selling at the farmers markets or such

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by athome in SD, Nov 28, 2003.

  1. athome in SD

    athome in SD Well-Known Member

    Oct 4, 2003
    This may seem like an open ended question--

    I am wondering who out there could offer some advise on
    selling at the farmers markets or truck farming-whatever you
    want to call it.

    I am interested in what sells well for you-I realize area's will
    vary. And also what kind of profit you have on you investment.
    ex- sold 10 hills worth of watermelons and made $3000. (lol)
    (wouldnt that be great!).

    athome in South Dakota
  2. Browsercat

    Browsercat Well-Known Member

    Aug 1, 2003
    Here's an article on farmer's markets geared at getting one going, but it also has points to ponder (as in the management of one you get involved with/sell at): These sites may have additional info for you:, esp. their book page at, and this one: looks really good.

    Check with your local permitting office about regulations that affect farmer's markets (after that Hepatitis A outbreak that affected 500 people and killed some, consumers will be more concerned about such things). Check into what your insurance covers and doesn't. Check with your local Dept. of Agriculture for promotional materials, labeling requirements, that kind of stuff. If you put up a canopy, you may need to fireproof it (I've heard that craft fairs have had problems with them catching on fire and if you are next to the candle guy/gal, you don't want that); you can get spray stuff at a costume supply place.

    If you can make up some recipe cards (with your name and phone number and dates you'll be at the market again), then customers will have a bonus besides your business info.

    I can tell you as a consumer what I'd buy: vine-ripened tomatoes, salad makings (mixed spring greens sell for about $9 a pound in the grocery store), beets and other veggies, especially if from an organic grower.

  3. Helena

    Helena Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    north central Pennsylvania
    I had looked into a local farmer market at one time to just sell seedlings in the spring that I would grow in my greenhouse. But they wanted to have a contract signed saying that you would be there the entire summer months and have an insurance policy of a million dollars to protect the city from any liablity from you selling. Since I wouldn't have seedlings but for a few weeks to sell I wouldn't have been able to use them. They wanted local people with local produce and plants but I don't think they stuck with that idea since I did see people selling onions out of a mesh "supermarket" bag and grapefruits which I don't think we can grow up north here. So there goes the local product idea. I would still like to sell items and am thinking of the animal auctions in our area that are open once a month. They charge $12 for a table but don't know much more. Good Luck !!
  4. diane

    diane Well-Known Member

    May 4, 2002
    South Central Michigan
    When we use to do it, we started in early spring with the seedlings, early spring flower bouquets, asparagus and progressed through the season......while having hand made items, our honey and maple syrup on the side. I never brought stuff home as I pretty much sold least the produce did.

    Clean, young, attractively displayed produce draws customers. Tender young greens were always gone long before the day was over, as was anything young and tender. People who will pay a decent price want young and tender and do not go with the big is better. For that reason we always competed well with the Amish, as they tended to pick more mature and larger.
  5. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    Two books you might consider:

    Farm Fresh: Direct Marketing Meats & Milk by Allan Nation. Stockman Grass Farmer Bookshelf, 800-748-9808, $30 plus S&H.

    Dynamic Farmers' Marketing: A Guide to Successfully Selling Your Farmers' Market Products by Jeff ishee, Bittersweet Farmstead, P.O. Box 52, Middlebrook, VA 24459. Don't know current price. Jeff is a neighbor of Joel Salatin.

    Ken S. in WC TN
  6. Shrek

    Shrek Singletree Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    Apr 30, 2002
    North Alabama
    I start in the spring with greens and other cool weather crops and seedlings in midspring. Next comes the full production of a double cycle garden. I end out in oct and november with pumpkins , indian corn and a few cool weather crops.
  7. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

    May 9, 2002
    I'm the new board chairman for our local farmers' market and from our sales reports three things top our sales. Garden produce, meat, and baking, in that order. All crafts are next with functional and toll painted items topping that list though knitted (felted and sewn as well) items are a close runner up. Preserves follow that and arts and other crafts close it out. Walk in booths generally do not do as well as table fronts, Well lit neat and clearly priced items help alot. Samples are almost always a big help. (protect food samples from flys!)This is a link to a picture of my booth for 2002.Click here
  8. pumpkinlady

    pumpkinlady Well-Known Member

    Sep 3, 2003
    NW PA
    We sell sweet corn and summer produce at our own road side stand. In the fall we sell pumpkins right out of the fields. Profit is always good, but you can never count on the weather. Some years are better than others.
  9. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

    May 11, 2002
    I went to a farmers'/flea market one time and there was a woman there who did simply sewing jobs (such as changing cuff lengths) while you looked around. She seemed to have all the business she could handle. She had a sewing machine set up in a van.

    Ken S. in wC TN
  10. willow_girl

    willow_girl Very Dairy

    Dec 7, 2002
    Dysfunction Junction
    Thanks, folks, this has been an interesting and helpful thread for me, too, as I'm looking at selling at farmers' markets for the first time next year.

