Presenting yourself and you product at the farmers market.

garliclady(z7 NC)February 19, 2005

I think all who sell at farmers markets have found that just plopping stuff on a table and expecting it to sell doesn't work now days. How about sharing tips you have found to make your booth special so people will stop and remember you from week to week. Good produce is not enough some times because you have to have people stop and look first. We have all seen inferior products sell because of presentation or personallity of another vendor.

Before the market season starts up again maybe we can get ideas from each other.

Here is a couple of mine I'll share more as we go...

One of the markets I attend had a waiting list to get a permanent table. So each week I went for 2 years I had to set up at different places (using a table of some one who was not there that week) I used the same nice colorful table cloths each week. I had nice signs that mention my farm name alot. I told customers I had to be at different tables each week so look for the table cloths and signs. This year I finally got my own table but continued with the same color theme and setup. This year I want to change the table cloths but now with the customers knowing I have a permanent spot I feel I can with out confusion

Another was to have recipes sheets every week that used one or several of my products as ingredients . I sell fresh garlic (not common around here) and more unusual vegetables. I sometimes had samples of dip etc to have out to taste. Giving some people who might not stop a reason too . I can then talk to them and even if they don't buy from me that week they usually become a customer because they now have a connection

Can't wait to here some of your Ideas!!!

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You are VERY lucky that you're allowed to set out dip for your customers.

I'm just investigating getting into our local Farmers' Markets - and our local Health Department not only doesn't allow us to put out ANY prepared food, but we're not even allowed to put out cut vegetables for tasting - even if they're sliced up right at the site.

I'm very surprised & envious that you're allowed to provide samples.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 12:13PM
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I can only tell you what I am planning to do because most of what I will be selling will be a new enterprise for me this year.

I plan on having fact sheets that cover basic plant care. Where one fact sheet provides instructions for a broad range of plants. That way I don't have to hand out lots of fact sheets for everything that they buy. I may run a list of plants down the margin of the page and circle the names of what they've purchased just in case they forget (the pots will be tagged but they will be taking them out of the pots when they get home - I hope).

Same goes for my crafts and garden decor - a kind of general sheet covering everything I offer.

Everything I hand out will have my website address where they will be told to go for in-depth information as well as personal advice should they want to email me.

Even though I will be selling at a flea market I intend to decorate as if I am at a fancy Home & Garden Show - my business is all about promoting home gardening and promoting my locally themed publications. So anything I can do to make a flashy presentation I'll do.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2005 at 6:51PM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

Another way I present my products is to have indivdual signs , Each sign has the variety name and sometimes a picture (IE Cherokee Purple Tomato) a description of the product, taste , use etc . I then laminate the signs and then can write a price on the card with eraseable marker. Having signs on each item help customers especially when you have unusual items that are not at the stores. We have 15 varieties of garlic and though the most I usually take is 6 varieties at a time it is real helpful . Many customers want to try several varieties after they see the decriptions and buy more than if the just saw a sign saying "garlic ". Knowing the name of a particular variety makes people aware all tomatoes beans etc are not alike and there are different taste uses etc.
I have a small personal laminator thatcan be bought at Walmart. It keeps the signs clean and reuseable and make the cards heavier. I make the signs on my computer using a single fold card program and i fold them to stand on the table or Over the back of a basket. Some I staple to a paint stirrer stick (you can get free) to stick behind taller items like bunches of Basil.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2005 at 11:55AM
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JoeFab(z7 NC)

I do things the same way, GarlicLady. I sell Heirloom tomato and pepper plants and I find that people are very intersted in heirlooms, but usually don't know where to start.

I make up a laminated sign (on the computer) for each variety, that has a decent picture of the tomato or pepper along with the information that makes that particular variety unique.

I've had people mill around my booth for 30 minutes or longer just reading all of the information on the varieties! The signs are invaluable.

    Bookmark   February 23, 2005 at 8:33AM
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bigred(z8 Ark.)

