How To Sell At A Farmers’ Market (Plus 7 Clever Tips To Succeed Before You Even Get Started)
It’s a beautiful spring day, the sun is shining, and the birds are chirping. Out in the fresh air, you’re surrounded by vendors selling the freshest local produce, natural products, and unique handmade gifts. No, this isn’t a dream — it’s a trip to your local farmers’ market.
Farmers’ markets are growing in popularity across the nation, so it’s no surprise that farmers, artists, and other local vendors are capitalizing on this money-making opportunity. Perhaps you’ve even pondered the idea, or maybe your family and friends have suggested you make some extra cash by selling your handmade or homegrown wares.
In this guide, we’ll explore how to become a seller at a farmers’ market. While it may seem as easy as grabbing your goods, setting up a table, and bringing in customers, there are actually tips and strategies to keep in mind to improve your odds for success … and increase your profitability. From selecting your products to marketing to buyers, we’ll cover it all to help you get started on the right foot. Read on to find out how you can start selling your goods at your local farmers’ market.
Table of Contents
- Why Are Farmers’ Markets So Popular?
- 10 Kinds Of Products You Can Sell At A Farmers’ Market
- 7 Ways To Prepare For Selling At A Farmers’ Market
- Should You Accept Credit Card Payments At Your Farmers’ Market Booth?
- 5 Clever Marketing & Promotion Tips For Your Farmers’ Market Stand
- Are You Ready To Start Selling At Farmers’ Markets?
Why Are Farmers’ Markets So Popular?
From small towns to big cities, farmers’ markets are quickly popping up everywhere and attracting people of all ages. What makes a farmers’ market so appealing? It might be easier to ask what’s not to love about these local stops!
There are a number of reasons that more people are frequenting farmers’ markets. One of the top reasons is that these are places where you can purchase fresh local produce, most of which is organic and isn’t genetically modified. Compare this to your local supermarket where you aren’t sure of when the produce was picked and shipped or how it was grown. Farmers’ market produce is the freshest, and often the healthiest, that you can find.
Buying locally isn’t just good for your body — it’s also better for the environment. Produce at farmers’ markets usually comes from small family farms, which use fewer pesticides and chemicals. Because these products aren’t being shipped around the country, shopping at your local farmers’ market also conserves fossil fuels.
When you shop at your local farmers’ market, you’re supporting small businesses, whether it’s a small family farm or a local artist peddling paintings, pottery, or other handmade art that you won’t find in your local department store. In addition to supporting your local economy, attending a farmers’ market is a great way to meet new people. Farmers’ markets are family-friendly (and sometimes, even pet-friendly!) events that let you meet and socialize with people in your community. Some farmers’ markets even offer live music, classes, and other special events that only add to the fun. Add in local food trucks serving delicious meals and treats, and it’s not hard to see why farmers’ markets are truly the place to be.
Now, it’s pretty easy to see why you would visit a farmers’ market, but what are the benefits for sellers? In a 2015 survey, the USDA found that over $700 million of goods were sold at over 8,000 farmers’ markets around the United States — and the majority of that money is being funneled directly back into local economies. The USDA also found that farmers and ranchers make less than 16 cents for every dollar when selling to retailers. On the flip side, they can retain nearly 100% of their profits when selling locally through farmers’ markets.
10 Kinds Of Products You Can Sell At A Farmers’ Market
Despite its name, you don’t have to be a farmer to sell at a farmers’ market. There are lots of ways that you can connect with the community while earning a profit. Items to sell might include:
Sure, you don’t have to be a farmer to sell at a farmer’s market, but if you are, you can certainly bring your freshly grown produce to sell to your customers. Seasonal local fruits and vegetables really sell, but don’t forget about unique products you won’t find in most supermarkets (think colorful heirloom tomatoes or purple cauliflower). No matter what you bring, make sure that you only provide the freshest, highest-quality produce for your customers.
Don’t feel stuck to just fruits and vegetables, either. Mushrooms and fresh herbs that you’ve cultivated yourself are also big sellers at farmers’ markets, providing you with additional opportunities to earn some extra cash.
Milk, Meat & Eggs
If you raise cattle and chickens, it’s a no-brainer to bring your milk, meat, and eggs to the farmer’s market to share with your community while making a profit. These are popular items at farmers’ markets because of freshness, but also because many people prefer buying from small farms that treat their animals humanely, as opposed to large factories that may have questionable practices.
Not a rancher, but you enjoy hunting? Venison, bison, and other wild game can be sold at the farmers’ market. And it doesn’t stop at fresh meat, either. You can always sell your dried meats and jerky that you’ve marinated, cured, and dried yourself.
