Friday, June 8, 2012

Best Practices for Farm Market Vendors

This week, our colleague Heather Mikulas will share some important tips for farm market vendors.  Heather is a Community Based Ag Development Associate at Penn State and works closely with farm markets in Pittsburgh, PA.  Thanks for your post, Heather!

Selling directly to consumers at farm markets is an option to take advantage of above market price points for first quality produce and farm products. Farm markets are a much-beloved part of many communities. People tend to put shopping at a market more on their want-to-do list and less on their to-do list. The interest of being involved in a market at a deeper, more meaningful level draws a large proportion of customers.

Consumer trends speak to the fact that more and more consumers are taking an interest in one or more of the following: where their food comes from, seasonality, food safety, economic development /town revitalization, recreational and social aspects of markets, nutrition, freshness, and so on. The USDA has shown national growth of farm markets to be almost 7% annually between 2002 and 2008. This illustrates the fact that purchasing food from local farmers and value-added producers speaks to consumers at many levels, and is much more than a trend. Farm markets are the perfect place to tap into a group of customers hungry for high quality and locally grown foods.

Another consideration for producers is that Pennsylvania is home to many small businesses that take a raw product and process it into something delicious. Those of us in the biz call this ‘value-added’. These types of products span the food spectrum and include baked goods, cheese and other dairy products, sauces, jellies and jams, and alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and vodka. Home-based businesses like these account for many of our state’s small businesses. Farm markets can offer a safe place to test the waters as an agricultural entrepreneur starts and grows a business. Being aware of local, state, and federal regulations, as well as carrying proper liability insurance are all essential to ensure protection of your business and assets.

Having an attractive table at the market is a little bit of art and a little bit science. Stand back and look at your table as if you were the customer. Pretend it is a store. Why would someone want to come into your store and spend their money when there are other tables offering similar items? What do you see? Here are some tips:

  • Produce should be clean and top quality, as well as arranged attractively.  Use vertical and horizontal space.
  • Signs identifying the produce and price should be easy to read from 10-15 feet away.
  • Think of flow--that is, can customers enter your store on the left, select items, and pay on the right?  This can maximize the number of potential transactions.
  • Have a logo, theme color, mascot, etc.  Bookmark your farm in the customers' minds by giving yourself a standard visual identity across signage, bags, business cards, t-shirts, tablecloths, etc.  One successful grower simply used the color red to make their table stand out.
  • If you have samples, make sure you comply with PA Act 106 and local health department regulations.
  • Consider creating a newsletter or recipe of the week, sharing news from the farm, and/or ways to prepare seasonal veggies.
  • Most of all, have fun and make friends!  YOU are as interesting as your product and how it was produced.  Make the customers feel like they are part of your success story.  A happy customer can be a walking advertisement, and a repeat customer.

Thanks again to Heather for these great farm market tips.  If you have further questions, please contact her at

1 comment:

Farm Equipments said...

Very fantastic post for the market vendors!!