Must-Haves for a Successful Farmers Market

Reader Contribution by Julia Shewchuk
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It’s been quite a few years since we went to our first farmer’s market with one folding table, one cooler and a few fliers, all transported in the back of an SUV.  Nowadays we arrive in a box truck with an average of seven coolers, 3 tables and many other miscellaneous items that we can’t do without. During all this time we have added items that we thought we needed, forgot items that we really needed and discarded items that just took up space.  From our experience we put a list together of Must Haves of what to take to market that we thought would be helpful to pass along to you for a successful Farmers Market event:

Tables:

Folding tables are best; they take up less space for transport and are easy to carry. Keep them the same size for consistency.

Table cover:

You need a table cloth, preferably one big enough to cover the table top and down the front and sides to hide storage under the table. The table cloth needs to be clean and shouldn’t have holes in it. Burlap isn’t expensive, can be bought at any home store and comes in many colors. Colors draw people in, darker colors look cleaner, and a nice beige, brown or green always makes a great earthy backdrop.

Cashbox:

To look the part and keep your hard earned money safe, you need a cashbox. A basic black metal cashbox can be bought many places for as little as $20. Most have a tray and storage underneath where you can keep pens, notes etc.

Cash and Change:

Keep plenty of change on hand. Quarters, and many singles, fives and some tens.  The busier the market, the more change you need to take. So many times have we been approached by other vendors who needed change so they wouldn’t lose a sale. Keep a set amount of cash in your cashbox and restock it after each market. A consistent amount of change will also make it easy to count your earnings after the market.

Credit Card Payment:

At today’s Farmers Markets probably 70% of all customers pay with credit card. You need to be able to accept credit cards and debit cards if you don’t want to lose out on sales . There are several very easy credit card systems out there that are free to sign up and you only pay a small percentage like 2.5 % per transaction. Your sales are deposited in your bank account the next day. One that we particularly like for credit cards on the road is squareup.com. They work great with any smart phone or IPad and even work when there is not internet or wifi available through a special off-line mode.

Calculator (if it’s not in your phone)

If you handle cash and money and you don’t have a smart phone, you need a calculator to check your math. Especially when a booth is busy, math mistakes will occur and you definitely don’t want to make a change mistake that will cost you money or will make the customer mad. A good practice by the way is to keep the bill a customer gave you in your hand until you hand over the change. Any misunderstanding about what kind of money was given is quickly resolved that way.

Inventory/product:

Bring enough inventory and product so that you have at least something to sell for the duration of the market and definitely bring enough to make your booth well stocked from beginning to end. Customers are drawn to a fully stocked table.

Sign/banner and a way to hang it up neatly:

A sign will catch a passing customer’s attention. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it can be a black board with chalk, but it should state your name and the products your sell. A banner can be a great addition for any display, but you need to have a way to hang it up behind you or fix to the tables. As long as it’s neat.  A banner that is too long and hangs onto the ground looks shabby, not planned and is a safety hazard for the customers to step on.

This sign was painted for us by Jill Wetzel, one of our fabulous wwoofers.

Coolers:

Coolers are a must have, especially if you sell food or other perishable items. Make sure the coolers are in good repair and are very clean. Most coolers are white and food offered out of dirty coolers is not very appealing. Wipe them down with bleach before a market and pressure wash them every once in a while.

Fliers/literature about your product:

This is important so you can give the customer something to take home. It can be as simple as a favorite recipe for a vegetable or other product, or a copy of an article about the product you sell.  Explanations on different cheeses or ingredients.

Business Cards:

They don’t have to be expensive but will need to be clean and simple and give an idea of who you are and what your business is.

Miscellaneous Might Need:

Pens
Sign-up sheet for emails and a newsletter
Carry bags for your product
Paper towels/wet wipes
Dog ones for your customers with dogs
Tape/blue painters tape
Tent if the market is outdoors
Dolly to move your coolers
Broom and dustpan

And here is one more tip:  once you have everything assembled that you need, make sure your set up is clean, neat and tidy, and not cluttered. You want a smooth booth, one that is attractive to your customers, and so will help you make a good first impression of your farm on any potential customer that will pass by your table.

Julia Shewchuk owns and operates Serenity Acres Farm on 80 acres in Florida. Serenity Acres runs on solar, is Animal Welfare Approved-certified, houses anywhere from four and eight WWOOFers and interns, and is the home to a small herd of dairy goats, 14 Black Angus cattle, 70 laying hens, 3 horses, 2 cats, 4 house dogs, 7livestock guardian dogs, and 1 duck. Read all of Julia’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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