It’s halfway through my very first farmers market season and I’ve learned so much already, I couldn’t wait to share with you!
Well, it’s September and I’ve managed to make it through my first month of selling my gluten and dairy-free baked treats at the South Jordan Farmers Market. And I have to admit, I’m having a ball! Yes, it is a fair commitment to make all these treats every single week, and yes, it’s a fair commitment of time every Saturday, but I think I’m slowly but surely making a difference. Here’s a few things that I’ve learned along the way:
1. Condense preparation into 2 nights a week if possible
During the first few weeks, I was baking every single night leading up to the Saturday. Sometimes 2-3 hours every night. Now, that didn’t really impact me that much because my kitchen is my happy place, but I could see the strain on the family – ‘Mum’s baking for farmers market again, don’t go in the kitchen, don’t breathe in her vicinity because of food-borne illnesses’, those sorts of comments. Mind you, they were all pretty keen on sampling the merchandise (for Quality Assurance of course!). Which leads me to the next point:
2. Use the family to help prepare the food as well as sell
One of my biggest sellers so far has been my lemon coconut slice. And well it should be because it is just the right balance of sweet and tangy. When I’m describing it to potential customers, I often say that the secret ingredient is love. Well, love and powdered sugar!
But to get the most amazing flavor out of this slice, you need to use fresh lemons. And you can imagine I need a fair amount of lemons each time that I decide to make this for the farmers market. The first time I zested and juiced 5lb lemons all by myself. And then said never again. So I’ve recruited the kids into helping with the lemon preparation – bribing with finished products usually works!
3. Get to know the other vendors
The vendors at the South Jordan Farmers market are pretty cool. I am next to Tamales Tita, who almost always sell out before 1pm and just down the road from Birningham Bees – an amazing man who had both arms amputated through an accident but has such a sunny disposition and so helpful with his prosthetic arm! We usually help the Tamales family to set up their booth, and always give cold water to the honey guy! We’ve also gotten to know some of the farmers that come to sell their fresh fruit and veggies – Tagge’s farms and Nelson Farms in particular.
And one of the awesome things that I started doing was trading. For example, the Birningham Bees guy gave me some honey – I made my honey almond slice. Tagge’s farms and Nelson Farms both gave me a big batch of peaches – I made my peach muffins. And when I’m with customers I make sure they’re aware that I’m using local produce. And obviously I give some freebies to the companies that gave me the ingredients and so the cycle continues!
4. Don’t make too much product
Now this is a tough one to figure out. How many baked goods do you make each week? You don’t want to sell out at 10am, missing a whole 4 hours of potential customers. But then again, you don’t want to take home 200 items that didn’t sell (yes, that’s what happened the first week after I made way too much!). I’m keeping track of my sales each week (obviously!) and I’m always comforted to see even the smallest growth in numbers sold. Since I started 5 weeks ago, I’ve increased sales by just over 20 items each week. It doesn’t sound like much, but considering the foot traffic in the market isn’t like the big downtown farmers markets, I’m ecstatic. The fact that I am now selling just over 150 items every week always astounds me!
5. Have fun
For those of you who know me in reality, you’ll know that I’m pretty much an introvert. Ok, I’m seriously an introvert. So standing behind a table of baked goods that I’ve made, trying to convince customers to buy my stuff, and answer their (sometimes odd-ball) questions, takes a lot out of me. But I love getting to know the repeat customers. And hearing people tell me that the muffin was spot-on. Or that the lemon slice was the best ever, notwithstanding the gluten and dairy-free requirements!
And having the kids help out with selling on Saturdays is awesome – I get to hang out with both of my amazing kids. Separately, or else it wouldn’t be so awesome! Henry does the first shift, then Abby comes to take over. It’s always interesting to see how well their mental arithmetic goes … so I’m calling it extra-learning experiences for them!
Now, if you’re in the South Jordan area on a Saturday, and you’re interested in tasting some of my treats, you can actually sign up to find out what I’m making each week. Just fill in the field below and you’ll get an e-mail every Friday so you can get your taste-buds ready!
Thanks for reading – until next time, enjoy cooking at home (or paying me to cook at home to feed you!)