Farmer's Market

RobThomasJanuary 23, 2014

Do any of you sell at Farmer's Markets? If so, what do you sell and how well do your products sell? Once my plants start hitting peak production, I'll have way more fruit than my family could possibly eat. I already give away some things to friends and family, but I'd really like to eventually sell at local markets. I think my biggest question is what the selling price should be. I plan to visit the local Farmer's Markets this year to get a better idea of the price of goods, and then hopefully start selling in the next year or two. I think a lot of what I'll offer is very rare around here, and may be hard to price. Things like pomegranates, jujube, and rare apples among others.

For those that do sell, can you tell me about your experiences and give any advice?

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

I sell fruit, mostly soft fruit, pluot, nectarine, apricot, grapes, blueberries, and citrus. Pricing is the hardest part for me. With no competition I could ask a pretty hefty price. But I'm concerned that someone might be dissatisfied or get home and the fruit is mush.

I mostly charge about $2 per lb for larger fruits and about $5 per lb for berries and sweet cherry. No more than in the store and my quality is way better. It would be easier for me to sell by something other than pounds. I've sold large oranges for $1 each. Avoid the $/lb issue.

The only guy selling much else, vegetables, gets more for his veggies than I charge for fruit. Like $3 per lb for kolrabi, radish, beets, carrots. Very small organic eggs sell for $5 per dozen, 3-4 times store price!!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 11:30AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"For those that do sell, can you tell me about your experiences and give any advice?"

I suppose the biggest mistake in pricing is people who charge too little, and people who charge too much. As silly as that statement sounds, I'm serious.

You get people who have leftover produce and really don't want much of anything for it. After a while they figure out selling their produce is not worth their time and give it up. Once you start seriously counting your expenses, they are significant.

At the other end of the spectrum are people who charge prices that would choke a horse. Not good either.

IMO, if the home grown food is better quality than the supermarket, then it should be priced accordingly-and rarely sold for less than supermarket prices.

Supermarket peaches sell for anywhere from $1 to $2 per pound in season here. I charge 2 bucks/pound which includes sales tax, so my actual price is somewhere around $1.85/pound.

I think I'm a little cheap. Most farm marketers sell by volume. A quart box sells for 5 bucks in this area. You can't fit 5 half pound peaches in a quart box (you can only fit 4) so most farm marketers are selling peaches for more than 2 bucks per pound.

Another mistake I see at farmer's markets is that some venders will sell stuff that looks like crap. Sellers think because they don't mind cutting out a few bad spots, their customers won't mind either. But regardless some customers will say they don't mind blemished fruit, given a choice customers will choose unblemished fruit over blemished (assuming both taste the same).

Sometimes the reason vendors are selling blemished fruit is because they are greedy. They want to sell everything they pick. Sellers should plan for a certain amount of harvest wastage.

There is a farm market forum on GardenWeb. I don't peruse it much, although I probably should.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 12:47PM
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Check out the market garden forum. I sell at markets, but I also have a private business and sell to restaurants. Fruit usually is in high demand and commands good prices as most vendors sell vegetables. Prices vary drastically according to the region, competition, availability, etc.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 12:54PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I have no plans to sell but was curious what licences you need, and how to you pay sales tax? I used to pay when i owed a restaurant, so not completely unfamiar with the process. Are you inspected?

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 2:02PM
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BrookW is right, the Garden Market forum is excellent. I will be selling fruits to restaurants, private clubs and bakeries for the first time this summer. They are most interested in my currants, black and other colors and my plums and peaches. Since I am in a summer community, it is really too late for most of my apples except for Pristine. My customers seem willing to pay anything, whatever that means and buy out whole crops, ie. blackcurrants and Mirabelle plums. I do not know what to charge them yet. But the questions I've asked the responses I've gotten from the Market forum are excellent. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 5:04PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


It's probably different for different areas, but for KS, you apply for a retail sales tax number. I can't remember if I originally did it by phone or Internet. They send you a number and you have to pay the sales tax every quarter, along with filling out the forms (even if you don't have any sales for the quarter). I pay the sales tax by automatic withdrawal from my bank account. If they catch you not paying sales tax, they can (and probably would) crucify you. You don't even want to be late paying it.

Some people are under the impression, you don't have to collect sales tax for products sold at a farm market (which isn't true for most states). The farm market I sell at had a representative from the state come and check everyone's retailer's tax certificate the year before last.

If you live close to a state border (like me) you have to have a retailer's sales tax number for both states, if you sell in both. If you sell in different cities or counties, they all have different rates, so you have to collect differently for the different locales. Did I mention this is a hassle?

As I stated, I charge one flat rate for my peaches and pay the sales tax out of my own pocket, but it's a hassle when you go to figure it all and send each government their cut.

Some farm markets require you to have liability insurance (in case someone gets sick from your food) but that's generally only larger farm markets.

Most people have a Federal Tax ID number (and a State ID #). I'm sure you're familiar with that. I believe you can apply online for those.

If you have any employees (even part time) you have to fill out W-2s and a W-3. You also have to fill out a 944 (if your small) or a 943 (Ag) and the corresponding State form (a K-3 for Kansas). I pay my son to help me, so I have to fill these out.

