Farmer's Market Ideas

PonderGuy(PA - Eastern)December 14, 2005

Hi all,

I am currently a vendor at 2 farmer's markets in two distinct locations (city market & suburban town market).

The suburban town market is maxed out on vendors and has a good repeat customer base. The city market needs to be "ramped" up to become more successful(needs more vendors and customers).

What have your markets done to increase the number of vendors as well as the number of customers per day?

I know this is like the chicken and the egg. Vendors complaining about not having enough customers...customers complaining about not having enough vendors.


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bonsaist(Z6/ Bethlehem, Pa)

hey what farmers market do you sell your goodies in? and what do you sell?
I'm in Bethlehem, pa


    Bookmark   December 18, 2005 at 8:33AM
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hedwig(QLD Brisbane)

Hello, you should tell us were your markets are, at least if you are sellin gin USA or Australia or...
As a client I go only to markets with enough stalls, if there is nothing to choose why going? when we lived in GErmany we bought all our vegies at the market place, it's normal and more or less every suburb has its own market once to three times a week. We moved to Athens Greek, it was the same but everything very big, hundreds of stalls (in every suburb) very lively that nobody would buy fruits and veggies in the supermarket unless he forgot something. Here in Brisbane it is really sad. Only some few markets and some only every fortnight (I would not eat two week ols vegetables) and for most of the markets you need to drive.
And the markets are not very big and often there are only resellers. So why going? But I look from an European point of view, it depends what people are used to. In wurope market is normal shopping in Australia someting like leisure. In europe markets or on the stree are on public places near other shops and people pass. In Australia the it would be the parking in front of a shopping centre.
I tried to bring a different point of view to your question , I do not know weather you are in the USA or in Australia or anywhere else. But this is one thing that I really miss fresh fruit and vegetables twice a week! and I think it is very important having sufficient stalls, if I know that there are hundreds of stalls its worth going if there are only a few - perhaps!

    Bookmark   December 20, 2005 at 7:13PM
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I feel your pain PonderGuy. You could be describing our very own situation. I have summed the solution up in one word : committment. Vendors will need to be organized and set up rules for the benefit of the market; first on the list would be "Producer only vendors". Site is very important; is there adequate parking and a highly visible location? You can work with the municipality on possibly closing a street for a day.

Another thing that starting vendors are reluctant to do is advertise. You need to get the word out by every means possible. Start a website; create flyers; work promotions thru local radio and newspaper companies. If 20 vendors commit to spending $300 each for a season and the other criteria are met the market should succeed. Entertainment at the markets is not only a social boost for people attending the market, it also gives you a few perks to promote the market. Most musicians are willing to play at a market venue at no charge or for a handout from vendors.

There is no gaurantee that you can organize a group of interested vendors. I find that fewer and fewer people are willing to devote the time to a 20+ week summer committment. Other agricultural operations have the added benefit of receiving government subsidies. The best you can hope for is to get PA state grant money for market startup investigation and possibly site preparation expenses.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2005 at 11:05AM
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hedwig(QLD Brisbane)

another thing which is different: I was used to the fact that the town council is responsible for the markets, there was an market departement. Here it seems that private persons organize the markets.
The main problem is that people buy there veggies in the supermarket and some oranges for fun at the market place. It is not the obvious way to shopping (but it should be for freshness). As long as markets are seldom and far people wont change their habits with music or without.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2005 at 1:13AM
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Steve_in_Albuquerque(z6 Albuquerque)

If a local nursery has a garden show on the radio you might get them to run a short ad or psa for you. "Get your plants at Joe's Garden Center, but if you just can't wait for fresh produce try the growers market at 8 to noon Sat. morning at 100 Green Street."

    Bookmark   December 31, 2005 at 10:48AM
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PonderGuy, those 2 markets are likely to have quite different customer bases. I'm not sure if the urban core market where we sell could long exist without subsidies. The WIC & Senior FM Nutrition Programs are probably critically important. It wasn't that way the first or second year of the market's existence when these programs were not available but, honestly, I think the only thing that kept us going then was the hope that sales would get better.

FM studies, and there are a few out there, have shown that something like 90% of the customers come from within 1 mile of the marketsite. Now, I realize that each market is different and there are tourist dominated markets where this wouldn't hold true but markets' tend to BELONG to neighborhoods - that seems to be what you are experiencing.

Our experience here is that the suburban markets are dominated by resellers and crafters. The serious growers really tend to go downtown but they flat couldn't afford to do that if the neighbors couldn't afford to purchase their produce. It has taken the vouchers to make that happen.

It is still a fairly small market but subsidized sales amount to about 30% of the market's total. Pray that we don't lose this under the current government plans to cut poverty programs. If that happens, we could just fold up our tents and head out to join the resellers in the suburbs. And, that should just about destroy the opportunity for growers to direct market in this area.

