Aquaponic Gardening

A Community and Forum For Aquaponic Gardeners

Part of being a community connected small farm is having a thriving Farmers Market presence.  After a lot of trial and error and also getting some great tips from Ann Forsthoefel's presentation at this year's Aquaponics Association Conference, we are now having an incredible response at our local market.  Ideally what we have been striving for is repeat clientele and we now see the same faces week after week and wonderful farmer/client relationships are building.  Our customers know they can rely on us to be there every weekend and can also rely on our product.  Here's some of things we have learned that have contributed to our success at the market.

  • Signage, signage, signage!  -  This is important in not only identifying your stand, but also can help tell your story.  Be sure your name is prominently displayed as well as clear signs indicating your products and prices.  
  • Talk your story!  -  This what people crave at a farmers market, the personal connection.  Its all about Knowing Your Farmer, Know Your Food!  This is where the trust is developed and the bond that will keep them coming back.  Talk about how your product is chem free, naturally grown and why they should eat it.  Don't be afraid to throw statistics at them like there is 67 different chemicals in conventionally grown Celery and then ask them if they know what chemicals is in our Celery.  That's right, NONE!  It works every time.  :)
  • Have plenty of products - As much as we would like to sell only what we grow, we found that we couldn't offer enough different products to have a well rounded selection so we supplement with certified Organic produce we purchase from an Organic distributor.  Patrons want to do their grocery shopping at the farmers market and although we have at times several different aquaponically grown items, customers wanted more and they especially wanted items that we cannot grow in our system such as mushrooms, apples, oranges, pears, potatoes, etc.  Just be sure to identify your aquaponically grown items and offer the items you purchase and resell at a competitive price compared to the grocery store.  This may be contingent upon your area and the availability of organic produce, but here where the local grocery store only has a dozen organic items to choose from and charge $3.99 for one zucchini, reselling at the market is a great option.  
  • Make your booth inviting! - This was something we learned by just trying different set ups.  A set up where the customer actually has to come into the tent as opposed to tables set up at the perimeter of the tent made a huge difference.  Not only did we now invite customers into our "space" but when there are 10 or so people clustered in your tent, others have to come see what all the fuss is about.  
  • Have appealing produce displays - We built produce displays that sit at an angle and are lined with indoor/outdoor carpet(the fake grass kind) and these sit on folding tables.  Each can hold up to four different items.  This made an enormous difference as opposed to having the produce in baskets on tables.  Now everything is visible and the produce is neatly lined in their displays just like at the grocery store.  Make it pretty!  
  • Bring it live if you can! - We will almost always sell out of lettuce when we are able to bring a live product.  We often have lines waiting as we pull heads out of large totes and clip the roots and pots free and send folks home with lettuce as fresh as if they just got it out of their own garden.  Some want to keep the roots and the pot and that is simply an extra $.20 charge.  The only drawback is that this doesn't work in the summer months as it is too warm and the lettuce wilts too quickly.  
  • Have fun! - There is nothing better than being slammed at the market and often we have rushes that will last up to a half hour or more.  We laugh and joke with our customers and compare recipes and offer samples.  Always thank your customers and tell them see ya next week!  Odds are you will.

Hope this helps any others looking to go to market and please share your tips and tricks here too!

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Replies to This Discussion

Sahib, did you ever find a good source of packaging for produce?

Way cool TCLynx, is this a farmers market in your neck of the fla woods????
 
TCLynx said:

Actually this picture was taken when I was at the antique/flea market three miles from my house.

Cool TC!  I love how its all set up on your truck! 

Sorry TCLynx not yet.

I have not really looked in detail. I am going to go back to the site that I had posted originally as well as look at Restaurant Depot or similar places for the bio-degradable plastic type produce bags. Also interested in some small containers to hold water so as to sell live plants that can be kept live for some time so as to use them "Fresh" (Basil & Parsley).

Let me know if you had any luck :-)

God bless,

TCLynx said:

Sahib, did you ever find a good source of packaging for produce?

I haven't really looked yet myself since it wasn't till the market weekends that I needed anything.

Gina, do you have any good sources for produce packaging?

This is great information, everyone. I have a question about the use of plastics for storage and display at farmers markets. Have any of you growers received feedback from purist customers on plant- v. petroleum-based bags and storage containers? Are your customers concerned about the produce making contact with non-food-grade plastics?

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