I'm fairly new to market selling but I use baskets and large colorful bowls from the dollar store. Last year I kept my farm fresh eggs in a closed cooler but this year I have a pretty basket for them.I use brighty colored poster board cut large enough to fold in half so they stand on their own and print variety and price on one side to place in front of the bowls and baskets. I also sell 1 gal. perennials that I arrange on the ground in groups that would grow in same conditions in pleasing color combos. Signs for these are sq. of colored poster board stapled to paint stirring sticks tucked into the pots.

Still learning and I like the table cloth idea.


    Bookmark   February 24, 2005 at 9:46AM
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Ron_and_Patty(z7 GA)

Our display was fairly small last year, but we were pleased to get a number of compliments from customers. We used three tables with matching cream colors table clothes. They were cheap vinyl ones from Big Lots, but they had a classy look. Our umbrella was also a cream color with a wooden pole. We used a hodgepodge of baskets lined with kitchen towels in a variety of muted colors--gold, green, deep red and even a few striped ones in the same color scheme. Our price signs were small chalk boards using colored chalk for descriptions and pricing. As we sold (veggies, mostly tomatoes) we replaced large half empty baskets with smaller ones, and condensed down to two tables, and then just one.

We have purchased a canopy for this year and it is white, so we have to come up with something a little different, but we want it to make people think they have traveled somewhere exotic or back in time. Not sure how yet! We are planning to use risers for a three tier display. I am reading "The New Farmer's Market" and hopefully will get more ideas. One thing they said was to not overwhelm your produce with bright colors and busy patterns. I really wanted a pale yellow canopy because they say it casts the best light on most veggies, but they were out of our price range.

We printed recipes on 4X6 index cards, some times with a border or small clip art.

To identify our varieties, we found these little wooden cut-outs at Michaels. They have all sorts of shapes, including tomatoes! Ron colored them to match the variety (pinks were pink different shades of pink, Cherokee Purple was purplish, etc.) even adding green leaves and stems of different shades. And then wrote the name in the center. We glued them to sticks and stood them up in the back of the baskets. If we use them again, I think I will glue them to clothes pins and clip them to the basket, because we constantly had to stand them back up in the basketÂ

We are planning to sell heirloom tomato plants this yearÂwe finished transplanting about 1500 last night! So we have to work those in to our display this year.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2005 at 11:01AM
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Everyone has mentioned how they display their items. Heres some tips on how you look!
Don't sit, stay busy, DON'T SMOKE. and always!! Smaile and say hello.
I have been selling for many years and have seen customer walk by very nice booth becasue the vendors were unfriendly, smoked or looked dirty.
We do alot of what has been said above in other post and will be expanding to three times the amount of produce grown last year. Doing things right pays.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2005 at 6:42PM
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Thank You Garlic Lady! This is a great thread! Probably one of the best I've read in quite a while as far useful info for my situation. I'm brand new to Farmer's Market this year and am doing this as service project with my Cub Scouts. Thanks for your help!


    Bookmark   March 10, 2005 at 1:06PM
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We sell mostly dried herb seasoning so we utilize many baskets. I agree that you don't want your area to be too busy. I've found that twin size sheets work great in place of tablecloths...they're reasonable and come in a variety of colors. My hubby made folding risers for me so we can display on two levels and I use one color sheet on the table and a coordinating sheet as a drape to cover the risers.

We always make sure that each item has a sign with the price on it...customers hate to ask how much something costs. We are very fortunate in the fact that we can basically set up a "kitchen" area behind our booth and we serve samples each week. We even get to prepare them right on the spot so our motto has become "if it don't smell, it don't sell!" We hand out recipes for each sample. We also have a file filled with recipe sheets for each blend that we sell. I put a sandwich board type sign in front of our booth with the name of whatever sample we are handing out that day.

