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While setting up for a farmers market, the most important thing you can do is to put yourself in the shoes of someone who is shopping at a market full of farmers. It’s daunting. When you step back and look at it, there is a lot of homogeneity—every booth can look pretty much the same, especially to customers new to the market. So finding ways to stand out is essential to having a successful season vending at your local market. Here are six ways to do that.
1. Be Out of Season
Wait, what? Yes, farmers market success starts with having items when no one else does. First and last tomatoes will always sell better and for more money than July tomatoes when all other vendors are loaded up. Lettuce in the middle of winter and summer will always be a hit, whereas lettuce in the spring and fall is often found in abundance. Summer carrots are always a hot ticket. Think outside the season: Not only try to get items earlier than usual but also try to have your stock linger long after the season has passed.
2. Pile It High and Kiss It Goodbye
This old saying is a farmer favorite because it’s accurate. There is just something about a table piled up with produce that customers love. It has to look orderly, of course, and it shouldn’t be piled in a way that customers can’t reach the things they want. But a bountiful-looking market table is as good a seller as any professional salesman.
3. Have Visible Signs
One of the biggest mistakes farmers make at market is not having a sign that can be read from 20 or 30 feet away. That goes for the farm’s name—which should be prominent and easy to read—but also prices and growing practices. My farm is now certified organic, but before we were certified we had a large sign that read “We are proud of the way we grow! Ask us about our growing practices.” That sign worked. It made people feel confident that we were transparent, and it helped us to stand out from the crowd.
4. Use Tablecloths and Tent Canvases
Tablecloths and tent canvases are blank pallets that most farmers just leave, well, blank. You do not have to cram your space with signs and images and logos, but taking advantage of these broad surfaces to add a logo or an image can add depth to your market table and make it look more professional.
5. Be Clean and Organized
Whatever overall design you go with, keeping it clean and organized is key. If wilted leaves and flowers are left on the table, that takes the whole aesthetic down a notch. Replace damaged items such as tomatoes. Pick up any dropped trash, paper, plastic or debris. Keep it clean all day, and the customers will keep coming.
6. Stand Up and Greet Customers
There is no easier way to fail at market than to sit down behind your booth and not say hi to people as they walk by. Time and again, I see farmers perched behind their produce, looking at their phones or just sitting with arms crossed. I get that a farmer might be tired after a hard week—and I highly recommend taking nights before market to relax for that reason. But it would be more financially worth it to hire someone to stand and greet than to sit down—that’s how big the impact on your sales can be.