Photo byAvel Chuklanov
The Marketing Homestead Products series offers market gardeners and homesteaders tailored advice for selling their goods. Consider the benefits and drawbacks of joining up with a CSA, renting a farmer’s market stall, and the various forms of advertising available to your farm-based business.
If you operate a small farm or homestead, chances are you've considered joining a farmer's market. These markets are steadily increasing in popularity, with 8,600 of them in the United States, and new ones are popping up all the time.
While they can be incredibly lucrative, they require a regular time commitment and face-to-face engagement with your customers. When choosing which one you'd like to be a vendor at, make sure your business goals align with what the market can offer.
To get started, you'll need to rent a stall or booth. The costs are often reasonable and vary based on the location. Some markets rent out stalls once per season and require full attendance with little flexibility. Others may be available for lease each week or month. Whatever the situation, research your local area to find out which opportunity is best for your situation.
If you're interested in learning how to join a farmer's market, discover the numerous benefits of renting a stall.
1. Customer Visibility
If you are a new or beginning farmer, markets can be a great way to meet new and potential customers. Depending on your business strategy, it can also be an excellent way to attract people who may not be close to your property.
In many states, farmers must travel a significant distance to command decent prices. In these situations, markets can be an ideal way to meet those who may not be able to see your farm physically, but still want to support your business.
2. Marketing Opportunities
Most farmer's markets come with some degree of free marketing. Your name will be on their website as a vendor, and pictures of your stand or booth may appear on their social media pages or newsletters. Your physical presence at a market is also a benefit if you have other streams of revenue that you want to advertise.
For example, you may sell a limited selection of products at a farmer's market, but the majority of your income is from your CSA. While the farmer's market may bring in some revenue, it serves the dual purpose of also sharing your name and product with a world of potential customers.
3. Community Engagement
Farmer's markets are an incredible way to connect with other producers. For instance, if you decide to set up at one of the five biggest markets in Baton Rouge, you can meet people who sell fruits and vegetables, baked goods, dairy, seafood, spices and more. This variety of offerings can be beneficial if you specialize in one area but want to collaborate with others.
For example, a food truck at the farmer's market may try your fresh produce, using your tomatoes on their burgers every Saturday. Not only do you gain a valuable connection and a weekly buyer, but you also increase your community engagement.
4. Low Start-Up Costs
Selling at farmers' markets is relatively inexpensive. Depending on your location, you may be able to find a small, local space to try out before you feel comfortable joining a larger establishment. Because of the low cost of investment, markets can be a low-risk solution for homesteaders.
The trickiest part about becoming a vendor in a decent farmer's market is not the cost, but the limited availability. Many highly competitive markets, such as urban areas like New York City and Washington, DC, are challenging to get into. Most vendors have been in place for decades. When they leave, there is often another farm, or multiple, on the waiting list to take their place.
5. Competitive Prices
Most homesteaders can garner high prices at farmers' markets due to where these spaces are situated. In the United States, for example, society is becoming increasingly urban. Experts predict that by 2050, around 66% of the global population will live in cities, where the cost of living tends to be higher.
When farmers travel to large markets, they can sell their products at a higher price. Small and local markets also command higher prices than wholesale. People prefer to buy direct from the grower, rather than going to a grocery store where products get shipped in. The added transparency allows buyers a greater sense of awareness and responsibility when it comes to their food.
6. Limited Liability
If you've considered opening an on-farm establishment but don't want to make the infrastructure commitment, farmer's markets can be a great place to start. With this option, you won't face any concerns over liability, because the market carries this responsibility.
A market also comes with other added amenities, such as bathrooms and parking. When you set up your booth or stand, all you have to worry about is your products and the customers.
Selling at a Farmer's Market
Now that you know how to sell at a farmer's market, it's time to decide which one is right for you. Markets vary in size, location and function. Some only take place during the summer months, while others are semi-permanent operations. Your local space may function as an attraction on weekends, emphasizing arts, entertainment and baked goods. You can also choose a more dutiful place, one open all week, and attempting to fill the need of a grocery store.
Regardless of these variations, a farmer's market can be an excellent way to attract customers, gain traction in your community and sell your product for a higher value. Renting a booth or stall is a necessary step in joining a market. Luckily, however, the process is easy and affordable.
Read the full Marketing Homestead Products series.
Kayla Matthews writes and blogs about healthy living, sustainable consumption, eco-friendly practices and green energy. In the past, her work has also been featured on GRIT, Mother Earth Living, Blue And Green Tomorrow, Dwell and Houzz. To read more from Kayla, follow her productivity and lifestyle blog, Productivity Theory, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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