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Tips for First Time Sellers?

 
George Meljon
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Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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C'mon Permies, what are some tips for a first time farmer's market seller like myself and family? Maybe don't think too hard about it, just a quick line. It's Friday and I'm fried.
 
David Livingston
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It depends
what are you selling for instance?

David
 
chip sanft
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Be friendly and courteous. Whenever I go to a farmer's market, I'm always surprised how unfriendly and rude some of the sellers are. That's when I start plotting what to add to the garden for the next season.
 
Landon Sunrich
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Display counts. Never have an empty looking table until you're getting close to closing. Fiddle around with it and you'll figure it out. Good luck!
 
Ann Torrence
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Bring cash to make change
 
Ken Peavey
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Offer produce people will identify and buy. Green beans yes. Purple beans no.

Bags or containers. Something they can use to carry their purchase as they continue to shop.

Round down. Don't worry about that extra 1/8 of a pound. Ignore the change- $7.35 becomes $7 even. You dont have to fiddle with change, people love a bargain.
 
Leila Rich
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Offer free samples.
If I get something 'free', I immediately feel subtly obligated to reciprocate by buying stuff
chip sanft wrote:Be friendly and courteous
Agreed. While I'm always after bargains, a good salesperson can persuade me to buy xyz, especially after I've tried a free sample!
As has been mentioned, make an effort with display if going for the more 'high-end' market:
funky signage, find cool cloths, start collecting interesting baskets, boxes etc...
 
Landon Sunrich
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Ken Peavey wrote:Offer produce people will identify and buy. Green beans yes. Purple beans no.



Of course some people love the novel. Especially if it has a cool name or interesting story behind it "oh, these? these are a heritage variety of cucumbers unchanged since the days they where first domesticated for the maharaja in India of old..." or "What's this you ask? They're beans of course, They taste like a sweeter earthier green been but look at how cool they look! Oh, and they're called 'Dragons Tongue'

Many people love a good story or learning something to go along with the food. Some people are interested in the nuts and bolts some in the exotic and strange. It pays to have a bit of variety in my experience. But only to a point. Don't sacrifice head lettuce for escarole.
 
Mike Hamilton
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Location: north end of the Keweenaw Mi.
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George, there are a lot of great customers but be prepared for the one nasty person [personal experience]

ya it was an older lady looking at tomatoes
picked up a real nice large one ,1/2 pound
she looked at the price posted and threw it back on the table, damaging it then walked away
so that one ended up on our dinner table that night

Mike

 
George Meljon
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Awesome comments so far. I always wonder how to find success when there are so many others with good fresh greens just like yours. Is there an approach you take to selling to passers by. Is it better to just lay back and let things develop?
 
Leila Rich
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George Meljon wrote: always wonder how to find success when there are so many others with good fresh greens just like yours
To me, it makes a big difference what you plan to sell, where and to whom.
There's no way I'd want to compete selling stuff 'just like mine' as it tends to be a race to the bottom pricewise.
I would want to sell the tastiest, freshest, the only 'x' around, etc, etc.
Everyone else grows a ton of tomatoes? Maybe there's there a market for tomatillos instead?
 
George Meljon
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Leila Rich wrote:
George Meljon wrote: always wonder how to find success when there are so many others with good fresh greens just like yours
To me, it makes a big difference what you plan to sell, where and to whom.
There's no way I'd want to compete selling stuff 'just like mine' as it tends to be a race to the bottom pricewise.
I would want to sell the tastiest, freshest, the only 'x' around, etc, etc.
Everyone else grows a ton of tomatoes? Maybe there's there a market for tomatillos instead?


That's where my mind goes as well. However, I've heard from experienced sellers that you should look at what the veterans are selling because that's what works. That often means selling the tomatoes. We are just going to plant a bunch of stuff and see what happens I think!
 
