What methods do you have for setup? Do you do one table at a time or whatever cooler you grab first? Any suggestions for speed?
When we were setting up large, I preferred having everything that went on the table as close to back door as possible.
We would show up, open doors (large cargo van), pop up canopies, then tables. I knew what I want approximately where (each week was the same). As the boxes came out, then into baskets (if we used them), sorting as we went. then items went onto tables in approximate space. I would look from customer's view occassionally to make sure the table looked good. Usually took 15-30 minutes after setting canopies. We usually had 2-3 people, 1 supervising others unloading.
This is what we created after over 10 years of same sized space with same amount of tables (2 6' and 3 4') in a U (from customer's view) shape in a 20' space.
All backup produce was in stacks, and boxes marked when time allowed during loading time. We spent more time loading the night before (our market started at 6 am) than we spent setting up or tearing down.
Take extra help ;-)
No really, I've found the quickest way to get set up is to put everything in its display containers so once the EZ Up is up and the table out, I can just start pulling containers out of the truck and setting them out on the table. Pickling cukes go in a gallon jar of ice water and stay there, just take the lid off and put it on the table. Slicers go in a big square Tupperware container on the back seat (won't fit in cooler) and that goes right on the table. Green beans are in a bucket in the cooler, again just take the lid off and put on the table. Last year when I had tomatoes, I put them in stacking ventilated organizer baskets and put them in the toolbox just before market, then pulled those out and set them on the table or on top of wooden crates on the ground.
Jams and jellies go in a plastic underbed box that goes under the table and I just set up a tiered display with 1 jar of each, then replace as they sell (people always take the display jar, don't want to wait for me to take one out from under the table). That's the thing that takes the most time to arrange but since I only bring about 6-7 flavors at a time, it's not too long.
I have to get better about writing out my prices in advance though, I like to see what other vendors are selling for some sometimes that takes a while. I like to get there 30 minutes before market opens to set up but I have set up in 15 minutes - I don't usually have more than 1 8-ft table and maybe some baskets on the cooler though.
At one time, I laminated signs with the product name, but not the price. I would use dry erase markers to write the price in each market, that way I could change my prices as needed. I got the self-sealing laminated sheets.
for me, the 8' tables are too heavy, I can use the 4' ones when I don't bring the truck, just the blazer. They fit across behind the drivers/passengers seat perfectly. 6' are just 2" too long for the blazer, so they are truck only during market.
I am a one man show most of the time and the best way I have found to save time setting up is to simply arrive earlier. It is really hard for me to do this too, but it does help.
We use anywhere between 3 and 8, 6 foot tables. All our tables fold in half and only take up 3 feet.
Now that school has started, I attend a market on Wednesday that starts at 4 pm. I am moved my planning time to the end of the day and I leave my school at 3:00ish, drive 30-35 minutes and set up. I am still setting up, making sales and hustling!
With that said, here are a few things we do.
I display in the same tub it goes to market in. The potatoes, onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, winter squash, and even peppers some times are taken in tubs in these pictures.
They have lids and I can stack them 4 to 5 high in the truck. When we get to market, I can put up tents, tables and set out the whole tub and they are ready to sell. Then I have extra in 18 gallon totes or boxes or the same tubs. My kids were having fun putting out all the sweet potatoes. Usually they aren't piled this high!
Here are our tomatoes, the customer picks out their own and we weigh them up. Some don't do this, I do as I don't have time to put them out in baskets. Weighing them only takes a second or two. We have bowls, with a plastic sack already placed in them. The customer fills the bowl, I weigh it, tell them the amount and while they are getting the money, I have already pulled the sack up over the produce, pulled it out of the bowl, sat it down in front of them and am putting a new sack on the bowl.
You can see the bowl on the scales in the left of the picture. We have over 10 bowls, they are like shopping baskets.
The cherry tomatoes also come in the tubs. I can put 15 pint baskets per tub. If I am in a hurry, I just set out the tub, then unload it as time allows.