Your family and friends think you could be the next Betty Crocker, so why not bring your baked goods to the masses? If you love to bake, there are endless possibilities and a whole lot of money-making potential at your local farmers’ market. Bake your homemade cookies, cakes, pies, scones, and cinnamon rolls and sell them to customers during your free time. Again, you can think outside of the box to boost your profit potential by selling unique items such as dog treats or treats for customers with special dietary needs (i.e. vegan or gluten-free).
Flowers, Plants & Seedlings
From season to season, people spruce up their homes inside and out with colorful flowers, outdoor plants, and houseplants. From flower baskets that add a touch of color to your front porch to common and unique species of plants, many customers bypass big-box home improvement stores and instead purchase from local growers.
You don’t even have to wait to have fully grown plants and flowers. Some shoppers may prefer to buy seedlings that they can plant and grow themselves. Succulents and herbs are also popular options to consider.
If you grow roses, tulips, lilies, or other beautiful flowers, you can also create unique arrangements that shoppers may snap up for weddings, prom, Valentine’s Day, or even “just because.”
If you’re a beekeeper, cash in on the benefits of your (and your bees’) hard work by selling your delicious honey at the farmers’ market. Customers can purchase high-quality honey for use as a natural sweetener, but there are also additional benefits of eating local honey. Local raw honey is often marketed as a natural home remedy used to help with seasonal allergies, soothe sore throats, kill bacteria, or even help you get a good night’s sleep.
Want your honey to stand out from the rest? Switch up the way you process your honey to create creamed honey, or consider adding natural flavors to make your own unique honey blend.
Also, don’t overlook the value (for health and your wallet) of pollen granules. These tiny pellets contain a mixture of nectar, saliva, and pollen and are rising in popularity due to their perceived health benefits. Pollen granules are used for treating inflammation, strengthening the immune system, reducing stress, and other ailments.
Soap & Skincare Products
As we learn more about the chemicals in everyday household items, more people are stepping away from these potentially harmful ingredients and going a more natural route. If you’ve created the perfect recipe for homemade soaps, lotions, or other skincare products, set up a display at your local farmers’ market to peddle your natural concoctions.
As more people move to natural products, the farmers’ market in your area gives you the perfect platform for selling your goods. There are lots of opportunities in this space, from creating your own natural (and great smelling!) bug repellent to homemade sugar scrubs and natural deodorants.
One thing to remember is that you can be multi-dimensional at a farmers’ market. For example, if you keep bees, not only can you sell honey and pollen granules, but you can also sell natural beauty products made from pollen, honey, or beeswax.
Need some inspiration for what to sell at the farmers’ market? Look no further than the neighborhood kid with a lemonade stand. And the great news is that you aren’t just limited to lemonade, although selling freshly squeezed lemonade to hot shoppers is an easy way to make some extra cash.
If you make your own local wine or mead, brew your own craft beers, or even make a mean cup of hot apple cider, selling beverages can help draw in customers. Your booth or display can serve as a showcase for your homemade brews, or you can sell beverages in addition to other products. Many people that frequent farmers’ markets are looking for products that are unique and can’t be found in the local grocery store, so think outside the box. Flavored lemonades made with freshly squeezed lemons and natural flavorings, kombucha, and other tasty beverages can be sold by the glass, bottle, or jug.
Spending a long time at the farmers’ market can leave shoppers feeling famished. Why force hungry customers to drive to restaurants when you can bring the food right to them? If you operate a food truck, consider bringing your tasty fare to the farmers’ market. If you have openings in your schedule, a partnership with a local farmers’ market can fill your weekends with customers and the profits they bring with them.
Arts & Crafts
Whether you’re a professional or just an amateur artist, locally-made arts and crafts are big sellers at farmers’ markets. No matter what type of art you make, a farmers’ market is the perfect platform for selling your creations.
Paintings, drawings, embroidered items, crocheted blankets, hand-painted t-shirts, pottery, wood carvings, sculptures, and homemade greeting cards are just a few of the arts and crafts you can peddle at your local farmers’ market.
Other Unique Goods
Don’t see anything on the list that appeals to you? Then tap into your own unique talents. The great thing about the farmers’ market is that there are relatively few limitations when it comes to what you sell. While you can’t sell anything illegal or dangerous, you can let your creative flag fly and bring something truly unique to the table. What can you offer that is different and unique? Exotic spices, ethnic goods, homemade candles … the list goes on.
One way to be a successful seller is to think about what your customers want or need. For example, if you live in an area known for its tasty barbecue, consider selling your own dry rubs or barbecue sauce. Whatever you decide to sell, make sure that it’s unique to attract the most customers. Homemade, natural products are popular, but items like vintage clothing and shoes may also sell quickly. Whatever you do, just make sure that what you’re selling is allowed by your chosen market.
