The past few years I have tried something in addition to just growing or gathering for my family and friends – being a vendor at the Farmer’s Market. There have been several lessons learned and every year it looks a bit different.
The first year I did not do much in the way of a Farmer’s Market. It was toward the end of the season that I decided to do something. It actually started out with a table in front of my house where I placed any extra produce. I had too much and was afraid it would go bad before we could use it.
The second year my friend joined in and the table got bigger and plants were added. Next came the Farmer’s Market in our local town. We did it on a spur of the moment whim, deciding to just go for it and see how things went. The Market charged for booth space, though it was a low fee and went towards a local non-profit. The logistics were a bit of a headache at first, but once we had an idea of pricing, table set up, remembering to take drinks and snacks, and having enough change it went smoother.
The third year the stand in front of the house continued. We knew that we could turn a profit at the Farmer’s Market, but realized at the end of the season that for as small as we were and the local demand (or lack thereof) for a Farmer’s Market, it was not a large proft. I started to look at why I was doing this. Was it to make a profit or was it to have fun and socialize? We were putting in a lot of hours, yet the profit per hour was very low. It also took up a weekend morning away from my family. After reflecting the answer to the questions was “Yes.” For me it was to make money while socializing.
Last year there was no fee charged at the Farmer’s Market in hopes that more vendors would come. It was a successful move on the planners part. This was great. Though it meant more competion for patrons’ attention, I really was happy that it was growing. My family responsibilities changed and there were now two toddlers in the house. It soon became apparent that it was too much for me and took up precious family time. Also, with increased vendors our profit was lower. I stopped going before the season was even half way through and just focused on the stand at my house. Life was much more pleasant.
When we first started going to the Farmer’s Market, there were only two produce vendors, us and “The Other Guy”. “The Other Guy” has a better selection which came with higher prices. So we were able to under price him, but our selection was not as great. It worked for us, though looking back I think we priced it too cheaply. With increased vendors it was harder to stand out and our niche was no longer needed.
This year I do not foresee going to the Farmer’s Market, except to sell transplants and plants at the beginning of the season perhaps. Even then it will depend on if there are other obligations. The stand in at my house takes a lot less time as it runs on the honor system, though I do go out sometimes to see of patrons need help. There have not been many issues, and for that I am very grateful. I am also continually amazed at how many people notice the stand along the road. It is not large, yet a lot of people know where I live once I mention that I am the one with the produce table out front. Now, I could be wrong as things tend to change a bit over the course of a few months, but this is where my thinking is right now.
An important lesson I learned, or rather realized, through all this is that: if you are going to work with someone you need to be on the same page as to what you are wanting. I could not do this with just anyone, but it has worked well for me and my friend … and we are still friends.
I will miss going to the Farmer’s Market and so will make an effort to go and enjoy it from the non-vendor side of things. There is definantly a new appreciation for those whose main income comes from selling at markets. It takes work and knowing what people want and when. Once you start getting regular customers it is easier, but till then enjoy the folks that walk by and stop to chat.