During the summer, farmer’s markets take center stage in cities throughout Colorado. Fresh air, music and fine produce are just a few reasons local communities love attending so much.
For those of us running a booth, however, there is a lot of work involved, not to mention the expenses that allow farmers to participate. Needless to say, turning a profit at the farmer’s market – alongside bringing quality produce and a good experience to our customers – are the highest priorities.
Here are five ingredients to take your produce stand to the next level by increasing your profits and better serving your customers.
One of the best attributes of a farmer’s market is the personal touch the infuses the whole experience. Friends gather on the streets for conversation, and shoppers love the chance to have face-to-face interactions with the farmers growing their food.
Communication is a key ingredient for a successful farm stand. Engaging with your customers is a great way to share your knowledge and farming philosophies, it’s also an opportunity to forge connections with your local community.
But why wait until you’ve gotten them talking? Start communicating to customers before they walk up to your booth by creating signage that attracts and informs passersby. Hand-made or printed signs are great canvases for showcasing what makes your farm and your produce special, and it draws in new customers who are already intrigued by what you have to offer.
- “These peaches survived the frost!”
- “All our produce is certified organic”
- “Our heirloom tomatoes are PERFECT this year”
- “Like it hot? Then you’ll LOVE these peppers…”
There are many ways to showcase your personality, and communication is just one of those ways. Don’t be afraid to stand out – Your customers want to feel like they already know you, even by just looking at your booth, your signs and your produce.
Bring personality into each component of your product stand, from your T-shirts to the brochures displayed on your table, from the tablecloths to the baskets or tin containers that hold your produce.
Pricing can be tricky, but that doesn’t mean you should default to setting the lowest prices around. Sure, people like a good deal. But are you offering something special? Something rare? A superior product?
While it’s necessary to avoid staying fixed on overpriced items, make sure that you don’t sell yourself short, either. Experiment with different prices on different days, keeping in mind all the varying circumstances that go along with farming and selling at farmer’s markets. As long as you’re upfront about your prices (this is where signage again comes in handy), your customers will appreciate that you value your product.
You can appeal to a wider audience by offering a broad range of prices. Try displaying a few high-ticket items like baggies of caramelized walnuts, lower prices for items in bulk, and prices in between. Try partnering with local farmers or buying wholesale produce or specialty goods to widen your range of offerings. This range will help you attract more customers who are interested in different products.
Trust is a big virtue, but it comes in small bites. Trust is an invaluable ingredient in both business and personal relationships – and the relationships that farmers have with their customers often sits somewhere in between the two.
Building trust is a process – one that benefits everyone involved. You can build trust amongst your customers by being authentic and honest, even in the smallest scenarios. Another trust-builder comes from providing quality information for your customers. Whether it be about your farming tactics or personal narratives about what you do with all those extra-ripe peaches at the end of peach season, your customers will appreciate the authenticity and openness.
Listening to your customers is another key ingredient for strong bonds. If a customer comes to you with a question or concern, listening patiently goes a long way. Your customer will feel that you care, and you might walk away having learned something about how you can better serve the community that loves what you do.
Above all, it’s the experience of both farmers and attendees that makes farmer’s markets so special. But experience doesn’t simply start and end when the market does.
Experience is the foundation of any farmer’s market – That is, people come for the hands-on experience that farmers have with food production. Where else can one ask questions about the exact piece of produce they hold in their hand – the one they’re about to buy?
For this reason, it’s important that all those helping out from behind the booth have a good understanding of the produce in front of them, and the stories that go with it. At the very least, each person serving customers should know what each item tastes like (which is not a bad deal for produce-loving workers!).
Of course, the best produce stand is the one that is designed and cultivated with love – just like produce.
Have you had success at farmer’s markets? Share your tips and experiences in the comments below.