    One thing I've decided to do is grow dual-purpose plants, like perennials I can sell in the spring ... then grow out the leftover for cut flowers later in the year. The same with produce ... I figure whatever doesn't sell, I'll can or freeze to use myself.
  11. DAVEOO8

    DAVEOO8 Member

    Feb 28, 2003
    I think what u can sell depends on where u live & who your selling to.I sell corn,beans,& some squash & some tomatoes.I sell the corn from the back of a truck,sell the beans & the rest to local roadside stands.I live about a mile out ,so just a mile away r row after row of million$$$ homes. These ppl love fresh prouduce. I just go to a very!! busy intersection where there just happens to be a vacant lot.MY corn is all gone in about a hr.Never been to a farmers market ,but thats because i got all the bussiness i can deal with a mile away.& i really enjoy doing it.
  12. Sharon in NY

    Sharon in NY Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2002
    We run a CSA (subscription garden) as well as selling through a local farmstand. We sell eggs, plants, vegetables, fruit, cut and dried flowers and home baked bread, and this year plan to add potted forced bulbs as well.

    Our best sellers are anything brightly colored, salad greens (the most popular include edible flower petals along with a mix of greens - tuberous begonias, daylilies, nasturtiums and herb flowers tossed in for color, flavor and texture are huge sellers), mixed cherry tomatoes (we provide pints of mixed red and yellow pear and also a broad mix including the previous plus white, green, orange and striped cherries), and flowers.

    Season starts in June, which tends to be a bit sparse early in the season, but with great flowers, and runs until the end of October. With hoophouses I hope to extend the season further, and run May 1 to December 1.

    Presentation is everything!

  13. Mike in Ohio

    Mike in Ohio Well-Known Member

    Oct 29, 2002

    DW and I are still exploring and testing the various markets in our area (there are at least 20-25 including flea markets) which is NE Ohio. I think the first thing to do is spend some time making a list and visiting various markets in your area. Ask questions and watch carefully. It may be that the closest one is not the best for you.

    Think about the things you enjoy raising the most. Is there a market for them? If not is it because of lack of supply or lack of demand? Also consider how much time you are willing to invest in a particualr market. Some will require you to show up regularly and others will sell day permits.

    Our mainstay is honey. We are still learning which markets are best for us and which don't make sense at all. My experience has been that traffic is your friend. Some of the smaller markets just don't get enough traffic to justify the effort on our part. Don't ignore flea markets.... Jamies flea market which is over by Elyria gets 10,000 to 15,000 people on a single day.

    A couple other points to think about:

    1) If you have something unique (sometimes even if you don't) offer samples. One of the reasons we outsell (by significant margins) other honey sellers is that we offer samples. We purchase a box (3,000 spoons) of plastic tasting spoons and then repack them in baggies that old 200 or so.

    2) have at least a few different items to offer. We generally offer 5-6 different sizes and types of packaging for our honey. Different markets consistently seem to ahve different patterns as to what people prefer. We are also expanding to offering black walnuts (in the shell) next year as well as experimenting with various items such as peaches, chives (potted), arugula, and a few other items.

    3) be prepared to shift to new and different offerings. If you are doing well, expect that others will try to follow.

    4) Try to extend your offerings to what would otherwise be out of season. For example, using raised beds and row covers (we use pvc hoops with plastic sheeting) you should be able to offer tomatoes earlier and later than many of your competitors without incurring too much extra cost.

    I'm fresh out of ideas at this point...good luck.

  14. Georgiaberry

    Georgiaberry Member

    Oct 22, 2003
    SW Arkansas
    We do the farmer's market seasonally, and it is really alot of fun. However, for most of the sellers at our small, local only market, it is a hobby. They are retired folks who have wonderful gardens and bring produce and visit with each other and the customers. Everyone has the same thing at the same time - 15 vendors all selling tomatoes and peppers or squash and greens. And for a pittance!

    The only way we can make any money is to bring something no one else has. For us this is blooming perennials in the spring - we charge around $5 for a gallon sized pot. We sell alot of purple coneflower and shasta daisy. And rosebushes! Old ladies go crazy for the old fashioned varieties like 7 sisters. These plants can be just put back under the sprinklers if they don't sell - they aren't perishable.

    In the summer, we sell blackberries and blueberries. We are limited only by how many we can stuff in the truck. These are perishable. If it rains or for some reason I can't sell and I have picked 30 gallons of blackberries, they have to go in the freezer.

    Before the first time I go to the market in a season, usually I go on Saturdays, I run an ad in that Thursday's Thrifty Nickel - only about $2.50 to run it.

    I have in the past brought along extra produce from my garden, cucumbers or lettuce or squash. Compared to my cash crop, it makes nothing! I might sell $300 in blackberries and only $10 in all other produce. Can't compete with the old folks and their low prices.

    So my strategies are: bring something no one else has, charge as much as you can (if nobody complains, edge up your price till someone does!), bring alot of it, get there early, and try to sell as much as possible is as few visits as possible( I only go about 10 Saturdays a year).

    And have fun! The farmer's market crowd is a kick and a great resource for gardening advice.
  15. farmerscotty

    farmerscotty Well-Known Member

    Sep 13, 2003
    there is new egroup on yahoo dealing only with directmarketing of beef.......I think they only let people on that are selling beef.........might be worth looking at joining if your a beef producer.

    look for "beefdirectmarketing" group.