Judith Browning
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I only do a few really small markets over the early spring and into the summer. one year i was the only vender with organic tomatoes. I really didn't want to bring them...I usually can, dry or ferment any extras, but folks had been asking. I asked three times the going rate for tomatoes at that market and made sure that each customer knew that there were cheaper tomatoes there. It was almost like the less I tried to sell them the more folks wanted them. Our area has a lot of folks looking to buy organic produce though. We are not certified organic so I couldn't label anything as such but I was able to explain in my sign that we followed certified organic guidelines.
I think explaining your growing methods means a lot to most customers no matter what the vegetable....and you can be sure the conventional farmers aren't going to disclose theirs.
 
Peter Ellis
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George Meljon wrote:
Leila Rich wrote:
George Meljon wrote: always wonder how to find success when there are so many others with good fresh greens just like yours
To me, it makes a big difference what you plan to sell, where and to whom.
There's no way I'd want to compete selling stuff 'just like mine' as it tends to be a race to the bottom pricewise.
I would want to sell the tastiest, freshest, the only 'x' around, etc, etc.
Everyone else grows a ton of tomatoes? Maybe there's there a market for tomatillos instead?


That's where my mind goes as well. However, I've heard from experienced sellers that you should look at what the veterans are selling because that's what works. That often means selling the tomatoes. We are just going to plant a bunch of stuff and see what happens I think!


While it is likely true that the veterans have some knowledge of what the market is looking for, there is no question that it is a largely losing game to chase after people who are already established, trying to compete with them head to head.

I think it is worth looking at what the veterans are selling for a number of reasons, two of which are: They show you what they have found success selling and They show you the gaps you may be able to step into.

Say, for example, the veterans are all selling lots of tomatoes, but you do not see any of them selling eggplant. What kinds of tomatoes are they selling? Beefsteaks you use on sandwiches and in salads, or paste types for making sauce? Loads of paste tomatoes selling, but no one is selling eggplant? You might think that these people have an occasional eggplant parmigiana now and then, with all those paste/sauce tomatoes they are buying.

Maybe the veterans are not growing eggplant because they have had problems doing it. Maybe they are not growing eggplant because they all started out by looking at what others were selling and following them.

I might step in there and try selling some eggplant. Compliments what the other guys are selling, but does not compete with them.

Definitely look at what is being sold, and think about the implications. After all, we're trying to practice permaculture Observe, look for the interrelationships, seek a complimentary course that leverages what others are doing to your mutual advantage, rather than competing directly.

 
Landon Sunrich
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I'll second the above observation about tomatoes. People are crazy for tomatoes. Get a new heirloom or two, if no one else has paste tomatoes grow a bunch of those. I still can believe how particular people are about tomatoes. Adventurous too. Every farm I've worked for has sold way lots of Toms. Even though everyone else is doing the same thing. Same with strawberries. The bright colors really bring people in to have a look see.
 
leila hamaya
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i love a nice garlic braid =)

course i grow my own so i might not buy them, but i would think i am rare in that way.

things i hone in on at the farmers market : interesting melons and squash, interesting colored stuff, like anything purple, potatoes for seed potatoes....i suppose i would be more going for the exotic interesting stuff, since i grow my own greens and basic stuff...
 
Michael Vormwald
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Some really good suggestions here. I don't have a market garden, but I'm thinking about it maybe for next year.
I think you need to stage and sell yourself and your product.
- If applicable, get a banner for in front of the table that proclaims your produce is "Fresh Picked All Organic"... or "Beyond Organic" and/or sell 'No Cides (no herbicides, fungicides or pesticides).
- Have a canape overhead so your produce isn't in the hot sun.
- Wear T-shirts you've had made that identify you and your farm.
- Ensure the table is setup to attractively display the produce. (look at it from a customer's perspective)
- Be extra friendly, courteous and professional and if it gets busy apologize and thank people for waiting.
- Make sure your prices are competitive. If/when your produce is REALLY good and you establish a reputation, you may be able to sell on the high end of the market.
- Where you can offer samples (as already said).
- Always answer questions honestly and never miss a chance to indirectly explain how good your product is.
- Try to have enough of everything so as not to run out early.

- Realize that yer not gonna get rich doing it, but it may offset your costs and provide extry pocket money!

Good luck. Hope it really works out for you.
 
Adam Klaus
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Michael Vormwald wrote:
- Make sure your prices are competitive. If/when your produce is REALLY good and you establish a reputation, you may be able to sell on the high end of the market.

