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Fixes for Underachieving Farm Stand Sales

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally's Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

Late spring frequently brings this kind of SOS from beginning farmers: "I can't make significant sales from my stand at the farmer's market. Help!" If your stand looks like this, you are suffering from farm stand confusion. Below are some remedies.

SF photo John Katt diagnostic
The most obvious problem is the lack of clarity regarding pricing and how the produce is being sold. This farmer told me he had a sign that mentions $3.00 per bag, but there is no bagged produce on the table. I assume that the produce that is out is for display only, and that the pre-bagged produce is in the white cooler. Or maybe customers bag their own? This creates stand confusion, which is like switching the consumer's off button.

Here are 2 tips to eliminate farm stand confusion and start achieving higher sales at your farmers market:

  • Pre-bag your produce. As I've mentioned before, you are not competing with other farmers. You are competing with Whole Foods or the supermarket. Being able to just grab produce provides convenience and time saving, and these are big value-adds.
  • Place your bagged greens right on the table. Having your produce easily accessible to customers will entice them to your stand and will make a purchase less intimidating. They will know what they are getting and paying without having to ask. To keep the produce in top shape on your table,  put ice packs under the bags.

It also never hurts to remind beginners to brush up on their farm stand protocol. The objective is to engage with customers. If you aren't   naturally outgoing, this is easier said than done.  Here are some tricks:

  •  If you're not a big talker, breaking the ice with words is hard. Instead, you can use "visual icebreakers"  - photos of your farm. Yours is unusual in that it is a SPIN farm:  small plot intensive and ultra-local.  People will come over to look at the photos, and you can put up a sign - "Ask me about my SPIN farm."
  • Talk about how you practice SPIN-Farming and lead it back to why your produce is fresh and high-quality. We can provide the SPIN logo to you if you would like to use it, and you can do up inexpensive tabletop posters, or hang them on the tablecloth that list your SPIN practices. There is lots of information on the SPIN website about SPIN-Farming that you can use.
  • Concentrate on selling your farm and produce, not yourself. What helped me get over my shyness was realizing that I did not have to talk about myself, only about my farm and produce.
  • Provide tips on how your produce can be used. Many farmers give out recipe cards, especially for produce items that may be unfamiliar to customers.

I'm not exaggerating that I am frequently hoarse by the end of my market day. I can't wait until they engineer a carrot that sells itself.

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