Our first time selling at Farmer’s Market

by brenda on June 19, 2013

farmersmarket

Whew! I’m tired! We went to our first farmer’s market today! We brought only 1 out of 4 kids, since we weren’t sure what the market would be like. The others were watched by my friend & hung out with her kids. This is us with our son Noah at our booth. Noah was our little helper & he really seemed to enjoy his special time with Mommy & Daddy. 🙂

The details:

We wanted to get into a big market. We started applying in January. We are on the waiting list for some of the big markets. We got into a smaller, weekday afternoon/evening market instead. The Saturday market version of this particular market is, I think, the largest/most profitable market in the state. If a Saturday vendor drops out, they fill in that slot with weekday people….So it’s good to be at the weekday market, for that reason. Lesson learned: it is not easy to get into big markets!

It was windy, a little chilly, and it rained for a tiny bit. I silently prayed for the rain to stop and it did. Thank you, God! We were thankful for the sand-filled weights that we set up for our awning. We were thankful for clipboards and a brochure holder for all of our paperwork.

It was a slow day. It was the first day of the market for the year, and the weather certainly did not help. Supposedly this market typically gets around 2,000 people at it. (The Saturday market gets 20,000!!!). There were nowhere near 2,000 people there today.

Today we had pork cuts, whole chicken and a full cooler of eggs at the market with us. We were also taking pre-orders for ducks, geese, turkeys and beef. We are the only meat vendor at the weekday market, and we were the only people selling eggs.

We did not do as well as we hoped. 🙁 We sold 5 dozen eggs, some bacon and pork chops. A little disappointing, to say the least. After paying the market fee for having a booth there ($20 per week), the young man who milks our cow 1 night per week so that we can go to market, the babysitter (who we trade milk for babysitting, but still, that’s a product that’s worth $), and the gas (not to mention all of the supplies we bought to set up), we are in the hole, big time…So sad! We are hoping that the market picks up momentum…and that more people will buy our stuff! My hubby said he was disappointed, because we could’ve sent out an e-mail promotion to our customers & had just as many sales–without the expense of the market.

2 people asked about the ingredients in our feed. Note to self: print a copy of the feed label to bring to the next market!

2 people said they were interested in chicken but didn’t want a whole chicken. Another note to self: have some chicken cut into parts to sell at market….(will it cost way too much per pound? Will people buy it?)….and maybe make a flyer to teach people how to cook a whole chicken. Is cooking whole chicken really that intimidating????

A couple of people were interested in our duck meat, and one hopes we will have some next week (we might…or it will be the next week!).

People wanted beef, but we didn’t have any for sale today, and it won’t be ready until September or October.

Lots of people liked the idea of meats without soy or corn, but few people voted with their dollars and supported us in this endeavor. 🙁

The booths with samples had all of the people. The booths on either side of us had lots of people stopping at them. One had a “tomato jam” (kind of like ketchup ;)) and another had berries. People were stopping in for the samples. Next week we’re going to have little cubes of ham…and an electric skillet (with an extension cord) so that we can fry it up there so that everyone smells it. Maybe they can dip our ham in the tomato jam. 🙂

We found that we sold more eggs when we set a dozen out in plain sight. If people don’t have to read what we have, they’re more likely to buy. If only we could display our frozen chicken and pork nicely!! We found that more people came to our table when it was pushed out towards the front of the tent. At first we had it set back, so that in case it rained, people could come under it. Nobody did. I think it feels like you’re stepping into someone’s personal space when you walk into their tent like that. So we moved the table out & that’s when we started getting customers.

Several people took our fliers. People asked if we’d be back the next week. People asked if they could come to our farm to buy stuff, too. Some people signed up for our e-mail list. At the very least, we made some good contacts. And I got a free iced coffee. And discounted gluten free cookies, since we are vendors…And it was a fun experience.

Overall, we liked it….we just hope to make some actual income there in the future. If not, we’ll have to re-think Farmer’s Market.

Have you sold your products at Farmer’s Market before? What was your experience like?