Then of course you have to fill out either a schedule C business return with your Federal return, or an Agricultural return with Federal return.

If you have contractor do any work over $600 for your business, you have to send them a 1099 and fill out a 1096. This is only required if you have a business. Individuals aren't required to do this. That's why someone can hire a painter for their house and not have to worry about a 1099. But for businesses, you have to fill out 1099s.

Most farm markets require you to have a certified scale if you sell by weight.

There are the fees to sell at a farm market. These can vary widely. Around here about 15 bucks per day is the norm for a large market.

I have a pesticide applicator's license, but that is only necessary for restricted use pesticides. However, it's necessary if you want to purchase commercial pyrethroids (which are restricted use). If you have much to spray you have to use commercial pyrethroids because they either aren't offered for in homeowner packaging, or are unaffordable. The cost for the license is minimal, but you have to pass the test. Some states require continuing education. Kansas requires you to re-test every 5 years.

This is all for small part-time growers like me, for big growers, there is a lot more stuff, I-2 verification, GAP, etc.

I'm sure I'm leaving some stuff out, but that's all I think of off the top of my head as far as reporting.

There are a lot of little things one needs in order to be able to sell. Some sort of packaging. I've seen people use Walmart sacks for veggies. In the past, I've mostly re-cut and glued card board boxes to make flats. There's a discount grocery store that will let you have their boxes, if you can get to them before they crush them. I used to spend hours and hours cutting and hot gluing boxes together to make flats. Last year I started using purchased flats. I had to buy a heavy duty stapler to staple them together. It's a lot faster.

Then you need something to haul the fruit in. I use plastic tulip bulb crates to haul peaches. The crates stack nicely and work well with hauling flats of peaches. I just bought 50 more this winter @ 3 bucks/piece, which isn't much, but the cost adds up.

I also pick peaches in these so you don't have to stack peaches. You do have to line the bottom with cloth to keep from bruising. We use towels (which aren't free either).

You need a foldable table to sell on. For most places, you need a pop-up canopy too, to keep the sun and rain off your fruit. A decent one that won't blow away at the first puff of wind is about $300 minimum.

Every time you turn around there's another expense. The old saying is true, "How do you make a small fortune in the fruit business? Start with a large one."

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 5:34PM
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Here at our local farmers market the average price for stone fruits, including pluots, are sold for $2.75 per lb; strawberries 3 pounds for $5.00; grapes $2.00 per pound; dry jujubes are sold for $5.00 per pound; Raineer cherries $5.00 per pound. While, the prices seem very high, they sell fast. Well, that’s because they only sell high quality fruit.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 11:51PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a


Thanks for the detailed info. I forgot about the sales tax number, and yes I had one at one time. It's been 11 years. As you say every state is different for example in MI food is exempt from sales tax, so i probably would not need a sales tax number. Yeah I had to pay weekly because of my sales amount. I paid the sales tax at the bank. Also here on 1099's if under $600.00 you don't have to 1099 a contractor. I was a secretary, on the board of directors for a non profit, so know some of this info. Do you need a food handlers licence? That's something we have here, and is probably needed. I was more wondering if their was anything like that. I wondered if crops would have to be inspected to sell them?
When i owned a restaurant I had 9 employees, what a nightmare that was! Never again!
I was thinking of selling speciallty food like white strawberries to chefs. It could be easily done, and could be kept at a fairly small scale. But I realize their is no money in it. To make money I'm more looking at developing cultivars. And making money off royalties. Not with fruit trees but with raspberries. Interspecfic raspberry crosses is what I'm looking at now.It's going to take a long time, and nothing may come of it, but it's a blast doing it anyway! I have found some possible niches that can be filled. this year the primocane black raspberry was introduced.. Wow, what a great void that will fill! Well a few holes and needs are out there to shoot at. I don't want to even mention them as it could give others ideas. But I have seen ways if done right patents that will sell can be done. One of my friends happens to be a patent lawyer too! My first crosses will be grown out this spring. Including interspecific crosses.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 2:08AM
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Thanks for all the great info!

I didn't post in the Market forum as it seems a little dead over there and my question was directed more toward fruit (seems most folks sell veggies).

I don't think the requirements here in TN are as stringent as in other areas. I know there are more regulations when selling things like meat and cooked goods. I couldn't find much about sales tax. I think sales tax only applies in certain circumstances.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 11:04AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"Do you need a food handlers licence? That's something we have here, and is probably needed. I was more wondering if their was anything like that."


I knew I was answering more than you were asking, but right now I am going through all the tax paperwork, very time consuming. My post was a bit of venting.

I doubt you'd have to have a food handler's license. Here in KS, one isn't required unless you are selling some prepared foods. Sales of jam/jelly at a farmer's market is exempt from special licensing, as are baked goods.

They won't let you sell items which carry a risk of botulism at farmer's markets - canned vegetables, etc.

In KS, you have to have special licensing to sell live plants.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 12:31PM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

Good stuff, thanks! Yeah here we would have to charge sales tax on jam/jellies and baked goods, but not fresh fruit.
Prepared food is taxable, raw food is not in MI. No sales tax for raw food items at the Gorcery stores.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2014 at 12:54PM
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