Our herb plants are displayed in their flats on two tables put back to back again with two risers towards the back of the tables so that we get to utilize more space. I put laminated signs on popsicle sticks in each flat with the name of the herb, the light requirements, growing habits and the price. If we have an unusual plant I try to take pictures of it to show how it grows.

Our market opens in less than 30 days and I am sooooo excited! :)

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 8:40AM
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GrassIsEvil(z6 TN)

One caveat: Don't overspend on your display. It's easy to get carried away, especially if you've come up with a neat idea. At first, use what you have and fill in with yard sale and flea market finds. A beat-up but sturdy table can be covered with a yard-sale sheet dyed a bright color.

As to how we present ourselves, clean, neat, and organized are the bywords. All of us have matching tee-shirts--RIT dye can do wonders.

We have an old-fashioned manual cash register that catches the eye.

Other than that:

Your booth/display should be relatively easy to set up and break down. You want to get to the business of selling as quickly as possible. At one festival, our next door 'neighbor' had a lovely, airy, intricate white PVC-frame and bright silk pavilion--but it took her most of the day to put it together.

And, at the end of the day, you're going to be tired and packing up should be as simple as possible. Tables that fold, self-contained units, whatever makes it simple.

We plan what's going where and have a layout so no matter who's helping, they'll know where everything goes.

We spend time planning how to pack the vehicles. For instance, if you put the flowers on top of the tables, you have to unpack the flowers, set them aside, and then get out the tables. We take two vehicles--one has the tables and bins with whatever tablecovers, etc. that go with them. We unpack that first, get it set up before we unpack the product. The second vehicle has the flowers and produce. As we take each container out, we put the product into its place on the stand and put its price on it. Add the cash register and the scale, the tax sign, and we're in business. While one minds any customers, the other unpacks the canopy, signs, chairs, and the rest of it. As a hand is needed, we combine, but the important thing is that we're selling at the earliest moment.

And we unhesitatingly exploit the children. Never underestimate the charm offensive. We estimate that they increase earnings by a minimum of twenty percent at each market. Ours are, however, well-behaved and under control. We have a play area, snacks, pillows, shade, and a (free) baby-sitter. DO NOT take your children if they're going to be a distraction or a disruption.


    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 12:55PM
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Ron_and_Patty(z7 GA)

Wish we could attend this, but maybe GarlicLady, TriangleJohn or others in this area can go....

"On Saturday, April 9th at the King Public Library from noon till 3 pm, there will be a workshop on "Market Display Techniques". It will be given by M. Hylton &T.J. Nartea,Marketing Specialist from NC A&T University-Cooperative Extension Program. If you or anyone is interested -contact Michael Hylton at 336-593-8179 [leave name&contact info] or email: []. The Workshop Location is: 101 Pilot View Drive King, NC.27021 I think it will help anyone wanting to sell at any Farmer's Market this year & you can't beat the price-FREE."

    Bookmark   March 28, 2005 at 8:42PM
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kristenmarie(Z4-5/New Mexico)

I also find that BIG picture matters-- the arrangement of tables, etc... it has to invite people into your space instead of saying "we're hanging out back here, don't bother with us" ... we've really found that if we push the edge of our space (where we are allowed to go) and get RIGHT OUT THERE on the edge, it brings in more people. There were these people selling across the aisle from us last season-- they had fantastic willow screens and many beautiful things but they had their booth set up so the willow screens actually screened them from the traffic! They thought they were displaying their wares... I think the effect it had was to shut them off.

And I second the KID thing-- I brought my 1-year-old daughter along last year several times and she was a HIT.

