Helpful Hints for Successful Farmers' Market Vendors

Interview with Billene Nemec, former manager of the Lincoln Haymarket Farmers Market

What qualities make for a successful farmers' market vendor?

As a successful farmers' market vendor, you should enjoy interacting with people and have good marketing skills. Know your product, its uses, and 2 or 3 easy ways to prepare it. Be accessible to your customers - if you can't answer a question on the spot, offer to look it up and get them the information later. Find out what their needs and preferences are, like small cucumbers for pickling, and meet those needs whenever you can. Be able to tell your customers about your farm and farming practices, and possibly have a brochure describing your farm available for them. Get to know your customers by their first names. Be friendly - always having a smile for your customers is very important!

What draws customers to a farmers' market display?

Customers are attracted to colors, textures, and aromas. Natural containers, like wood or wicker baskets, are more appealing than plastic containers. Stack your produce high to give the appearance of an abundant crop. Leave the tops on carrots, beets, and other root crops so that they look freshly picked. Bring a spray bottle to the market, and mist your produce every now and then to keep it looking fresh. You can give your booth a pleasant aroma by crushing spices.

Go the extra mile to make your customers comforable. A sign which clearly displays products and their prices will help draw shy customers to your booth. A canopy will help keep your produce fresh while providing shade for your customers. Avoid yellow canopies, however; light filtering through a yellow canopy will make your product look spoiled. Finally, the vendor should appear neat and friendly. Smiles and a cheerful greeting will attract customers to your booth, and will keep them coming back.

Which is more important to farmers' market customers: price or quality?

Quality is definitely more important to farmers' market customers. They come to the market to buy fresh, flavorful, highly nutritious food. Price is a secondary consideration for these customers.

What is the most important advice you have for farmers' market vendors?

Support other market vendors and work with them to make a successful market. Customers can sense unhealthy competition between vendors, and they don't like it. Also, remember that you're not selling, you're marketing. If you have a quality product, good marketing skills and an outgoing personality, you are on the road to success at the farmers' market.

- Cris Carusi

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