In the UK farmer’s markets are becoming increasingly popular; this is mainly due to the changing economic climate that has led to the loss of many smaller farms. In a report in April 2011it was reported that in England and Wales alone between eight and ten farmers were being forced out of business as dairy, egg and poultry farmers are being forced by big supermarket groups into selling their produce at less than it cost to produce it. Consequently many smaller farmers are turning to farmer’s markets to resolve their financial crisis. However, despite the name, it is not only farmers who sell at farmer’s markets; the markets are also an ideal place for people with large gardens or allotments to sell their excess vegetables.
But just what is a farmer’s market?
A farmer’s market is simply location (often held weekly or monthly) where local farmers and avid gardeners and producers of food made from local ingredients) can sell their produce and products straight to the general public. There are around 450 farmers markets in the UK and they all have to follow certain rules. Firstly everyone must sell their on produce and the stall-holder must be either the person who has grown or produced the products, or be a family member who has been directly involved in the production. Also all produce must be local – ideally grown, reared or created within 30 miles of the market location. Buyers have the right to ask questions about any product that they are considering buying and the stall-holder should be able to answer any questions about the products and production.
There are several tips that need to be followed by anyone who is thinking about selling at a farmer’s market to ensure good sales.
1. Firstly remember to make good use of signs and labels. Always label all produce with the price – customers don’t like to ask the price and may just walk past your stall if no prices are displayed. However good use of signs is not restricted to the price; make signs that tell the customer what the goods weigh, how they can be cooked, where the produce are grown and if they are organic etc. Another good idea is to produce some simple handouts that give a description of your farm, allotment, garden etc, ideas for uses of vegetables and a few recipes for more unusual vegetables.
2. Be realistic with your pricing.
Most customers realise that better food is worth paying more for. Superior, organic or rare produce are certainly worth charging more for. Although the majority of customers who shop at farmer’s markets expect slightly higher prices than the supermarket they still expect value for money. Therefore if you have a glut of a certain vegetable (or have some small or less superior items) give your customers a bargain but make sure to promote these goods in a prime location with large signs.
3. When you have a more unusual vegetable give samples or recipes of how to use them. Customer’s can be very unsure about buying goods they know nothing about. Do also make sure that you have eaten the product yourself so that you are able to answer any question that the customer may ask you.
4. Make sure that you grow plenty of seasonal vegetables and make the most of the gluts that you will have at certain times of the year. In the UK people have become accustomed to being able to buy products all year that are flown in from all around the world; however there is nothing better than eating good local produce that is in season, so make the best use of this produce and promote it well when in season.
5. Make your stall look attractive and restock constantly. Always display your produce in the smallest container that it fits into. As you start the day with a large amount of products start by displaying them in larger boxes, baskets etc, as the stock reduces during the day reduce the size of the container the dwindling stocks fit into.
6. Make sure that you have plenty of bags available and have them on display for the customer to see, In today’s ecologically aware society you will find that many customers will prefer to have their products but into their own bags or baskets, but you must always have bags available for people who don’t have their own.
7. As well as having a good display and perfect produce the customer likes pleasant and helpful sellers. So be cheerful and helpful, don’t just lounge around but keep active when not selling by picking up any litter and tidying your stall; and always be willing and able to help and advise your customers.
By following these simple rules you will enjoy your selling experience whilst also making a nice little profit on your vegetables.