Encourage, encourage, encourage the folks at your local WIC clinics and senior centers to get involved in bringing fresh fruits and veggies to their low-income clients. That is, if they are not coming down with vouchers already. If they are coming down, find ways, in cooperation with the social workers, to encourage more of them to come down. Having a 40% or 50% redemption rate will result in serious loss of potential income. Find ways to welcome these customers. They are our most vulnerable neighbors  usually young, single moms with babies and very elderly, frail folks. Having someone somewhere in the market to greet them especially and maybe with some free recipe cards will go a long way towards making them feel more comfortable. And, the just-regular-folks really seem to appreciate what is going on. TheyÂve got to worry about these peopleÂs well-being, also.


    Bookmark   December 31, 2005 at 10:42PM
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We have seen an increase in sales when we had grilling. For one thing you can't miss the smell of good vegetables and herbs being grilled. We offer samples and for our cooks time and supplies we put out a Tip Jar. It was a big success and made for happy customers. At a meeting in our area one of the newer market managers came up with the idea of chalk drawing on the pavement. Great success here too, we will be using this
one at two of our markets.
I realize dollars are in short supply, but we found go advertising pays. For 100 dollars a month we more then got back what each of us put out.
Our group is organized and we are meeting thru out the winter planning and detailing what we will do 2006, you should be too.
President of Conneaut Farmers' Market Inc

    Bookmark   January 8, 2006 at 10:58AM
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Hi all
We are dealing with the same problem. The town has a population of 35,000 in central Iowa, with 12 venders at one time everbody sells the same stuff. Half of the sellers dont want any new blood and the other half want more. Do you think more is better or is there a point where you close the market and have a waiting list? The problem is nobody seems to sell out of their produce.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 10:03AM
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We just discuss the very same question, is bigger better. One point was repeated, if people see only a few vendors they won't stop, but if we have a full market and lots of choices we will increase sales.
I have sold out at our small market, population 15,000 +/-. But I don't want to sell out. If I sell out, that means I have to send my customer to another vendor.
We do advertise and everyone agreed they saw an increase in sales. This justifies the expense.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2006 at 11:03AM
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reddirt(z5 OHIO)

if your newspaper has a community calendar section in it, you could get them to mention your market in there as an event, at no cost to you. that is what we do here. we also put up our sign early in the week with the time and day of the market so that people can plan ahead to do that on saturday. i used to live in germany and love how the weekly markets are a popular part of life there, and they make the community feel warmer. they have markets in small towns all year round outdoors. i wanted that for my town here in granville ohio where our market goes only from june -oct , so i am gradually trying to persuade the chamber of commerce. for now, we got a local county park to rent us their indoor shelter once or twice a month during the offseason to hold a market there. the farmers and bakers and handcrafters love it as it gives them a place to sell their stuff and also something to do to make the winter go faster! we have themes, like this month we are having a valentine market and a mardi gras market.
but in europe and in successful u.s. markets, wandering musicians and the smells of cooking food do entice people who otherwise wouldn't want to stop at the market. they make it more of an "event".

    Bookmark   January 18, 2006 at 10:26AM
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GaelicGardener(z6 RI)

You could target local daycares and preschools. They too work with families who are government subsidized for tuition to the daycares/preschools. Also, the yuppier or hippier parents will appreciate the "grass-roots" appeal of a farmers market. You could send flyers to the daycares/preschools to post or hand out. Maybe set aside one weekend as a "Family Weekend" and have someone do face-painting and balloon animals, etc. Maybe you could sell unique vegetables that would be a way to get kids to eat their vegetables (like Thumbelina carrots, or purple tomatoes, or orange cauliflower, etc.) Also, parents can't always get these in a regular supermarket. OH -- and don't forget the local Montessori, Emilio Reggio, or Waldorf schools -- families from these schools would be the perfect audience for Farmers Markets -- they would "eat it up." (sorry!)
Also, the local flower shows are coming up. You could work with them to get the word out. Maybe have a booth or a display. Maybe your local cooperative extension has a booth and will let you use some of their space.
just some ideas--

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 9:35AM
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GaelicGardener(z6 RI)

Sorry, this came to me after I hit the final submit button.
You could actually hold a mini-farmers market in the parking lot of a daycare/preschool. Maybe limit everyone to one table. Do it in the late afternoon when parents are picking up the kids. Send flyers out to parents beforehand to advertise the mini -- but then hand out flyers for the real market when they come to the mini. You could arrange it (to make it more enticing to the daycare/preschool) as a fundraiser -- either pay on a per table basis or give them a percentage (10 -20%) of profits from the sale. Families will be more willing to spend $$ if they know part of it will go back to the school. This might also work with nursing homes (think of all the tired health care workers who don't want to have to go to the store after work...) retirement homes and assisted living facilities. Some of these folks are on government subsidies too.
I'll shut up now...

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 9:45AM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

Most Morning Local News Programs have cooking /food stories regularly . And often have local chefs cooking up something live st the studio. Why not ask the news station and a chef to cook up something (with local produce) at your farmers market . Our news stations do this several times a summer and it increases busness. I became a vendor at a farmers market because I saw them on the morning news and thought (I should be selling there!)

    Bookmark   January 23, 2006 at 12:31PM
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