Another thing is we use new black web trays to display produce. We know how we are going to set it up and we stick the sign in the tray and stack up the trays. Then when we get to market we can sit out the trays, then fill them out of the coolers.
It works for us.
Wow, you guys start school early! We don't go back til after Labor Day (and it's a 3-day week for Rosh Hashanah, the kids aren't going to like going back on Friday after having Thursday off). But they don't get out til mid-June (June 21 this year due to excessive snow days).
One of our schools went back last Monday, they are going to a 'more balanced' calendar, other schools started this week. Everyone is usually out by Memorial Day/June 1st.
I don't like the folding tables, mainly because of the weight that we have loaded on ours. 9 boxes of tomatoes heaped adds up. My son (about 200#) have set on them without any bending. Lifetime tables, not anything else. You pay alittle more, but they have lasted us up to 13 years and still going. Only have to re-screw the screws at time.
OK well I have brought a similar amount of stuff to market for 5 years. No one else at market brings as many different things as I have (easily 3 dozen different things). I am last to get ready and last to leave every week for 5 years. I want to trim some time but can't say as if I waste more than 5 minutes in an hour. We have 1 hour 15 minutes to get ready and are not allowed to come earlier- not that I could as I am packing so late my shower and getting dressed equals 5 minutes! Then at our board meeting one of the vendors wanted to reduce set up time, saying no one needed 1 hour 15 minutes. He is a prick. I really watched what I did today. The only way to shave time is as mentioned above, to have the veggies in their quart baskets prior to market. I don't have time to do that often and they take up more room on the way but I have found it goes much faster when there. I could skip tablecloths. I could make one price sign board but I have found those ineffective to customers although they definitely save time.
When I get to market my truck is packed in order. So the canopy is on the end. That goes up and the tables are grabbed next and set up. Then I have a tote with tablecloths and signs and so on. Then I generally move everything onto the tables/ground except flowers and baked goods. So do you think it is better to move all boxes and coolers to the tables and then unpack each item or move and unpack a box/cooler at a time?
We get annoying customers coming in during my precious set up time so I barricade the entrance with my coolers and boxes, make it look sloppy not rude.
We don't do scales at our market so everything is each. I have to basket up: tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, ground cherries, tomatillos, peppers, hot peppers, eggplant, potatoes, summer squash, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, peas. Most everything else is bunched, bagged or tagged for price (I mark melons and squash ahead of time). That is done at the farm. Only cucs, onions, garlic, leeks, some squash, some melons are just basketed as all the same price.
looks to me that the thing that makes it take so long is not being able to use a scale to sell and having so many different items.
i set up by myself in about a half an hour on 2 tables and whatever else i can cobble together as a surface to display produce in the 10x10 space, such as empty tomato boxes stacked.
the guy next to me sells mostly fruit. he arrives at the opening bell of the market with 2 helpers and is set up in 10 minutes. he has the number of tables jay has stretched out into the parking lot.he parks elsewhere to make his 10x10 more like 10x20.
Minnie, sounds like you need a helper (you do this all yourself?) and really the cherry toms, broccoli, etc. anything you sell by the pint/quart needs to be in those baskets in the truck - see if you can get flats the baskets will fit in at grocery store where you work, so they stack w/o crushing. Green beans, etc. - can you package in bags at home? They won't crush as much and you can just throw the individual bags in cooler and then set some out on display, keep the rest in cooler. Takes more time to package at home, but beats having to do it during set up time. Maybe take some loose and measure/weigh (small kitchen scale or whatever you use at home to make sizes consistent) between customers, as long as you have enough prepackaged for start of market?
Squash (and broccoli?) anything you sell by each can just go in large container, have your display container all set to put out on table and replenish from tub/cooler as needed. I don't think you have to have *everything* out on display, as long as there is always a reasonable amount out so people don't think you only have a few of each item (my problem, I don't harvest huge amounts of anything at a time, at least not this year, except cukes and squash that I had all out the other night and didn't sell out).
