If you produce more from your garden each year than your family and friends can consume, why not supplement your income by selling your excess wares at a local farmer's market? Here are the basics of what you need to know to get started.
Every state, county and/or city has its own rules when it comes to getting a license or permit for prepping and selling food. Many do not require a permit to sell farm products that your grow yourself, although some governing bodies are stricter than others. Contact your local farmer's market to find out what their licensing requirements are. They will also be able to tell you about booth availability, and give you information on their set up times and rules of operation. Be prepared to contact your local Chamber of Commerce and Health Department for additional information on food safety, registering and paying sales tax, etc.
If you decide that selling products at your local farmer's market is for you, then be prepared to make a substantial time commitment. Some markets may require you to man your booth every weekend (rain or shine). Don't forget to factor in the time it will take you to prepare your products for sale, load up your vehicle, drive to the market, unload your vehicle, and set up and dismantle your booth.
Do you make great homemade jams, fabulous bread and butter pickles, or have a passion for growing heirloom vegetables or cutting flowers? Answering these questions will help you decide what to plant before the start of the growing season. Shop local farmer's markets to see what sells (and what doesn't), how things are priced and displayed, and if a particular niche exists that you might be able to fill.
According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension Agency, the following annual crops rate highest in economic value based on pounds produced per square foot, retail value per pound at harvest time, and length of time in the garden. Perennial crops like asparagus, rhubarb, horseradish and fruit also have a high long-term economic value.
*Low-value crops like corn, melons, pumpkins, and squash are not recommended for people with small scale gardens unless you grow the miniature varieties.
Insurance: Some farmer's markets may recommend or even require that you carry liability insurance specific for selling products at a farmer's market.
Displays: Your display is what customers see first, so always strive to keep your area neat, tidy, and attractive. Arranging your wares in an eye-appealing and inviting way will help you sell more products. Post signs for products and prices clearly so that customers can see and read them from a distance.
Flea Markets: Selling your garden products at a flea market is a good alternative to a farmer's market. Keep in mind that although you will have less competition from other sellers, you will also be selling to a crowd that didn't necessarily come ready to buy produce.
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About The Author: Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services.
Be sure to sign up early. The market I sell at takes vendor applications in early April & it's $60 per year plus $25 for every week you come & there may be a waiting list. Some markets are on a first-arrive basis, & with some you have to schedule your dates in advance. Each market has different rules & fees. Find your local markets by looking online or calling you town's BBB.
Don't forget weights to hold your tent down in case of wind (very important!) & business cards or simple fliers listing your products. Also, remember your sunscreen!
* In most states you can't advertise your produce as "organic" without the proper inspections & documentation, but you can advertise it as "unsprayed"or "no chemicals used". In most markets you will be kicked-out if you advertise organic without the proper documents, this is a serous offense!
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