Should I expect to lose money in my first year?
OK, this is probably a better question...did you lose or make money in your first year growing for market?
I probably lost money. I did not keep any records on what I spent but remember making around $800 from a 25' x 50' garden. I probably spent around $1200. I had not quit my day job at that time.
So you should not expect to lose money but don't expect to make a decent living for several years.
Farmers' markets can be a very good source of income throughout a limited season. Boulderbelt is absolutely correct. Some things to consider are
- what is the full season of your market?
- how much is your membership/vendor fee?
- who else is selling what you plan to sell?
We started this last year and are doing it again this year. It was a lot of fun and we did make a profit. Other vendors there are retired and do this over the summer to pay for wintering in warmer climes!
I think one of the most important things to consider is the last question above. If you have several people all selling their prized tomatoes, your chances are diluted before you begin. Our market is very well managed and for the most part, the number of vendors is limited to only a few who are selling the same thing(s). See if you can fill a niche with something unusual, for example is anyone else selling heirloom tomatoes? One of our best-selling items was - sweet peas by the bunch. Very inexpensive to grow and not readily found commercially; we sold out every week. Also I do baking and home canning (health regulations can factor in to doing this and the organizers of your market should be able to advise).
Good luck and have fun with it!
I won't tell you that you will not "lose" money. Taxable, yes. My first year was my worst year for sales and taxable income. I made $1700 sales. I was SO happy. I grew everything myself. My market fees was $200.
Before I started, I talked to a farmer at the market and what he said made sense to me. He said "You will make enough to pay for your market fees." Everything else is extra.
Can you live on it??? Probably not, at least in my area. 6 months of market, first month and last month barely pays for your gas money. The other 4 months gradually increases til "back to school" time, when parents need to buy the school supplies, then sales drop start to drop til end of market.
We did try to live on market money for 2 yrs and went into debt. We were lucky, no mortgage or car payments.
If you enjoy it, go for it. Sometimes money isn't everything. I have made some valuable friendships because of being at the farmers market. We have been there for 10 years now.
Are you selling at just one market? We made money our first year, but we sold at 2 markets, one on Saturday and one on Tuesday in our town. Saturday was a bigger market, but Tuesday really paid off. We do at least 4 markets a week now, this year we will do 6, as my kids are growing veggies and they will sell for us at a market we have never bothered with. If the farmers market association has multiple locations, consider selling at more than one. If each town has it's own, then the fees for becoming a member may be too high the first year.
Hi, this is the first time I have posted, but I have been reading the comments with some interest. Our farm has been going to the local Farmers Market for over 20 years. We are 3rd generation market gardeners, and one of the founding members of the Farmers Market in our area.
I can tell you that most of the vendors do not make much of a profit, and if that is your reason for being there you will need to make a big investment. A small garden is not going to produce enough to 'quit your day job'.
But, if you have a quality product, an attractive display, and keep your prices up (be a price maker not a price taker, as they say) you can make some extra money to supplement your income.
I will tell you that I make $1500 - 7000 per market, depending on the season and weather, we have 6 staff/family who work with us at the market and another 20 on the farm - and after it is all done, bills paid, I have a profit of under $20,000 from the farmers market (this is not the only way I sell my produce though). We have 2 markets a week from June - October in my area.
But, my neighbours are new farmers and they have a much smaller farm and fewer staff and they make about the same as me because they don't have as high input costs (they only sell at the farmers market). They do that with about 7 acres of land.
I keep detailed records of everything I sell, and my costs, so that I can raise the price or drop items that loose me money, or grow more of what was really popular. Grow more of the high price, low input crops. Or find a crop that no one else has much of to set yourself off. It is all just basic business sense.
Good Luck and happy planting!
Where are you going to be selling? I have a feeling that you are in my area (Bradford/Holland Marsh), so I would be interested in how you make out.
I'm not too far from there. I'll be growing tomatoes (1/3 hybrid, 1/3 cherry, 1/3 heirlooms), peppers, eggplants, melons, cukes, squash, carrots, beets, salsify, celeriac, kale, gourmet greens. I'll keep you guys posted on how it goes.
As one thats looking into selling at farmers markets, canuck, how has your first year gone so far? What have you learned , what caught you by surprise, will you do it again next year, what will you do different next year if you do sell again?