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My Farmers Market Provides the Best of Both Worlds

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

I have lived in two worlds at our local farmers market. For the last several years, I sold year round indoors at our fixed stand. But in early May, Gail and I switched to an outdoor stand in front of the market. The spots are about the same in price, and each has pro's and con's.

The obvious advantage to an indoor market is you don't have to think about weather. No wrestling with canopies in the wind or trying to salvage rain-soaked produce. The disadvantage is having to haul your produce indoors, which can be grueling. We addressed that by installing a reach-in cooler at our stand, so we could store any unsold produce in there until the next market day.

An outside market poses the logistical headache of having to lug your stand to each market and set it up. We have a van that we leave our tables and canopy in. And I find once you establish a set routine for stand set up and take down, you get good at it, and it soon becomes a non-issue. Outside, there is also the pressure of having to lug unsold produce back home, so projecting sales volume becomes much more exacting.

But the good news is that our move outside has actually resulted in increased sales. We make much higher sales at Wednesday’s outside market than we did inside. Sometimes we make just as much money that day as we do on the big market days, Saturday and Sunday. So I find I am doing better outdoors right now than I would be if I were inside. Here is the dynamic I think is in play.

Most of the fresh produce vendors are outside, whereas the inside is dominated by food-court like vendors who sell prepared foods. It seems in the summer, serious shoppers expect to buy their produce outside. In fact, many prefer it. They don't even go inside. It is much easier for them to grab and go without having to navigate through those who come to the market more for entertainment. Those types hang out inside or on the outside terrace. So the inside/outside areas are a natural way to segment the two different types of customers, and eliminate any conflict between their market behaviors.

My current strategy is to swing both ways, depending on the season. Outside in summer. Inside in winter. So be observant and be sure that you are following your customers, instead of making it hard for them to get to you. And if there are tensions at your market between the grocery shoppers and those just making the scene, let your management know there is a way to create the best for both worlds. My market here in Saskatoon is a great model.

SF photo market 1

This summer, I am an outsider at market ...

SF photo market 2

along with the other fresh produce sellers...

.SF photo market 5who cater to the grocery shoppers...

SF photo market 4t

who find it quicker and more convenient to shop outdoors.... 

SF photo market 3

while those who just want to enjoy the scene can hang out  inside the market or out on the terrace over  a leisurely snack, breakfast or lunch.  Having both inside and outside areas is a great way for farmers markets to cater to two different types of customers.   

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