Never underestimate the power of first impressions -- especially at farmers markets. There is so much to see and decide upon, and everyone’s time --and money -- has limitations. This is especially true with the arrival of fall. The customer traffic is slower. The tomatoes are about done, replaced with items that are not as popular such as winter squash and assorted greens.
The good news is that farmers markets, especially in southern areas of the country, are remaining open longer into the year. There is still money to be made, but it is a different game now.
Farmers-market customers do not buy for two simple reasons. They cannot tell what you have based on a quick, pass-by glance and are not curious enough to stop find and out. They know what you have but do not what it. Some tips on overcoming both.
1.Repackage and Combine. Think about items that are similar, complimentary but do not fare well a stand-alone products. A neighbor vendor this season sold “ornamental bouquets’’ of herbs such basil, rosemary, perhaps dill or cilantro. Select some basil that is already flowering as this catches peoples eye. Explain how they will stay fresh and flavorful if the water is changed about every two days. A trick of my own is to sell gourmet salad blends of fresh basil leaves, young radish tops, kale, even baby mustard and turnip greens with a base of leaf lettuce.
2. Lift the veil. The best way to preserve the nutrition in fruits and vegetables is by wrapping or bagging them as opposed open-air displaying. But if people cannot tell what it is and thus do not want to eat it, you are not serving them well. Your job is to do what the customer perceives to be in their best interest, not what you believe it to be. Besides, people are drawn to a full table teeming with the bounty of a harvest. As a compromise try displaying greens in bulk, then keep some wrapped up alongside ready-for-sale.
3. Partner Up. Find another vendor at the market that sells either a prepared food or grows a crop that compliments what you have and forge a symbiotic relationship. This summer, a lady that made artisan cheeses sent her customers my way to pick up some fresh figs. At this season, suggest how well your broccoli, radishes or carrots would taste with dips or salad greens with flavored olive oils or vinegars which another market vendor prepares.
4. Document It. Show the public what you grow and how with photos -- from planting, seedling to harvest. Shoppers, in general, love to learn about what you do though words and images instead of listening to a long sales pitch. Don’t you?
These are suggestions only. You should likely tweak these as well as come up with your own. I recommend keeping a notebook handy and jot down ideas as they come to while you are working. Farmers markets are resources only -- not a guaranteed paycheck. Like everything else in life, you get out what you put in.