7 Ways To Prepare For Selling At A Farmers’ Market
Once you’ve decided that you want to sell at your local farmers’ market and you’ve decided what products you’ll be offering, the hard work is over, right? Not exactly. Whether your goal is to sell on occasion to earn some money on the side or you dream of bringing in a steady income by selling your goods to the community, there are some steps you need to take to help boost your chances for success.
- Find Farmers’ Markets In Your Area: Once you know what to sell, the next step is to figure out where to sell it. And just like the unique products you’ll find from sellers, not all farmers’ markets are the same. Get a good idea of the culture, people, and products at each farmers’ market by visiting them yourself. Keep your eyes open for markets that have a need for what you’re offering, but don’t forget to find a farmers’ market that’s a good fit for you. For example, if there are no other artists and you’d feel uncomfortable selling your art, keep searching. If you’d like to bring your four-legged friend with you, look for a dog-friendly market. You can also turn to the internet to learn more about the farmers’ market in your city and surrounding areas. Look for official websites and social media profiles that feature pictures, posts, and information about each market. Finally, you should get an idea of the registration process. While this process varies across markets, you need to be aware that vendor registration windows aren’t always open, and you may have to sign up weeks, months, or even longer in advance to secure a spot. You can find this information online or talk to a manager in-person to learn more about signing up as a vendor.
- Research Local Ordinances & Health Regulations: Nothing can bring your business to a halt faster than getting shut down by the health department or local authorities. Do your research to learn about local ordinances and health regulations, such as how produce and prepared food must be stored or how baked goods are prepared. Laws and regulations vary, so contact your local health department to learn more.
- Make A Business Plan: Even if selling at a farmers’ market feels more like a hobby than a business, it never hurts to create a business plan before you get started. This business plan can be used to outline your goals, how you plan to finance your business, and your marketing plan. If you’re panicked at the thought of a business plan that’s an inch thick, don’t — a one-page plan is sufficient for keeping you on track. Don’t know where to get started? Learn how to create your one-page business plan in no time.
- Get Startup Capital & Set A Budget: While selling at a farmers’ market can certainly be one of the more inexpensive ways to make money off your homemade goods, there are still some expenses to consider. One of the most common expenses is a booth rental fee. You need to consider other expenses, too — think signage for your booth, tablecloths and other items to spruce up your display, price stickers, and the cost of materials and packaging for samples. It sounds like a little, but these small expenses can add up quickly if you don’t watch out. Determine if you need to get financing before you start selling, set a budget, and stick to it. Want more tips? Check out our guide, How To Start A Side Hustle.
- Look Into Business Registration: Depending on local regulations, you may be required to register your business before you take part in a farmers’ market. Some farmers’ markets require you to provide an Employer Identification Number (EIN) or Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) when you register as a vendor. If an EIN is required, it’s easy to obtain one for free from the Internal Revenue Service. Contact the farmers’ market you’re interested in to learn more about the requirements for sellers.
- Research Business Insurance: Some farmers’ markets require their vendors to have their own business insurance. Even if this isn’t a requirement, though, you still want to research your options to protect yourself from liability. If you’re unsure of how to get started, check out our article on general liability insurance for your business and contact your chosen farmers’ market to determine if insurance is a requirement. They may even be able to recommend local insurance companies that other vendors use.
- Get Accounting Software: Even if you’re just making a little extra money on the side, do you really need accounting software? Yes, you do, and though it may seem like a pain now, you’ll thank us later. No matter how much you’re bringing in from your sales at a farmers’ market, it’s important to keep track of your finances. The best way to do that? Accounting software. The good news is that there are many options available that are low cost (or even free!) and easy to use, even if you have no prior accounting experience. Tracking your finances will help you see how much money you’re making, as well as where you’re spending it — allowing you to determine where you can make changes to increase your profits. You’ll also be glad that you kept track of finances when it’s time to pay your taxes. If you don’t know where to get started, take a look at some of our top accounting software choices for small businesses.
Should You Accept Credit Card Payments At Your Farmers’ Market Booth?
In a world where paying with plastic is quickly becoming the standard, you might be wondering if you should accept credit cards at your farmers’ market booth. Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear answer, but here’s what you should consider before making your choice.
Mobile point-of-sale (POS) apps make it easier than ever to accept credit cards. With your smartphone or tablet and a card reader provided by your chosen provider, you can accept debit and credit cards with ease without a bunch of heavy equipment and complicated systems. Some credit card readers are even available for no cost, and you could even score extras like stickers that advertise that your booth accepts debit and credit cards. There are lots of POS apps to choose from, so do your research on top choices like Square, SumUp, and PayPal Here.
