Farmers market season is almost upon us and we can’t wait. Nothing beats spring days walking through the aromas of fresh salsa, selecting locally sourced produce or home-made food – we wish it could last all year. However, attending a farmers market as a vendor is a whole different experience. Months of preparation, paperwork, and farmers market insurance requirements, all of which have to be taken care of before you can even think about how you’re going to display your products – it’s a serious amount of work!
Here is a quick checklist, to help you prepare for a successful, profitable, and safe farmers market season.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
First things first, as with any business endeavor, working as a vendor at the farmers market is a business. It’s a good idea to conduct your research to make sure you understand exactly what you’re getting into.
Find the farmers market that you’ll be selling at online, visit its website and examine it closely. Make sure you review all of its requirements because they can vary from state to state. Some states require that your produce or products are grown or developed locally. Conducting thorough research and understanding the vendor requirements is a smart place to start.
Decide whether or not you're up for the time commitment
Many markets expect you to be available for the entire market season and some states’ seasons run from the beginning of June through October. Decide if that’s something you can commit to before renting your booth.
File the required paperwork and get farmers market insurance
Prior to attending the farmers market, you’ll need to file the proper paperwork with your city. Many cities and states expect you to register your business, apply for a resale number, and understand how to collect and pay various state taxes. Record-keeping of income and expenses is a must, and according to Forbes.com – proprietors typically record their profits and expenses with a Schedule C form.
Another important aspect to consider when preparing to work as a farmers market vendor is to make sure that you’re properly insured. If someone gets sick after eating the food you sold them, or your business operations cause some sort of personal or property damage, you’ll want to have farmers market insurance or liability coverage.
Once you’ve completed all of the groundwork, it’s time to get busy selling.
Determine your niche and how you're going to set yourself apart
The great thing about farmers market vendors is that there is an array of products available. However, you will also see commonly sold items, for example, multiple vendors selling tomatoes.
The key is to make sure you know your products and how you’re going to promote yourself so that you can cut through the noise of all the other vendors. This can be accomplished in a number of ways. Try creating bundles that are different from other vendors, or set yourself apart from the rest with how you package and price your products.
Set up your display at home prior to the event and keep checklists
Nothing would be worse than getting to the farmers market and setting up just to find out that the table you have is too small or the bins you purchased won’t hold your products. Prior to the event, do a complete set up at home so that you can see how you want everything to look and make sure it all fits.
Keeping a checklist of what you need to bring to the event will help you remember and track everything you need.
Strategically placing your products can help you sell more
There are several tips and tricks that claim to be able to help your products sell better, but one we love is from the Urban Farmer, Curtis Stone. He advises stacking your products; this should help you can sell more because the effect conveys the idea of abundance, which makes people want to buy your products.
Place your largest and best samples in front of or on top of the others. You wouldn’t want to have wilted or rotten items on display because it will detract customers and could damage your reputation.
Provide stellar customer service
While the most important thing may seem like accurately displaying your products – and it is important – another aspect to consider is customer service. Maintaining a friendly demeanor and offering support when customers have questions can make or break their experience buying from you.
51 percent of customers will change brands following one bad customer service experience and more than $62 million dollars are lost each year due to bad customer service, according to a report by helpscout.com.
Offer your contact information
Customers that visit your booth and don’t buy right then may want to purchase from you later on. Providing business cards with your contact information and social media handles will give people an opportunity to connect with you and possibly buy from you at a later time.
Check your booth area for potential safety concerns
While we hope your booth at the farmers market generates a profit for you, creating a safe booth will also help you financially.
Double and triple check your surroundings for potential trip-and-fall and other safety hazards and deal with potential risks immediately. If you see a cord or rug that’s part of your display and a customer could trip on it, tape it down or move it out of the way ASAP. You could be found liable for any injuries sustained by customers at your booth. Of course, your farmers market insurance may cover you, but it’s better to play it safe.
Are there other tips that you have to offer to your fellow farmers market vendors? Let us know in the comments.