Kristen (garlic lady on the other side of the continent)

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 8:54AM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

My daughter was 2 weeks old when she made her first appearance at the farmers market last summer. I carried her in a sling most of the summer and yes everyone has to stop !
The Garlic Lady

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 9:40AM
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All I've read so far are GREAT ideas and I would vouch that many have been successful foe me. One thing I would tweek with recommendations given so far is to keep your stand and produce primative enough that your customer doesn't have to think twice as to whether you are a "Farmer" or a produce pedler. Customers like to relate to the local agriculture in their cummunity and you should appeal to that instinct. Don't turn your stand into a carnival booth.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2005 at 8:36AM
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Lee True Hulcher

well, it looks as though you all covered about everything. Just a few things to add. I handle a farmers market in a small city where my only true compitition is a Hooterite colony. They are ok people but don't talk much to us "English Folks".
Thats cool, for me, because I treat every single customer like they are my best friend, long lost pal... ect.
If they are repeats, I always try to throw a little something in extra.
Me and my crew talk to everyone. "Heya Guy, how ya doing today?" with a huge smile and a flurtasiose wink have sold many a produce items. Same for my female customers " Hey there Lady, What can I do for you today"
Another thing is we put our products in weaved baskets. the kind you find a thrift stores "Cheap".
And last but no least is appearance of your product. Don't pile everything you have on your table at once. Give the products some space, and arrange them so they are pleasing to the eye. Step away from the table 10 or so feet and take a good look at your arrangment. Is it balanced. Does one certain thing catch your eye. Make it your center piece and work outward from there.
Make very sure that everything you sell is the best quality it can be. Clean, clean, clean.
If you have culls, keep them out of site, but mention "that you do have some Vegy's that are not quite up to snuff, and that you will make someone a great deal on it."
well good luck. Oh PS : Matching tee-shirts that are bright with the farm name on them works wonders too.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2005 at 10:40AM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

thought this thread might be useful to bring back up and to see if anyone has anything new to add

    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 8:39AM
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hedwig(QLD Brisbane)

a bit more from the consumers side, because I've still not starteed up: I know European markets and markets here in Brisbane. In Brisbane I'm disappointed because most of them are resellers. So let people know that you are growing the stuff you sell, a small singn with your adress will be enough. and tell them that you picked everything yesterday, if it's true. Many years I bought at the same stall, they had good products and making a lot of fun while selling, saying young lady to a grandmother etc. I had always an apple for my child, they where weighing always down and after it they threw one apple more.Or I had a parsley extra in my bag. But I liked most the markets in Athens I miss them so much, no nice sheets of paper nothing, no tableclothes not neat and clean but heaps of different veggies and fruits really heaps! And all the street crowded with people, the sellers crying "ena ena ena" hundreds of stalls This is market! In Brisbane there are so few markets far away seldom a bit boring and mostly resellers. OnceI went once to an organic market I bought a bunch of salad it was so tiny!! I think it is important that you dont put three carrots in a basket but a heap on the table, people should not think they will starve or have to go to the supermarket after visiting the marketplace.
I think it is good to inform the people about the product, but a market place is not a supermarket and at least I search something different from this sterile cleenish athmosphere with half cutted plastic wrapped vegetables, which I hate so much. I don't know where you are but perhaps think a bit of the immigrants, what kind of markets they re used, here most immigrants go to the markets, and they will attract others. Perhaps you'll get ideas in your local library, reading about souks and travel books with pictures. ans don't forget to mark the price, nobody likes asking how much- oh thanks it's quite too expensive.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 5:02AM
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valereee(6a SW Ohio)

I manage a farmers' market, and here are the things I've noticed that separate the vendors who have lines vs. those who never seem to have many customers:

