Selling your produce directly to the consumer involves you in a whole new series of activities. You will be dealing with the public, determining prices, displaying your products and competing directly with other sellers.
One of the advantages often mentioned about direct marketing is the elimination of the “middle man”. You should realize, however, that in order to eliminate the middle man you must be willing to invest money, time and thought in performing the marketing job yourself.
Regardless of what you sell, a little thought about the best way to sell it will go a long way in helping you make the transition from producer to seller.
- Get a copy of the market rules from the market manager. Make sure that you can comply with them; also, make sure the market serves your needs.
- Does the market attract enough customers?
- Make sure the market operating days and times are compatible with your schedule.
- Find out how much it will cost you to sell at the market. Does the market advertise?
- Check with your insurance agent about adequate coverage. Farmers’ markets have insurance, but individual sellers are generally not covered.
- You’ll need a display stand if one is not provided. A folding table or plywood over sawhorses is fine. Perhaps a chair for slow periods.
- Creating a neatly lettered sign identifying yourself, the name of your farm, what you sell, and where you’re from. This should be a permanent fixture that you display at each market visit.
- Provide some sort of shelter for your produce-both protection from hot sun and rain is a good idea. A height of seven feet will allow adequate head room
- Bring some poster board and felt tip pens (green, red, and blue are good colors) for posting prices. Print as neatly as possible.
- Provide containers or bags for the consumer. Wooden boxes are nice, but expensive. Paper bags, plastic bags or paper wrappings are ok. You may ask customers to recycle containers.
- If you sell by the pound, you’ll need a scale. Local weights and measure inspectors must certify or seal all weighing devices-there may be a small charge for this. Check with the market manager and town clerk’s office to be sure that you comply.
- Have a cash box. A small fishing tackle box is fine. You’ll need “seed money” for making change and something to hold the bills down so they don’t blow away. Keep your money out of sight!
- Cleanliness, color and spacing are most important.
- At the time of harvest, brush excess soil off your produce.
- Don’t bring low quality or deformed products-they will only detract from your display.
- Space your products nicely-contrast colors and keep the display replenished. If possible, tilt your produce towards the customer.
- Keep produce off of the ground.
- Add some color to your stand or table. A bright cloth will dress up your display.
- Remove produce damaged by customers.
- Use the same selling crew at each market visit, if possible. This and your permanent sign will help build familiarity.Courtesy, knowledge, friendliness and enthusiasm are keys to successful sales.
- Know your produce-consumers are interested in how you grew it, what varieties you sell and even how to prepare it.
- Although it’s sometimes difficult to be courteous to some customers, remember that arguing may send other customers away.
- Hired labor is subject to minimum wage. Check with the MA Department of Labor and Workforce Development, (617)-727-3452 to make sure that you comply.
- Serve one customer at a time. This will avoid customer confusion especially when handling money. Try to keep an idea of who should be waited on next.
If you are interested in becoming certified to accept farmers’ market coupons, click here.
- It takes time to develop a profitable business. It will take several market visits to establish your reputation.
- Post your prices. Print them legibly on poster boards with a felt tip pen.
- Have some idea of what it costs you to grow and market your produce. Try to estimate your costs per pound, bushel or whatever units you sell in.
Know your competitors’ prices and quality. Don’t panic if the guy next to you cuts prices; think of your quality and remember that customers like steady prices.
- If you haggle about a price with one customer, others will want to as well. Also, a customer who pays full price will be very disappointed to see the next customer negotiate a discount.
- You can’t please everyone. If customers complain about prices, you can often save the sale with a courteous, knowledgeable reply. You have a right to charge a price that covers your costs and provides you with some profit. If nobody complains about prices and you sell out very quickly, your prices may be unrealistically low.
- It’s easier to lower prices than to raise them; don’t sell yourself short!
- Customers want quality, courtesy and consistency! They are generally knowledgeable and willing to pay a reasonable price for quality and freshness.