Stack ’em High, Watch ’em Fly ~ 10 Tips for Farmers Market Sales, Part 1

cooking, Eva Antczak, farmers market, Marin, market-to-table, organic, Shanti ChristensenIMG_2914

This week I visited three farmers markets in the Bay Area to answer the questions:

  • How can farmers adjust to the slower winter months?
  • How can you make your stalls look inviting, abundant and eye-catching this time of year, when stocks are seemingly low?
  • What are the tricks of the trade to maintain sales?

Having come from Vermont, I started my casual research with the assumption that winter means fewer sales and greatly diminished product variety. I was surprised to learn that that’s not exactly the case. In California, there is almost the same amount of variety all year long.

What changes the most at the change of season, however, is the color palette. It also can give a customer like me the sense that there is less to choose from. In the winter, out go the baskets of red and pink tomatoes, and in come the dark leafy greens – and many different varieties of them!

So, with some of my initial assumption of less to chose from disproven pretty quickly, I then asked the vendors what tricks they use, and would suggest to other farmers, to best manage their stalls, and lure people in. The tricks and tips were endless!

Here are the first five tips for achieving a well-managed, high-sale market stall. (A link to part 2 is at the bottom!)


Tip from Catalán Family Farm, Hollister, CA

Color coordination: Ruth told me that this time of year she color coordinates the produce, condenses the stands, and puts similar varieties together. There are a lot of dark greens in the winter months, and fewer bright, eye-catching options. Her strategy is to play with the color, building large stacks of the produce and coordinate the colors around the table from light to dark.

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Tip from Brokaw Nursery, Ventura & Soledad, CA

Wooden crates: Matthew told me that during the winter months they often only have avocados and a few citrus varieties. The avocados are darker in color, and not always very eye-catching. To add flare, he uses wooden crates and paper bags to increase the aesthetic. He told me that customers tend to be attracted to nice bins and a rustic farm look. He’s also going to add his most recent purchase, a fire pink shade cloth, to the mix. Extra flare and eye-popping color for sunny days!

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Tip from Full Belly Farm, Guinda, CA

Value-Added Options: Erin told me that this time of year they fully display their value-added beans, wool, grains, dried peppers and more. These are the biggest money makers! Create a nice label, nice packaging, put them at eye level, and they brighten up your stall. She told me that when fresh fruits and vegetable stocks are a little bit low, and they need to fill shelf space, they make sure to get their customers excited about these other products. And their stall was quite busy, so it seemed to be working!

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Tip from Swanton Berry Farm, Davenport, CA

Ergonomics: Beth said she has put a lot of thought into making her stall efficient, comfortable and easy to restock. She allows space by the register to cut cauliflower heads and trim broccoli stalks, while also being an arms reach away from her register. Her stall and set-up is fairly small and tight, and all her products sit on one table. Her ability to help customers, restock, and handle her produce all on one table, allows her to easily work the stall by herself. She also puts her jams right by the register so they are on full display and in easy reach for restocking.

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Tip from Dirty Girl Produce, Santa Cruz, CA

Signage: Stella told me that ideally everything should have a sign, even though customers still often ask the price of things. She told me that good signage is clear, lists the price, doesn’t have too much information, and is made out of durable material. Signs get used and abused, so always make sure they look intact before displaying them. She also told me that their farm is currently working on some new signage, as she doesn’t think theirs is sufficient. Always making adjustments and improvements!

Click to read Part 2!

Many thanks to the farmers at the Ecology Center’s Market in South Berkeley, The Ferry Building Market in San Francisco, and the Old Oakland Market in downtown Oakland for sharing their tips for this first edition.

To learn more about direct and wholesale marketing and sales, cottage food laws and more, check out our Marketing & Sales Toolkit. Here you’ll find info sheets, checklists, worksheets and recommended resources to help you develop a marketing/sales strategy and increase your bottom line.

If you have questions or words of wisdom about farmers market stalls, or marketing & sales strategy, visit our Conversations and post a question or comment!

If you have other great resources to share, get in touch with me:

2 Thoughts on “Stack ’em High, Watch ’em Fly ~ 10 Tips for Farmers Market Sales, Part 1

  1. Love it. Great info for us in the middle of snowy Winter.

    • Eva Antczak on January 30, 2014 at 10:42 am said:

      Thanks, Daniel! I’m glad you thought it was a useful read. It was a lot of fun to get out to the markets and talk with farmers about their stalls, and how they think about their customers. So many great tips and tricks!

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