 

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan Alton June 19, 2013 at 10:23 pm

I buy my meat and eggs from a pretty well established, pasture based, farm in Eastern Oregon – Malheur Meats. They have so many choices of different meats that each kind of meat has its own “menu” of cuts with the price listed. Except the chickens, which are whole. I wish they would have cut up parts or at least instructions on how to cut up a whole bird. Google is my friend I suppose! They also sell eggs. They’ve been at it for a few years and are at all the markets during market season and they do in town pick-ups every other week in the off season. This was your first market? Don’t give up, you’ll keep learning and word will spread about your amazing products.

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Katrina June 19, 2013 at 10:29 pm

I vend at out small market here. I just started but have noticed there really is an ebb and flow. Getting your name and product out there will pay off in the long run.

I hope next week goes better for you!

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Katrina June 19, 2013 at 10:30 pm

Make that “our” not “out”

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Marnita Causby June 19, 2013 at 11:05 pm

Learning the ins and outs of marketing at the farmers market is the key. It takes time. But you will start doing well. Paying attention to what works and doesn’t work and changing it on the fly at the market really helps. We sell vegetables at a big city market in NC. We have to change stuff on the fly all the time to make it more attractive or more noticeable to people passing by. It really does help. Also, that email list of yours will really help. We send out an email every week telling people what veggies we’ll have at market that Saturday so they can make their list of what they’ll buy from which farmer. Recipes also really help. Don’t get discouraged!! This is just the beginning of many amazing friendships with so many customers!!

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Marnita Causby June 19, 2013 at 11:08 pm

Also, one other thing. Have a chalkboard sign with pricing for the eggs so people can read it passing by the table at a good distance away. Sometimes when people don’t see the price at a glance, they think they can’t afford it or don’t want to ask or come up to the booth.

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Jerica June 20, 2013 at 6:19 am

This sounds just like our experience starting out 3 years ago! Just keep trying, but remain open to other sales venues if necessary. The cost of going to market (not counting the time you spend!) has to be justified, but sometimes it takes time to build up your rapport and get people used to the idea that meat is for sale at the market that really is natural and really is local. Signage is VERY important, so keep that in mind. Get yourself a sign that makes it really obvious what you sell from far away. That way people can say to themselves, “Oh, MEAT and EGGS! I need some of that!” Good luck to you, and I hope you find a good venue for yourself. We ultimately found that we have to just skip a milking to make it to market because we don’t have anyone to take over for us. And we pay a farm hand to feed all the critters while we’re gone, then we drive 60 miles one way to get to market! Anyway, it’s tough. I hope you guys do well this year!

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Anonymous June 20, 2013 at 6:23 am

Based on your facebook post I think you’re comparing the “retail” value of your milk in exchange for the babysitting. You shouldn’t do that. Also, the banner and other items for your stand shouldn’t be included. I think you should keep it up. Many businesses “cost” their owners money at first. Don’t forget that the gas (or mileage) are tax deductible expenses, as is the booth rent. I would love to “vote” with my money, but seeing as I lost my job 7 months ago, I don’t have the money to spend to support all the farmers I’d like to support. At the same time, I try to support them as much as I can. Good luck!!!

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Maria Williams June 20, 2013 at 6:45 am

“maybe make a flyer to teach people how to cook a whole chicken” Great idea! It really can be intimidating until you try it. Maybe a nice color pic of a roasted chicken and a stack of recipe cards. My personal favorite is crock pot chicken. So easy! Another idea, put a chicken carving tutorial on the website and provide the link to customers.
Cooking ham will certainly draw people to you. Use pretzel sticks to serve so no one has to search out the trash can. 😉 You are doing amazing work!

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Anonymous June 20, 2013 at 7:03 am

Another problem might be that people aren’t expecting to purchase meat products, and aren’t prepared with a cooler and ice. It’s easy to throw a bag of veggies in your vehicle, but meat/eggs takes some forethought. Maybe now that they know, they’ll come prepared, hopefully! Or you might could find somewhere, like a farm store that gets vaccines, that has lots of little styrofoam coolers you could have for free. You could hand them out if needed, and a frozen water bottle works great for a super cheap ice pack. A 24 pack is like 2.00 at Aldi’s.

