking these tips in the knowledge tank and we might revisit this when the time is right. So here we go,  from the horses’ mouth 22 tips for running a successful stall:

  1. The more information the better- prices are the bare minimum. Nina suggests that a good signage is invaluable. Everything must be labelled and priced as shy customers neither ask nor buy if produce is not priced. Sell a story on the produce. Apples are marked as we don’t use fungicides, cheeries are scarced as we had a massive frost. Write detailed description of the farm, its location, mini climate, family history, people who work. Have these displayed so people can read. Recipes are indispensable handouts too.
  2. Charge for what it’s worth- is it superior, rare, organic? Nina cleverly suggests that refrigerator at each home can only be that big and families can only eat that much each week. So tell customers why your product is superior and then charge accordingly. Similarly, if you have too much to sell or slightly inferior quality stuff then give bargain price and promote it.
  3. Offer samples, people love to try things. It also generates a notion of reciprocity. Teach them about your favourites too and how do you use the product in your recipes.
  4. Value for money is always right. It is not a question of high or low prices. If the product doesn’t sell then you can assume that either the price is wrong, the customer doesn’t want your product or is not attracted by the way you are selling it.
  5. Suggest ideas, especially when it is familiar or in surplus. People often just don’t know what to do with things they see. Tell them how to make the most of a surplus.
  6. Eat your own food. You should know the taste and flavour of your produce.
  7. Give customers personal opinions.  Good for baking, nice as a dip or a fantastic marinade for chicken on BBQ.
  8. Tell them how to keep it. No one likes to waste a good product. Keep this cherry jam away from light in the refrigerator.
  9. Quality is everything. One of Nina’s earlier lesson running a stall was quality product and quality relationship with the regular customers. Interestingly, survey done at farmers’ market in London suggests that people come to market for freshness and quality. No other answer- meeting the farmer, saving family farms- came close.
  10. Choose good varieties and breeds. Supermarkets offer the same cosmetically perfect bland foods from apples to cheese to bread. For processes foods, use good ingredients and tell customers why your cherry jam is better,mike it is hand made and has no preservatives.
  11. Have something to sell all season. It is not worth coming to the market to see a few asparagus. This is more important for fruit and vege stall holders. Extend the season by growing cold weather crops.
  12. Sell a variety of products. Displaying only product is a risk, customers want it or not. Even in small quantity, offer options.
  13. Make bags readily available.
  14. Work with the manager. The manager serves you and represents you to the public.
  15. Cultivate regular loyal customers. That means the people who are doing the weekly shopping at the farmers’ market, often for a family, week in and week out, and it usually means people who come for quality and not rock bottom prices.
  16. Pile it high and fill it up. You must restock constantly. Consider who takes money and who will restock. Always use the smallest container rule. Pack it full.
  17. Don’t be afraid of competition. A good market has a balance of producers with balance of produce and prices. Farmers’ markets are a basic form of cooperative. You all agree to sell by the rules for a few hours each week. You are stronger together than alone. It seems like a paradox:at market, the farmers need each other and they also compete with each other.
  18. Make chilled food visible. Meat, poultry, dairy and egg producers and those selling chilled processed food like pasta, have particular challenges in display. You need to show off your food just as peach and tomato farmers do, piled high and colourful and seductive
  19. Bring photos of your farm. Bring not only your food but also your farm to the market. Pictures of farm, animals,mproducts being made etc
  20. He cheerful and active. A bored sullen person behind the counter is fatal. Don’t be hyper sales monster but be enthusiastic and friendly. You must demonstrate high opinion of your products. You can not be ignorNt about the products. You must give customers a reason to buy. WLk to the front of your stand every now and then and look from a customers perspective, clear any clutter or rubbish.
  21. Perfect your marketing equipment. Don’t neglect the infrastructure of marketing; have a box with marker pens, blank paper, tape. Create a market report that tells you how much customer bought that week, what price it was sold at, and when it sold out.
  22. Run the numbers. It is a business so keep a tab of all the expenses and finally how much profit was made.

 

The article is a very interesting read  and it would be an idea to go back to the market and see who is at the top of their game based on these learnings.

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