As this year comes to a close, the state’s farmers are beginning to think about next year’s crops and how to market them. Many are considering selling at farmers markets. If you are among them, here is some information from the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture that may help with your decision.
Farmers markets are an important entryway for the state’s farmers into direct marketing – selling farm products directly from the producer to the consumer. “Just like any direct market channel, there are advantages and challenges for a farm marketing through farmers markets,” said Megan Leffew, marketing specialist at the Center for Profitable Agriculture.
One advantage, says Leffew, is that producers can bring any quantity of product to a farmers market. “They present a good opportunity for producers wanting to market small volumes of product. Farmers markets also help growers discover local demand for products and learn about what customers are seeking, she said. “Many growers find nearby farmers markets a good first point of sale for new products,” Leffew added.
Another advantage for farmers market vendors is they can advertise and promote products that are also available directly on the farm or through alternative market channels like a CSA (community supported agriculture) subscription or through local grocery stores and restaurants.
Farmers markets also allow producers to be flexible in both the quality of product offered for sale and the methods by which products are presented for sale. “Even though farmers markets can provide flexibility, you should always present high-quality product in a way that is appealing to customers,” said Leffew.
Those contemplating participating as a farmers market vendor should consider that regularly selling high-quality products at a farmers market stand can be a demanding task. “It requires selling face-to-face and making many small transactions over a period of many hours. This can eat into production time on the farm,” Leffew cautioned.
Experienced vendors also warn farmers market newcomers not to underestimate the cost of getting to market – time spent sorting and grading crops, money spent on gasoline to get to the market and bags and other containers to help make the sale. Some markets may also limit the number or type of farm selling their products, so potential sellers may need to make reservations for display space.
While many Tennessee farms that begin direct marketing at farmers markets will maintain some presence at their original market, others may choose to develop new markets that sell directly to the consumer. Leffew says this “gateway” effect can help increase the share of farm sales that come from direct marketing.
For more information about direct marketing and selling at farmers markets, see UT Extension publication “Choosing Direct Marketing Channels for Agricultural Products” (PB1796), available at your county UT Extension office. You may also download the publication at no charge from the UT Extension website: extension.tennessee.edu
The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a partnership between the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and the UT Institute of Agriculture. The center is committed to increasing the value of Tennessee’s economy through new, expanded and improved processing and marketing of agricultural and forestry products. For more information visit the website: ag.tennessee.edu/cpa
UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.
Find out more from the local Sevier County UT Extension.