Thoughts on getting in to "farmer's market" setup?

party_music50April 2, 2013

Hello all -- I have visited this forum a lot for many years, so I know that many of you are very knowledgeable about these vendor-type setups. I'm hoping you can help me put this idea in the proper perspective (i.e., tell me I'm nuts! :)

There is a horse stable/farm about 3 miles from here that started holding a "market" on Saturdays from spring through autumn last year. It was a small informal setup and most sellers had tables, tents, and chairs -- some of which may have been provided by the host. There were Amish girls selling baked goods, a young guy selling vegetables, a young guy selling eggs and jams -- then there were several other unmanned tables where there were jams, syrups, baked goods, knick-knack/old stuff like books, frames, decorative items, etc. -- I suspect these tables belonged to the owner/host.

Last July the owner asked me to come and sell my handwoven baskets there. She said she'd try to help provide me a table/etc, but wasn't sure she had anything left... she said I could even just drop off my stuff and someone there would watch it for me (like her unmanned tables, I guess). She only asks $10/day and ONLY if I sell something! her goal is to just get something established, and she does all the advertising. I did scope it out once, but had too many other commitments to even think about doing it last summer.

That sounds like a terrific opportunity, right?! But what about the expense, time, and hassle of what I need to lug things there and set it up every Saturday? owning, carrying, and setting up a table, chair, and tent are WAY beyond anything I could attempt by myself (I'm a small person). And handwoven baskets are something that many people love, but few are willing to pay a reasonable price for them. If I were to sell only one small basket for $10, I would net $0 for the hassle for the day, and I'm a person whose time is very important to them. FWIW, I am an award-winning basket weaver and instructor, and my handwoven baskets are top notch! I also do custom weaving.

She emailed me yesterday to ask if I would be interested in doing it this year. I am interested, but am I nuts?! I also asked her about the possibility of me selling plants (like heirloom tomatoes) and even gluten-free baked goods, but she hasn't answered yet. I don't have a "business" and she never asked me about that!

PLEASE give me your thoughts on this -- it sounds like fun to me now, but that could be because I'm looking out the window at a snowstorm. lol! Maybe it would be nothing but an expensive time-consuming headache! :p


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I have been a craft exhibitor at shows/fairs/farmer's markets for over 30 years. This is my full time job.

I can understand your trepidation about actually going out and selling your baskets, but if the market has customers, and you make some basic baskets, you can make money.

What you do is make some basic baskets and a couple of your finer ones. Those are the "draw" to your booth and you put your price on them. If the people who go to the market have the money and like what you offer, you can make good money.

I do a number of shows with professional basket makers and they do the shows because they can make literally thousands of dollars in a weekend at a good show put on by a professional promoter.

Yes, it involves leaving home, setting up, actually talking to the customers, pocketing the cash, tearing down at the end of the day and going back home. But the following Monday, we take the cash to the bank.

But in order to sell your baskets, YOU must be the one selling them, not the promoter.

Personally, I see you making at least a couple hundred dollars if the customers are the type who appreciate handcrafted work as opposed to Chinese crap.

And you grow from there.

Below is a website by a basket maker I have done some shows here in New England with. She SELLS at shows!

Here is a link that might be useful: Professional Exhibitor

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 7:35AM
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here's my two cents worth-
what state are you in? here in Michigan, things are tight and people are even tighter.
I've had people ask me to sell my glass garden de-lites(totems etc) on a Saturday at a farmers market, but like you, my time is valuable to me. especially a Saturday.
I've never had much success with craft shows and the kind, but do sell at local shops with moderate success. I also sell them from my front yard-
while reading all your pros and cons, I sense that you are a 'helper' kind of person- you'd like to help out your neighbor, but instincts told me to say- No thank you , at least at this point.

The initial investment of tables, pop ups, etc. wouldn't probably pay off for a few years- so just keep an eye on it, and when it 'takes off', then you could re-consider.

wow I never talk this much this early in the morning... :)

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 8:19AM
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I've been selling at a farmer's market venue going on for 25 years - not every week, but pretty regular. I started off with an umbrella and and round table with a hole in the middle - now I have a canopy and two tables to sell from. I love it! It is hard at first , but you learn the tips and everyone around here is always happy to help you set up. No one can sell your things like you do... Y9our best investment is to make/buy business cards. Christopher has good ideas. Start small and have fun!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 9:50AM
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You mentioned the owner said you could just leave your items. I would say no because from what you posted it is not very organized. Maybe take a few, set up the table (take a card table) and have about 3-4 etc to sell and put up a sign to take orders. Collect a down payment, make sure you have all the information to deliver etc if you wish to do so. Do you have someone to go with you? Yes it will be work, but worth it IF you can establish your spot, go every week, etc But if your baskets are pricy, you will find out real quick if there is a market or not. Again, from the sounds of others at the market, it is a low keyed event with lower prices. Just my thouoghts.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2013 at 10:14PM
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Thank you all for the replies!

christopherh, I was thinking along the lines you recommended... having mostly "basic" (lower cost) baskets with just a few finer/higher cost ones.

mjowest, I'm in central NY and I'm not sure how the economy would affect sales.

grandma_bonnie, I did make the effort to go for a few hours last year just to scope out the situation and did bring some baskets for sale... I also brought a small plastic end-table and a popup-style camping chair for my setup. lol! At the owner's request, I also lugged all my tools and enough materials to demonstrate weaving. Just that was enough to fill my car.

marie-ndcal, it is a low-keyed event. Not sure about prices or how they'd compare... I bought a dozen eggs for $2.50, when all the other farmers in the area charged only $2. I also bought some fruit to munch on and that wasn't cheap. I did notice that most jams were $3.50 - $4.00 for an 8-oz jar and I thought that was very reasonable given the cost of fruit, sugar, jars, and the time invested. Handwoven baskets are an entirely different thing for this venue though -- and I didn't see anything handmade for sale that wasn't edible.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that if I decide sell there, I should be the one doing the selling!

In the meanwhile, the owner has contacted me and clarified that the market won't start until July. She also asked if I would offer basket weaving classes at the market. I explained what would be required for that setup (tables, chairs, etc) and made it clear that burden would be on her. She replied that she may get a grant that would allow her to build a pavilion! I'm amazed.

So now I have until July to think about this. That gives me time to consider alternatives, as well!

Thanks again to everyone for their input. I can tell you that each of you swayed me as I read about your experiences, so I'm not sure where that leaves me. lol!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 1:33PM
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