I don't know how your market is, if other vendors have cases of one item all out (last market I was at the MM used to have 1 whole table with those huge mesh bags of corn set out and slit open) but I think if you displayed say a dozen broccoli heads at a time (and kept it at a dozen) in one of your nice baskets, you could keep the rest in your truck. Again, I'll do a half bushel (the most I pick, you may do a bushel) of zukes and one of yellow squash on display and if you have more keep it in the truck or under a table, wherever you can grab to replenish.
How many tables do you have? If you could do 2 (maybe 3 at most) maybe that would save time, like I said display a reasonable amount of everything instead of ALL of everything.
But why don't you use scales? That sure would save time on setup, so you could sell things like the green beans by weight and not have to package.
If I have too many items, the sales are actually lower. Too much choice, confuses customers.
I set up the tables with the individual items (like zukes, cukes, corn and onions that I sell by quantity) on one side of booth, and the other side is the items that sell by the pound. I've figured that 1 person can handle about 12' of table and not much more reasonably. anything more than that you need another person.
I started out trying to have everything, but have narrowed my selection down to a dozen or less per market day. Plus I have only 1-3 prices on the per pound part. I like to have 1-3 prices on the 'each' part, that way I only have a certain number of prices to remember. Otherwise, I need a 'cheat sheet' with the prices.
definitely don't bring everything out, even vendors that have tables full, usually have back stock. Also don't put just a few of each either, you have to figure where that happy medium spot is for your market.
We've found that people notice that we are sorting as we restock. They are reassured that we are checking the quality everytime we put more stock out. they even like the idea that we DO have some undesirable produce, makes us NOT like the grocery store.
I think you're trying to have TOO many items, I would cut down some.
Set up is one of those things that you could write a dissertation about. In the end I guess it's what works best for you but I'll try to explain what we do. In logistics, one strives to put the exact piece you need in the exact place it needs to be at the exact time it needs to be there. At one time I worked for a panelized housing manufacturer as the shipping coordinator (fancy term for supervising the guys that loaded semis). The principle was that the first thing that the builder needed would be the last thing loaded on the trucks (so it would be first off). We have adopted this mantra for how we load out our trailer for market. Canopies and weights come off first and are put up. Tables come next and set into position - we run up to eight 5" tables along the front and two or three behind depending on what we have. We use coolers for a lot of our re-stock product so they come off next and go under the table and as close to under their crate on the table top. Same with items that we transport in flats (toms, peaches and the like) - they go under the table or as close behind as possible. We have a big plastic tote for each location (we do two concurrent markets on Saturday AM so have to have two complete set ups) that have the incidentals - markers, scale and buckets, paper towels and cleaning wipes, first aid kit, tape, ect. That goes onto the back tables along with bags and any special items we need (apple bags, pint and quart boxes, clam shells, corn bags) which are also in a tote. Next off come the pre-filled starter crates. I am pretty anal about where I set my items on the tables (both for my convenience and for price groupings) 3 for 2 items all go together, all the squash go together, fruit and any items the need to be scaled go to the right end (from my side) where the scale goes. The scale is usually back about two tables from the end and toms and beans are to it's outside. We keep a small space (maybe 18") next to the scale and tape down our cheat sheets (one for product price and one each for weight/price conversions). Those W/P sheets are a real time saver - no need to stop and think what's 1.3 lbs at $2.50.lb. Those are laminated and we have them in the tote for each price amount from $1.25 to $2.50. Usually we only have two or at most three different per pound prices on any given day. We have tried a lot of different tags for pricing from laminated tags with the prices marked with a Sharpie to 4" by 3" plywood painted with chalkboard paint and marked with chalk. The problem always is by about 09:00 the prices would rub off. Now we just use 3X5 index cards taped to the table and marked with a Sharpie. Those are filled out the night before and stored in a little ziplock baggie in the cash box. They go on in front of the crate they pertain to, bags get hung along the table backs and the farm banner and SN/WIC signs go up. The last step is to set out the melons - they go into wagons and are placed in front of the tents. Sounds easy, right? With two of us it takes maybe 45 minutes to get set up (we usually put Dad filling quart/pint boxes and apple bags for reserves). On most Saturdays once the big items are off the trailer Dad and Kathy leave me and go to the other location and repeat the process (we have a couple of gals that work for us that meet them and help unload and sell then one of them comes out to the college and help me sell). I am usually all ready and have my shirt changed by 07:15 for the 08:00 market start so I have some time to do the little things like top off the starters and finish filling reserve bags and boxes (and get a cup of coffee and an Amish cinnamon roll). At the end of market we do it all in reverse. For us the system works pretty well as long as we keep organized.
