Selling Produce at Local Farmers’ Markets

Tips and tricks to make finding your niche at local farmers' markets easy.


| May/June 2011



Farmers' Market Sign

Find a way to set your booth apart.

iStockphoto.com/Sean Locke

Your local farmers’ markets can be festive cultural outings for you and your family. It is a place where friends and neighbors connect, children are welcome, and people reunite with foods from their past.

Our farmers’ markets in Knoxville and Oakridge, Tennessee, offer a wide array of local organic and conventionally grown produce, artisan breads, bedding plants, conventional pastries, organic whole-grain pastries, flowers, fruit trees, grassfed beef, cage-free eggs, goat cheese, sheep cheese, specialty vegetables, granolas and more.

If you’re looking for a variety of locally grown produce or baked goods, your local farmers’ market is the place to go. It’s also a logical place to turn if you are trying to find healthy markets for your own suitable products.

For people who may be trying to reinvent themselves during these challenging economic times or who simply want to do something different, the farmers’ market may be a venue for your new business. Nearly all the vendors come from careers far removed from a farmers’ market. Vendors at our local markets include former educators, landscape architects, therapists, electricians, career military personnel, builders and nurses. Producers were willing to trade their scrubs, classrooms, suits and commutes for hard work, independence and creativity.  

Do your research

If you are thinking about selling your products at a farmers’ market, check out the markets in your area, and contact your local farmers’ market association. It’s easy to Google this information or find a contact through your local extension agent. (One great resource is FarmersMarketCoalition.org.) Here are a few points to keep in mind if you decide to sell at a farmers’ market:

  • Location, location, location. The farmers’ market should be located near preferred shopping areas with easy access.
  • Is it well managed and clean?
  • When you’re studying markets, notice the quantity and quality of the vendors. Do their products look good, or are they sparse, shriveled and unattractive? Their displays should be striking and bountiful.
  • If it is a new market, do you know other producers who would be an asset to this market?
  • Find out from your farmers’ market association and extension agent what the requirements are to sell produce, eggs, baked goods, cheese and meats.
  • Your extension agent can supply you with class schedules and requirements to pass inspections.
  • Generally, someone from the market association will inspect your farm to make sure you are, indeed, raising what you sell.
  • When you visit the markets in your area, observe the customer traffic. Are they business people on their lunch break? Families? Retired people? Students? What are they buying? Their purchases will vary.
  • Find your niche. What do you see missing from your local markets?
  • Have a website and collect customers’ e-mails. Send out weekly product updates, post recipes and nutritional information, and enable customers to purchase online.
  • Remember your customers shop at farmers’ markets because they are looking for special tastes that can only be grown locally and fresh produce that is picked at its peak to be sold at its most desirable stage and flavor.
  • Local farmers have the advantage of a quick field-to-market trip for their products, so they don’t have to pick produce green for shipping. Growers should offer a range of products and have a core product of reliable varieties that produce well in their area. These products should include varieties the local consumers are familiar with and prefer. Fulfill these expectations. 

Check what’s selling

We chose our current markets because we were impressed with the vendors and their products. The produce and baked goods were appealing, the displays were attractive, and there was a lot of diversity among the producers. The markets were also located in popular and affluent areas. Prices stay at a premium all summer, fall and winter, and sellers are encouraged to stay within 20 percent of each vendor’s prices.





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