by Linda Spartichino.
Here I am on a Saturday morning at my local farmer’s market, selling my homemade jams, fudge, cookies, granola, and cinnamon buns. I greet my regular customers; say hello to fellow vendors; recommend new products; make some of money; and enjoy the moments and the smiles as customers sample my products. How did I get here — the long and winding road, literally!
I retired several years ago and I had a little time to “fill”. My daughter sold her hand made soaps and lavender spritz at a local farmer’s market, and she encouraged me to do what I loved to do: bake and share.
I investigated what would be required in my town: local permits, Board of Health approval and subsequent kitchen inspection, insurance certificate, etc. I visited several markets and learned about renting a space, purchasing and lugging tables and tents, approved packaging, and what products were already available at weekly farmer’s markets. I went to enough markets to determine that there was a need for baked goods, and I tried to determine just what items would sell best. Then I began to bake in earnest plying friends, relatives, and neighbors for their input and suggestions on what they liked, what would they buy, how should it be packaged, etc. Then I got my permits and stocked my kitchen. I began with a small inventory and a large gap in sales experience. It didn’t take too long to find a sustainable balance.
As you are consider participating at a farmer’s market here are some practical suggestions:
- what is the charge for the space, is that payable weekly or seasonally?
- visit the market to assess how many shoppers usually attend
- how is the market promoted (emails, web-site flyers, special events, etc.)?
- choose a market that isn’t over-crowded with products similar to yours
- clearly mark prices for your items
- have some start up cash available to make change
- provide samples — this is a great way to get to know your customers and obtain their input as to quality, improvements, suggestions, etc.
- If you plan to sell perishable items have a plan for what does sell at the end of the day. When that happens to me, I donate to shelters, and/or freeze and give to family and friends!
I involve my grandchildren in recommending items, and sometimes they will come to help set up, sell, and have fun at the market—creating an active “heritage”. Marketing yourself and your products usually happens naturally as your family, friends, neighbors share your products and tell of your adventures as vendor. You can set up your own website and/or utilize the market’s website to feature your products, use business cards and flyers.
I have been very blessed by participating in the activity of farmer’s markets—as a vendor and consumer—getting fresh fruits and vegetables, supporting local enterprise, narrowing the “carbon footprint” in general. I have become a part of a community that cares about the environment and the economy, as well as the value of promoting local products and people.
Be prepared to enjoy your experience.
Linda Spartichino, Homemade Heaven Bakery selling at The Marketplace at Simpson Springs, Easton MA.