Looks nice Tom, there is one question I have for everyone is sitting things on the ground, especially under the table that the customer is on the other side.
I really try not to do this as people bring pets to the market. One time, at market, a dog and his owner were buying something from a big outfit next to me and the dog raised his leg and peed on the corner of a full crate of green beans. I was about the only one who saw it.
I quickly went over and told them. The owner apologized, they pulled the tub out and set it by the truck. I got really busy and was minding my own business. At the markets end, I was loading up and that tub of green beans was about 3/4 gone. While I don't know for sure 100% if they sold them or if they had more in the van and this was a new crate, I stopped the practice of sitting anything under the table. Either I set it behind the table next to my truck or at the tables edge on myside (further from pets).
Just a thought from my experiences.
Here, everything has to be at least 6" off of ground and the Board of Health will check. Unfortunately just a pallet isn't the 6" required, it takes 2.
Dogs are not allowed at the large market, and started being enforced, really made some dog lovers mad and left the market.
tom, as usual, you told it well. We do alot of the same. Have changed over to the index cards, but don't write in the prices, I do save the good looking cards from week to week, unless prices change. Some people use recipe card boxes and save the cards alphabetical. I have got that organized.
Knock wood we have not had any real problems with dogs so far and we have a lot of dogs at market. Once a month Adopt-a-Dog brings a load of hounds out to Richland with volunteers to walk them around - sometimes it may be 20 or so. They stay about three hours and adopt out quite a few. Add to that all the other people that bring dogs and there are a lot of them around. The worst thing that we had happen dog-wise was one of the shelter dogs threw up in the commons area last summer (hot day+too much water=puke) but it was cleaned up pretty quick. Back when we started marketing Kathy always took her Husky to market - she was very well trained and behaved better than her kids (but you did not hear that from me). She became part of the booth and people looked forward to seeing her. However, I can see where dogs can cause problems - especially marking.
I can see the logic of wanting produce off the ground but it sounds like a real pain. Sometimes I think that health departments go looking for new ideas to justify their budgets for little or no benefit to public well-being. For the most part we are not able to park at the stands and keep extras on the trailer (although with melons I can park behind the booth) so everything has to be unloaded before the market. That would be just one more thing to worry about.
I just put an empty box or crate on the ground, then place the box/crate of produce on top of that. It's not hard once you make that small detail.
One small tip that I think would help a lot of newer vendors - when you arrive, be able to pull out your table first. Tables are easiest to haul when you lay them flat and then stack your produce on top. But then when you get to market, you have to unload the entire truck and set everything on the ground before you can get to your table. It's twice as much work.
I built a simple rack to hold our tables. Imagine putting two folding tables in the bed of a pickup, then standing a 2x10 board on either side, and covering the top of that with screwed down plywood. Produce can be stacked on top of the rack. But when we arrive at market, the tables slide out easily.
When we use the truck, our tables are along the sides, then strapped down. Makes it look like we could stack boxes and stuff higher and the tables will help keep from falling off the sides. my 4' tables fit along the tailgate. In my blazer, I only use 4' tables and they fit exactly behind the driver/passenger seats, which help to keep anything from coming forward and hitting us in the back of the head.