On the flip side, though, you don’t have to accept credit card payments. Many farmers’ markets are prepared for customers that are paying with plastic, so they allow customers to purchase tokens which can be used to buy products from vendors. At the end of the day, these tokens can be redeemed so the seller gets their earnings. If you’re thinking of going the cash-only route, check out our article, Can You Really Run A Cash-Only Business?
If the farmers’ market you’ll be attending does not offer this service, you definitely want to consider getting a POS app and card reader so that you can serve all customers, regardless of how they’re paying. Mobile POS apps come with additional features that may be beneficial to your business, such as inventory tracking and sales reporting.
Another consideration to keep in mind is whether or not you’ll be taking larger orders or custom orders. If this is the case, you’ll need to have the ability to create invoices for tracking your orders and getting paid by your customers. Let’s say that the holidays are coming up, and you’ve been commissioned to make baked goods for a Christmas party. Before you invest your time and money into fulfilling the order, you can make sure you get paid by sending your customer an invoice that can even be paid online. Some mobile POS systems like Square Invoices allow you to create and send invoices, or you can use your accounting software if that feature is available.
Can You Accept Food Stamp/SNAP Benefits At A Farmers’ Market?
Statistics show that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helped 40 million Americans each month in 2018. This program — formerly known as food stamps — provides benefits that allow low-income households to afford food. SNAP participants are provided with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card, which is used like a debit card at participating retailers. This includes grocery stores, convenience stores, and, yes, even farmers’ markets. This system makes it easy for you to accept EBT without having to jump through hoops.
Most farmers’ markets have a system in place that allows SNAP participants to purchase tokens with their EBT cards. These tokens can then be used to make purchases. Many states even reward SNAP participants for shopping at farmers’ markets with “double-up” programs. These programs match each dollar spent (up to a certain amount), allowing these households to receive more healthy and nutritious food using their benefits.
5 Clever Marketing & Promotion Tips For Your Farmers’ Market Stand
You’ve decided what to sell and where to sell it — now, it’s time to sit back and wait for customers, right? Wrong! While you won’t have to have a huge (and expensive) marketing campaign for your farmers’ market stand, there are some steps you need to take to make your business more appealing to shoppers.
- Business Cards: A customer that isn’t interested in what you’re selling now may become a customer in the future, or you might have a customer that wants to spread the word about your business. Make sure that they can get in touch with you by passing out business cards. You can easily create business cards online and have them shipped to your door for a low price. Make sure to include critical contact information, including your name, the name of your business, your email address, social media or website links, and any other relevant information.
- Email List: Allow your customers to sign up for an email list. There are lots of options for the emails you send, including new product announcements, upcoming sales, or your schedule if you attend multiple farmers’ markets and events. Mailchimp is one good option that’s free for small businesses.
- Social Media: Social media isn’t just for connecting with overseas relatives and old classmates. Social media is a great outlet for advertising your business. Create a social media profile for your business and provide contact information, photos of your products, customer reviews, and important updates. You can also join groups in your area that allow you to interact with customers, take preorders, answer questions about your products, and more.
- Dress Up Your Display: You can’t just throw your products on a table and expect them to sell. Sure, you may make a little bit of money, but to maximize profits, it’s time to pimp out your display. For this technique, you’ll have to invest a little bit of money, so make sure you budget and plan before implementation. Use signs, tablecloths, and decorations to make your space stand out. Arrange your products neatly and make sure that everything is labeled and priced correctly. This is your chance to really show off your personality, so take advantage of the opportunity to attract customers.
- Offer Free Samples: Nothing in life is free — unless you’re a customer and businesses are giving out free samples. While providing samples of your products does come with some expenses, allowing your customers to try before they buy is a good way to get them interested … and have them reaching for their wallets. Provide small bites of your baked goods or testers for your natural lotions and body products. Before distributing your samples, make sure that you’re aware of all health regulations to keep your business in operations and provide a sanitary shopping experience for your customers.
Are You Ready To Start Selling At Farmers’ Markets?
On the surface, selling at a farmers’ market seems easy, but as you can see, there’s actually quite a bit of work that goes into planning, prepping, and selling your products. While it may take a lot of hard work and expense to sell your products and make a profit, there are many benefits to peddling your goods at farmers’ markets, including low costs, more personalized interaction with your customers, and creative freedom.
It’s up to you to determine if selling at a farmers’ market best fits your business goals. Once you’ve made the decision to move forward, we offer plenty of great resources to help you launch and operate your small business. From learning how to apply for a small business loan to choosing the right accounting software and POS systems, you’ll find everything you need to make your business dreams a reality. Good luck!