I knew I would get a lot out of being part of the Withrow Farmer’s Market this summer, but I suppose there is still a small part of me that is amazed by how just HOW MUCH valuable information came out of being at the market every 2nd Saturday this summer.
For anyone considering becoming a part of a farmer’s market or weighing the pro’s and con’s to determine if it is a commitment they would be interested in, here are some of the benefits the market had for me and my small business.
- On my very first market day a lovely lady by the name of Cheryl came by my booth and sampled some of my jams and pickles. Turns out she is a chef and was just about to start a new job at a local Butcher Shop. She signed up to be on my mailing list and asked me to reach out in 4-6 weeks so we could talk. I am happy to say that The Meat Dept on the Danforth has been carrying Manning Canning products for several months now and that my local market customers can find my products there during the winter months.
- It gave me direct access to customers. People that did not know me and would provide me with true reactions to my product. I know what each customer liked, didn’t like, bought repeatedly. Based on these learnings I even tweaked a couple of my products to make them better and appeal to a wider audience
- I used the market as a testing ground for new seasonal products and got customers input on price point, how they would use the product and it’s selling features
- I made great connections with local farmers also selling at the market. Bought direct and was able to show my market customers exactly where the product in my jars came from. Very powerful selling feature
- Was able to test my packaging with new faces on a bi-weekly basis. The perfect focus group to put the design to the test
- Formed a great relationship with the market itself and have partnered with them to provide canning and preserving lessons. Next up Caramel Apple Jam on Monday, November 19th. See here for details. http://www.eventbrite.ca/org/2611193294
- Met wonderful people who shared with me family preserving recipes, spices, herbs and vegetables from their gardens. I even had people bringing me mason jars from home so that I could put them to good use
- Market visitors signed up to be on my mailing list and now I have the ability to communicate with them on an on-going basis which would have been impossible otherwise
- Really got a much better understanding of the demands of replenishing supplies for each market. How much produce did I need to purchase, how much time did I need in the commercial kitchen. It prepared me to venture to store sales and understand how much I could take on at a time
- Met people like me who have a small food business that they are either trying to grow or even start up. Bounced ideas off of them and shared experiences
- Allowed me to practice different techniques to describe my product, which has helped me feel more confident doing in-store sampling days like the one I just completed at The Meat Dept this past Saturday
- Gained an understanding over the 6 months of the market as to my average daily sales and how often customers returned to purchase
- And this final point is still in the works, but I may have met Manning Canning’s very first employee at the market ;).
So if you are wondering if participating in a Farmer’s Market is worth the work that goes into it, re-read the list above and think about whether any of those items would help you build your business. I am sure you will find yourself nodding your head and saying yes at least a few times.