Canopies are along the side in the blazer, on the side that the 40 side of 40/60 back seat when folding down.
Just remember last thing in should be the first thing needed out.
I'll have to take some pics of how I load and my booth. I was thinking there is one other vendor with as much product as me and they always have two people. So if they had one, she would be last to get ready and last to leave, not me! I am going to experiment with letting customers fill their own baskets with potatoes, peppers, eggplant and summer squash- not tomatoes. We'll see if the time savings makes up for the hassle with the customer.
Basically the only other thing I can do to speed up is spend more time at the farm getting ready and I can't borrow time from there either. Unless maybe I got up earlier. I am up so late Wednesday night baking that I can't get up too early Thursday.
Obviously in 5 years I have thought things through pretty well and have a good routine but not good enough to be early in set up. A couple times mid season (early season I set up quickly) I was quicker but I had prepped Wednesday night and Thursday got everything boxed perfectly, that is I hadn't baked Wednesday and instead started prepping.
Can you do some things on tuesday evening to help with your set up? I have morning markets and always load the night before.
As far as letting the customers load their own baskets, I've found that they will load til it almost falls off. trying to get the most, I guess.
Sometimes, you just can't get any faster.
I don't mind them loading the basket real tall. I do that anyway. I would mind being so fussy that only green zucchini and normal eggplant are taken and no long or round eggplant or Zephyr squash.
State exactly what can be loading. I've done that a few times, I was amazed how much they could load. Go ahead and try it. It might work well for you. After all, what works for one, may not work so well for another.
Kind of like going to Mongo's restaurant. LOL
don't know Mongo's, none around here.
It is that Mongolian BBQ place where you load your bowl and they cook it in front of you. People can really load those bowls!
Ok so market report!!!
First of all I made $100 more than normal and broke the $300 barrier. I did a bunch of things differently to try to shorten set up. Picking and packing this morning was super hectic. there were tons of flowers ready to pick and I didn't notice how late it was getting. My mom was 'helping' but she is mostly just a distraction. I did get her to pick carrots and wash some stuff but mostly she just talks so much I can't think. I ran out of time to pick everything, nor could I have loaded anymore into my truck (see pics below).
Truck loaded to max. I call it Beverely Hillbilling it.
I did you fill your basket for eggplant, summer squash, peppers and potatoes and I think people liked it for everything but potatoes. Set up was indeed a bit quicker. I will tell you where I lose time- don't laugh- it is in being short. I can't reach to put signs on my canopy. I can't reach the box in the middle of the truck bed, or the box slid under a table, etc. I do need to organize things better so I am not moving boxes more than once to set up. Unloading them and setting them on a table, then grabbing another box that needs to be unloaded where the other box is... I need to plan that out better.
I understand being short, my DIL is 4'10" and she has trouble with that. We use an old hoe that isn't real sharp to 'pull' things out closer to the edge, where we can reach.
We also put our signs on the baskets/boxes with binder clips.
Those tips might work for you.
Good for you! That is a very attractive display.
You need a hook on a pole for reaching into the tuck bed to pull boxes back to you.
I did a little experimentation this week too, I look my brother in law with me to market. With being back in school, and only 30 minutes to set up (or less) when I get to the market, I knew I had to try.
My BIL is mentally disabled, but he does live on his own and drive himself, but he does a good job of listening. He just needed to speed up! I gave him 4 bags of peppers and ask him to put them out. I did other things and I turned around and he was sitting them out one by one. I had to explain we don't have time for sitting them out that neatly and grabbed a back and dumped them out!
Well he did save me lots of time restocking, stuff that I was running low on, so that was nice. He knew the prices and was able to take money and make change if needed. It was very nice to have his help.
His price was the best, a watermelon, a cantaloupe and meal for that evening! Until my production starts to drop, I am going to try to get him to come with me, at least until Late September!
Having someone to restock really does help. He was just being very careful, I understand, our grandkids are very careful also.