It's been a couple weeks since I updated the series on starting a nursery business and since yesterday was my first sales date at a farmer's market I thought today would be a good opportunity to talk about that experience. Going to the market is pretty much an all day affair. It takes time to pick the best looking plants to bring, load them, and if you haven't already done so labeling them.
To set up it takes about 30 minutes once I make it to the market. I have a 10'x10' tent that I set up but there are so many trees where we are that additional shade is not necessary. I think having the tent up gives my business a more established and professional look. I usually bring one folding table but I may have to bring a second one next week. Plants that are off the ground are closer to and easier for the customer to examine. I also bring as much as I can knowing that most of it won't sell. Having a full display is important because of the impression it makes with the customers. It looks more established and they can choose from a variety of plants.
The most important thing with a farmer's market business is to know your product. Most of what I sell I have grown and can explain exactly how they taste and how to grow them. When I have a plant that is new to me as is the case with some varieties tomato plants I'm upfront and tell the customers that this one is new to me as well. Honesty is extremely important. You're not just making a sale you are making a relationship. The respect you show your customers will be returned to you many times over.
The first two hours of the market I had a constant flow of people at my booth to talk to which was fantastic! The time flew by quickly as I talked to customers about the plants, how to plant them, and what the varieties were. If I didn't have what they were looking for I inquired about it so that I could add that to my list of plants to bring or grow.
What were the results? I had my best market day ever. It went extremely well for my small business but the plant sales will only be a seasonal thing. Once the weather gets hot this summer people will be want vegetables and not vegetable plants. Ornamentals do not sell as well as edible plants at a farmer's market. All of the plants I sold yesterday were herbs or heirloom vegetable plants. I brought Japanese maples, hostas, heuchera, redbud, daylilies, and several other plants but none of them sold. However the ornamental plants did bring people to my space. They came and looked at the Japanese maples and hostas which filled out my booth area and brought them to the heirloom vegetables and herbs.
I hope that this post is helpful to you if you are thinking about a farmer's market business of any kind. Have a good display, talk to your customers, and build a relationship with them and your business will be successful!
More from the Starting a Nursery Business Series from Growing The Home Garden