Late last year, I kicked off a series on selecting a farmer’s market. In part one I discussed the most pivotal part of any market: The Market Master. In part two I covered how location can play a much larger role than you might think towards the success of a market.
While summer markets may seem like they are a long way off, applications for those markets could be due as soon as the end of January! You should be doing your research now to determine which markets you’ll apply to. And while you are thinking about which market to select, the next thing to consider when choosing a market is what time of day and what day of the week it is open. Attending a market for six months or more takes a tremendous amount of energy, do your best to make certain you are not spending that energy in vain and that it is well worth the investment of time and money.
Trust me when I tell you that I have tried every type of market possible in terms of variation in the time it was open and the day of week it was open. Again while there are exceptions to any rule, generally speaking your best bang for the buck is going to be to attend a busy market that is open on Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. until at least 12:00 noon. In my experience markets that are open on weekdays simply do not do very well, but I’m sure there are some out there that are just the opposite. The ones I have attended do okay and when you’re first starting out you may have to do a midweek market in order to get your customer list built up, or in order to increase cash flow for the sake of running your business. You might also not have any other options if all of the Saturday markets are full with vendors in your niche, which is a distinct possibility.
If you go and do a midweek market and only earn $300 to $400 that may not sound like much, but over the course of six months you could be looking at $6,000 to $8,000 in income. Long term, that is a drip in the bucket for a full-time farming income but in the short term it is huge. This is exactly how we started out at farmers markets before graduating to Saturday markets! If you have the time and energy to do a midweek market by all means explore that option. But your long-term goal should be to attend two or three prime time markets that are held on Saturday mornings. If you offer a delivery route option to customers during the week, then picking up a mid-week market located in the same general area could be extremely advantageous. Just realize that you’ll be investing an entire day into marketing and that you or someone have to care for the critters back home at some point.
Early on, Wednesday was by far my longest day of the week. I would wake up at 4:00 a.m., go out and do animal care then run back in to clean up for market. I would pack my coolers and head out by 7:30 a.m. to be in downtown Indy by 8:15 a.m. I wouldn’t get back home and unpacked until about 3:30 p.m., precisely the time I had to back out and take care of the animals again. By 6:00 p.m. that night I was beat! But alas, the kids need attention and there are e-mails to return, marketing to be done, etc. Choose your battles carefully! If you don’t, you’ll never make it to the finish line.