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Kimberly June 20, 2013 at 7:32 am

I’ve never considered the farmers market as a place to purchase meat, I go for fruits and veggies since we’re often running other errands. People who see the benefit of what you’re offering will start bringing coolers or make plans to handle the meat so it doesn’t spoil. Here we have mailing lists and facebook pages for the market so I know what will be available by week so I’m sure to remember to go. You may offer some type of email updates to any that stop and are asking for meat that won’t be available until later in the season to help bring them back.

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JonesGardenBlog.com June 20, 2013 at 8:57 am

It sounds like there are a lot of positives in there. Maybe a consistent presence would give people more confidence to buy. A little clear weather might help too.

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Hope June 20, 2013 at 3:57 pm

We used to roast and sell our own organic fair trade coffee at a Farmer’s Market. It was better business than our coffee shop was. But coffee is much easier to sample than an animal product. We loved the comraderie (spelling?) of the vendors. We were able to trade for produce and such with other vendors. But we did have the folks who weren’t so nice, they just wanted “plain coffee” not “fancy coffee”….arrrgggghh! Do I even have to comment on that one?

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Hope June 20, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Also, it was your first time, it just takes patience.

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Virginia June 20, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I would be so excited if you were selling your meat at my farmer’s market. One thing, though, is that I probably wouldn’t have the cash to buy meat the first time I saw you there. It’s happened to me before, I asked if they would be back, came prepared with the money, but never saw them again 🙁 There is an egg seller who displays pictures of her animals – that was a huge draw for me (wishing she sold meat) – maybe that would be a way to get more people to stop at your table? I hope it picks up for you and you get a good base of customers, it’s so hard to find quality meat, I’m sure more people will find you.

All the best to you!

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Anonymous June 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm

Don’t give up! It takes time to build up a clientele at farmer’s market. We’re on our third year, selling whole grain breads and other baked goods and organic veggies, and it has taken time to build up a demand for our products. It takes time to educate people (if this is a new product to their market) and to build relationships. Samples certainly help, but are expensive, and we only hand them out to people who show an interest, not to all the dozens who just are looking for something free to nibble on.

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Anonymous September 27, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I know this happened a few months ago, but I just now saw it. I’ve gone to farmer’s markets specifically to buy meat and eggs since I grow many veggies myself but not those items. I look for big signs that tell me they have it. One guy that I bought regularly from, has pictures of his animals (large enough to see from a little ways away). I think meat samples and other food samples would be a waste. When people really want those products, they don’t need to taste them. Cheese or wine maybe, but not these. People don’t give out samples of some of their produce (greens, etc.) but sometimes fruit to draw them in. Instead of a list of feed ingredients, why not bring a bowl full for display, and a big sign that says the cool things that are in it – or another sign that shows a bad feed product with a red circle and slash mark to show you don’t use that. Remember, it takes time to become established. People don’t automatically make good sales from the first market. People who are interested need to know you’re there. Email your current customers and let them know you are, and tell them to let their friends know. I’ve seen many markets where the farmers have either desperate looks, or ones of resignation. I understand the disappointment, but trust that people will find you or don’t bother with the markets. In today’s economy, it’s hard to afford quality and healthy food. Many people aren’t prepared to spend more for these items than they pay at Whole Foods Market. I’ve seen folks at the farmers markets charge more sometimes. I used to come to farmers markets because I got better deals. That’s no longer the case. I know you don’t get subsidies and it costs what it costs. But people have little extra to spend these days in this economy. I know that for us, we’ve cut way back on meat and eggs – not really because we can’t afford it at all, but it’s hard to trust what you buy. Plus we’ve been relying more on our own homegrown produce because of the same reason. It’s a really hard time to be a healthy food producer. I admire that you’ve been trying hard to make it happen. But because of our government subsidies and regulations, big ag pushes out the little guy for those very reasons you mentioned in another article (cheap feed, etc). Plus the gov buys surplus milk, so they’re pretty much guaranteed an income regardless if they sell it or not. Sad. Have you considered becoming a CSA? Have people buy crop and cow shares? Those might be good options.

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Guest July 25, 2014 at 9:50 pm

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