1. Mark produce and their prices clearly with signs on each bin or basket. Listing varieties also helps. If you sell items that can't be displayed, like meat, you need a VERY LARGE -- that is, big enough to be readable from well outside your booth -- and EASILY UPDATABLE sign listing available cuts with prices, and you need to update it throughout the day. Don't erase things you've sold out of -- cross them out instead, so that people will know that you do carry these items and they need to show up earlier in the day if they want them. Ditto empty bins -- don't put them away. Leave the empty bins and their signs out.
2. Attend every week. You can't build a customer base unless you're there EVERY WEEK. If you're going to have to miss a week, tell every customer starting three weeks ahead. And for anyone who thinks they'd like to start out by attending a farmers' market every other week to see how it goes, I'd highly recommend against it. If you can't commit to being there every week, you will not build up a customer base.
3. Hang a large sign or banner telling your farm's name and location. If you grow naturally/organically/chem-free/raise on pasture, put that on your sign too. T-shirts on booth staff are also helpful.
4. Booth staff should stand if possible; if you need to sit, use a stool rather than a chair. A stool says, "I'm here to help you." A chair says, "Don't make me get up."
5. Greet every customer, and if there aren't customers actually in your booth, greet every passerby. Smile at people and be friendly.
6. This should go without saying, but don't make customers feel stupid. We had a vendor last year who answered "stupid" questions with sarcasm. If someone asked him in May, "When will you have tomatoes?" he'd answer, "I'll have tomatoes when tomatoes are in season." I heard one woman ask him if she could come out to the farm and pick her own tomatoes and he said, "As soon as you pay my liability insurance." I had multiple customers come up to me in the market manager's booth and tell me they would never buy from him again. This guy had some of the best produce at our market and frankly I was relieved he decided not to return this year.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 5:37AM
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valaree, you put things very good, and I agree with everything.

You can educate customers, but don't make them feel totally stupid. They might be when they arrive at your stand, but hopefully they will know more when they leave.

Your post should be given to every person that thinks they want to be a vendor. If you don't have people skills, it doesn't matter how good your produce is, it won't sell. If you don't have the skills, find someone willing to work for you, that does.

I love attending other markets, just to see how others work, where is yours?


    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 8:11AM
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In trying to answer this question for myself last year, I ran across this article, which helped me a lot. Great information already mentioned here as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Farm Blog

    Bookmark   May 21, 2012 at 6:57PM
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Merchandising yourself and your product is at least 1/2 of the sales. Just make everything look good, basic merchandising tip. If it doesn't look good to you, it won't to anyone else.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 8:29PM
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Great advice, Valeree, a must read for every vendor.

The only one I'm not sure of is #5. Maybe it's just my perception, but I find that when customers (not passersby) are looking at my stall with vague interest, and I say hello to them, they get uncomfortable and leave immediately. I guess some people don't like being bothered but it's so difficult to balance being friendly and being pushy. How would you suggest going about it?

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:43PM
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Just say hello or good morning/afternoon? They will most likely at least say hello back. Next time, they might stop. I don't encourage anyone to force prospective customers to stop and buy.

If you have something unusual, you might bring it to their attention, ONLY as an informative statement, nothing more. Alot of times, they'll stop just to find out what you're talking about.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2012 at 10:54PM
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The guy next to me is always calling out "Welcome to X Farm! Would you like to try some of our Y?" I gotta find out how they can give samples since they don't have the handwashing station required by health dept - I don't know if they have the permit. Maybe b/c his samples aren't laying out on a plate? He just has people take a green bean or cherry tomato from one of his baskets, or he hands them a thin bamboo coffee stir stick with a dip of his maple syrup or jelly on it.

That seems pushy to me, I like to just make eye contact and say hello (maybe make a comment about how cute their dog or kid is, or offer them a bag if they're struggling with prior purchases). Though I do think the samples help and would like to do it myself if I could without going through all the hoops.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 6:39AM
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If he isn't CUTTING anything, then he can offer samples. The dipping of the syrup would be on the line, unless it's the idea that he isn't re-using the coffee stirrer.

Board of health told me that if I didn't need to cut the produce then I didn't need anything. You could also give a whole tomato, or ear of corn, but IF you cut it, you would need the hand washing station and the whole deal.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 8:50AM
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magz88(5a - Central Ontario)


You learn who wants to be said hello to and who wants a smile and who wants to be ignored.

We tend to be very friendly - but we both enoy selling.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:21PM
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Magz88, you said it when you said you enjoy selling. That's 1/2 the battle.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 12:47PM
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