In Part 1, I shared about selling items beyond produce and sharing a stand with another person.
This led me to writing about other lessons learned from the Farmer’s Market. That post soon became too long, so here is Part 2.
Other lessons learned:
1. What works at one market may not work at another. At the Farmer’s Market, some customers liked having a variety basket of produce or a bag of apples already put together. At the stand by my house, no one bought any of the variety baskets. Some of the prebagged apples/pears/peaches sold, but usually people preferred to pick them out themselves. Also, the produce did not stay as good as long in the bags. It got too hot in there after a day or so.
2. Your customers will dictate what you do. Even if you have a great idea (such as a variety basket that is priced less than what it would cost individually) that does not mean there is a need or desire for it.
There were several vendors that showed up for one season, or for just one market day, then never came back. The demand was not there. They knew they could spend their time better by being at a different location.
3. If you do the same item as others, do it differently. For the first couple years that there was only the Other Guy, and before then he was the only one there. This made us think of ways we did things differently. One way we were able to do some items differently was tell people that no chemicals were used on certain produce. That those items were grown just a few blocks up the street. Not sure you can get more local than that. Well, unless you stopped by the stand then we could say it was grown right around the corner of the house.
Last season, when the number of vendors selling produce nearly tripled, it was harder to stand out.
There were also certain customers who had a preference for heirloom varieties. That is one aspect of our Farmer’s Market that is not tapped into. However, the need for it is not great enough for someone to do that alone. If they did, the price could not be higher than non-heirloom. The lack of demand just would not support it.
4. Sometimes perception is everything. I will admit, we sold some items that we did not grow ourselves. Now, these particular items were local – from within our county. We never said those items were “homegrown”. If asked, we were honest about that. Honesty is the best policy. Instead, we would clarify they were from a local gardener. Now the Other Guy would sometimes get some of his produce from the same source. There was one week where a customer went on and on about how Item X was so much better from our stand than the Other Guy. The Customer stressed how the flavor quality was so much better and that you could just tell by looking. I smiled and nodded, and agreed on some points. I was always honest in my agreements. What I did not have the heart to say was that Item X from both of our stands had come from the same source. It was a good reminder to myself about how perception can sometimes be a greater driving factor in our decisions than actual facts.
This may take on a few different forms.
Do you look the part? This probably is not the time for high heels and 3″ nails. Nor is it the time for a sweat stained shirt full of holes and suspenders that are falling apart.
How does your stand come across? Even if it is small, does it look inviting and professional? Or does it look thrown together, as if it was an after thought?
How do you sound when talking with others? Do you use proper grammar? Are you polite and inviting or silent and closed off?
Do you smile? Do you sit there staring off blankly into space? Is the book you are reading held up in front of your face like the Great Wall of China, fending off any thoughts of a conversation between the customer and you?
Is it better if you stand the whole time or sit? How about a folding chair versus a bar stool?
What lessons have you learned? Do you have any questions about having a stand at a Farmer’s Market or selling produce?