- Realize that yer not gonna get rich doing it, but it may offset your costs and provide extry pocket money!


My experience is that price is not the primary factor why consumers shop at farmers markets. For your business to be successful, you have to be able to charge high prices. Its that simple. The key is using excellent produce, coupled with good communication, to explain to your customers why your products cost more, and are worth it!

When you can charge slightly higher prices than the competition, your profit margin will frequently double. Most of the cost of a given item is in production, so when price goes up a little bit, that is all extra gained profit. For example, at $3 per pound, your tomatoes may have an embedded production cost of $2 per pound, so your per pound profit is $1. However, if you charge $4, then your profit is $2. You just doubled your profit from every sale of tomatoes. Getting the consumer to pay 33% more is a lot easier than selling twice as many tomatoes. Communication, presentation, and exceptional quality are the keys.

If you are market gardening for 'pocket money', you wont be doing it for long. You deserve better. There is a lot of wiggle room between pocket money and getting rich; I recommend that you keep good records of cost of production, and aim to make at least $10 per hour market gardening. At least. That should be achievable, but the real key is having the business acumen to sell your products at a sound price.

Margin is the key to profitability, not volume. That right there is the gem I have to offer.

good luck!
 
Chris Badgett
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Free samples

Prepared Foods (If you sell basil, sell pesto and give out free samples and a recipe on how to make it yourself)

Make your customers feel comfortable and appreciated

Get a website where people can sign up to your email list to get notified what your bringing to market this week. I built this website for some friends with a farm who sell at the local farmers market.
 
Peter Ellis
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You have to remember that your prices have got to reflect your costs. You cannot price "competitively" without first knowing what your price must be to be profitable. Competitive pricing could put you in negative numbers on every unit sold.

Be sure to accurately account for your costs and do not forget that your time has value. Are you pumping water? Include power costs, and water, if you have to pay for it. Transportation costs, fees for the market, the equipment for the market booth. Work out all the costs of producing and marketing your merchandise, and from there figure out your break even price. Then add your profit.

If you end up with a good margin of profit and a competitive price, great. But if you are relatively high in price, go ahead and sell at that price point. Your price is based on your costs, you already determined it has to be this number for you to make money selling Your goods, cut your price and you are cutting yourself.
Selling at a loss is pretty easy demonstration of unsustainable business practice.
 
Michael Vormwald
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My point was that I think in any business you have to be reasonably competitive or you won't sell product! You can't sell your produce if the guy in the next booth has the same produce that looks just as good at a [much] lower price. I believe that consumers won't care if your costs are higher or you traveled further or whatever your 'reason' is.
I agree that a good product can fetch a good price, but I feel reality steps in and over pricing just looks like greed. Regardless of your costs, if you can't be reasonably competitive with other growers, just stay home...and you'll save money instead of earn money.

Peter Ellis wrote:You have to remember that your prices have got to reflect your costs. You cannot price "competitively" without first knowing what your price must be to be profitable. Competitive pricing could put you in negative numbers on every unit sold.

Be sure to accurately account for your costs and do not forget that your time has value. Are you pumping water? Include power costs, and water, if you have to pay for it. Transportation costs, fees for the market, the equipment for the market booth. Work out all the costs of producing and marketing your merchandise, and from there figure out your break even price. Then add your profit.

If you end up with a good margin of profit and a competitive price, great. But if you are relatively high in price, go ahead and sell at that price point. Your price is based on your costs, you already determined it has to be this number for you to make money selling Your goods, cut your price and you are cutting yourself.
Selling at a loss is pretty easy demonstration of unsustainable business practice.
 
Peter Ellis
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One way or another, you do not stay in business if your costs are higher than your revenues. You must price based on costs, first, or you will not know if you are making or losing money. After you know where your price point must be to make money, than you can consider whether you want to compete on price.

That way lie the commodity markets.

There are other bases on which to compete, or spaces in the market place to fit yourself into where there is minimal, if any, competition. Locating those gaps can be a challenge, but well worthwhile. Competing on grounds other than price is, likewise, a profitable approach that keeps you out of the race to the lowest possible price.
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