My husband and I were farmers market vendors for 8 years. We owned a bakery for 2 years but the other 6 years we did it out of our home.
Whether you sell baked goods or jams and jellies, produce or eggs or honey, you too can work towards becoming a market vendor at your local market.
At one point we did 2 local markets. One on Saturday mornings in our home town and one on Thursday afternoons in a neighboring town about a 1/2 hour away.
Here are a few things to think about when you are considering becoming a vendor.
- Do I have a product that people will buy?
- Do I have the proper insurance?
- Do I have the proper licensing if need be?
- How will I display my wares?
- Do I have someone to work my booth and do they have that winning personality to sell my product?
- Do I have the time to commit to approximately 15 weeks of selling?
- Do I have the passion?
These are all questions that we had to answer before we could fill out that application to be a vendor.
Do I have a product that people will buy?
In the past, people went to farmers markets to find great deals on bulk produce and sometimes less than perfect fruits and veggies at a deep discount. I remember going with my mom to the market and getting a handle basket of peaches that were seconds for a 1/3 of the price of a perfect basket and we would make jam. You could also get large quantities, such as a whole bushel of pickling cucumbers at a rock bottom price.
Today the farmers markets are a spring board for many smaller farmers that want to get their product out on the market quickly and meet face to face with their consumers on a weekly basis.
We were one of those vendors that benefited from seeing our customers every week. We had a product that people came to the market every week to buy, some religiously. Our scones. Out of everything we sold, and we sold a wide variety of products, our scones were the best seller for us. We baked over 300 scones a week and sold them at the market and at our bakery store front. If you didn’t get to the market early enough we would be sold out within an hour and a half.
Do you have a product that people will buy? Here is a list of products that are selling at the markets right now:
Organic produce or anything organic for that matter, free range eggs, honey, jams and jellies, cheeses, soaps, baked goods, coffee and teas, wine and beer, any type of veggies, any type of fruits, cut flowers, maple syrup, nut butters and mustards, gluten free baked goods, food trucks, art, crafts, local pork, beef or chicken, herbs and spices, plants, textiles and yarns.
This list could go on but I think you get the idea. As long as you are making or producing these items yourself and locally within a 50 mile radius your local market would love to have you as a vendor.
Do I have the proper insurance and do I have the proper licensing if need be?
This is very important. We started off with getting our home processor’s permit to do our baking in our home through the NYS Ag and Markets office in Buffalo. It was easy to obtain but it did restrict us from selling out of our home and what types of items we could sell. But hey, it was a start and we were thrilled! As a few years passed we got our full licensing from the Genesee County Health Dept when we opened our bakery.
If you are contemplating becoming a food vendor you need to take it a step further and get your vending license also through your county’s health department.
There are of course fees involved in every step of this process so consider that when planning to become a vendor. Many counties ask that you become food safe certified as well but that varies by county.
Insurance is another biggie. You will need at least a $1,000,000 liability policy for just about any market nowadays. It sounds intimidating but it really isn’t that hard to get and the cost, at least in my experience was just about $30 a month.
Call the insurance company that insures your home and vehicles and see if their underwriter does insurance for markets. If they say yes but it will cost over $100 a month, check with another insurance company.
How will I display my wares?
Displaying your product is very important. It needs to be eye catching and organized. Here are a few examples of displays at our market.
Shelving, baskets, crates, and colors are what is eye catching in all of these displays.
Do I have someone to work my booth and do they have that winning personality to sell my product?
I had a dream team to sell my products. My husband can charm the pants off of even the toughest customer and his side kick who just happens to be our church’s pastor was his partner in crime. I left them to do the selling each week because I knew selling was not my strong suit. Over the years we have had tons of help in our market booth. My sister and her two girls, my mom and of course Doug, my step-children, my sister-in-law, and tons of friends have had a blast helping us out and selling for us. Make it a family affair. Your children will learn a ton about handling money and working with the public at a young age.
Do I have the time to commit to approximately 15 weeks of selling?
Some markets ask you to commit to the entire season and other markets will let you come just a few weeks at a time and let you pick the weeks you would like to attend. We committed fully to the market every year and paid up front for the application fee.
It is a commitment either way that you will have to look at ahead of time. Will you be able to be at a market every Saturday from 9 am to 12:30 pm from June until October? That’s a pretty big commitment so really consider whether you have enough product to sell and you are able to fulfill that weekly commitment.
Do I have the passion?
Farmers markets can be a wonderful experience but also exhausting. It can be a very tough lifestyle if this is your sole income.On the other hand if you have passion for your product and want to connect with the consumer on a face to face weekly basis this is your starting point. One of our vendors started off with their goat milk cheeses selling their products at multiple local markets and only a few years later their passion has brought their products into the mega giant grocery market of Wegmans. Pretty impressive huh?
I could add a lot more to this conversation but this is a good starting point for anyone considering becoming a vendor at a local farmers market.
If you would like to become a vendor at the LeRoy, NY farmers market you can contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. -MM