Make Extra Cash Selling Fruit Vegetables and Flowers at Farmers’ Markets
You can make extra cash selling fruit vegetables and flowers at farmers’ markets. Farmers’ market is a food market at which local farmers sell fruit and vegetables and often meat, cheese, and bakery products directly to consumers. A Farmers’ market is also a public and recurring assembly of farmers or their representatives, selling directly to consumers, food which they have produced themselves. More specifically, a farmers market operates multiple times per year and is organized for the purpose of facilitating personal connections that create mutual benefits for local farmers, shoppers, and communities. To fulfill that objective, a farmers market defines the term local, regularly communicates that definition to the public, and implement rules/guidelines of operation that ensure that the farmers market consists principally of farms selling directly to the public, products that the farms have produced. Some states have even established their own formal definitions which specify market characteristics in more detail. The number of farmers markets in the United States has steadily grown to more than 8,500 currently registered in the USDA Farmers Market Directory.
Types of Farmers’ Market
Types of farmers’ markets depend on some familiar variables. Farmers markets vary in size and shape. Some are just a few vendors who gather a few days out of the year or month, while others involve hundreds of vendors and take place year-round. The products available at farmers market generally represent their agricultural region, meaning that you might find avocados, olives, and artichokes in Texas or California, and be more likely to find paw paws, peanuts, and peonies in Virginia.
Some markets concentrate on produce, while others carry everything from fruits and vegetables to baked goods, meat, eggs, flowers, and dairy products. Some may carry locally made crafts or prepared foods as a complement to the agricultural products they sell. As the number of markets grows, so does the variety of foods available.
Thriving Season for Farmers’ Markets
Peak harvest season is usually peak market season, and some markets are only open in the prime summer months. In 2010, about 15% of all farmers markets were open in the winter months, and the average seasonal farmers market in the U.S. is open for approximately four and a half months of the year. However, you can expect to see more markets open for business in late spring through early fall, as markets aim to provide customers with products for more months of the year. Many markets are expanding their seasons through the winter or even all year with items like meat, eggs, dairy, bread and other products that are available fresh all year long. Even in colder climates, farmers are implementing a variety of season extension techniques that can protect crops from frosts and allow them to provide you with quality fresh produce for more weeks of the year. You can learn more about what is seasonally available in your community or you can make use of the guide offered by fieldtoplate.
Delicacies that can Earn You Money
Lemon pudding with locally grown strawberries; salads sprinkled with edible flowers from community gardens; foraged elderflower champagne are some of the delicacies and favourites of consumers. Locally sourced produce is increasingly on the menu at restaurants and on sale in markets and shops. So if you’ve got a glut of gooseberries or a rash of raspberries and radishes, perhaps you could make some money from them.
Several projects have sprung up with the aim of helping people gain an income off the land. The bad news is that you’re unlikely to make enough to give up the day job – but selling your surplus should make tending the vegetable plot more worthwhile.
Good Selling Points of Farm Produce
BigBarn and Crunchd are resources to help growers sell produce, the latter being a social network, with a website and app, which allows seasoned gardeners and novices to swap advice and trade produce.
Founder Tony Montague, an ex-City trader, says: “Growers can swap and sell produce, and if they want to sell on a bigger scale can meet up and pool their resources so they have enough produce to sell to restaurants, for example.”
Individual sellers may find it easier to sell to a shop if they join BigBarn’s Crop for the Shop initiative. BigBarn is a community interest company that connects customers with independent food retailers and producers (you can also buy groceries on the site), while Crop for the Shop is designed to help you get involved. It has an online local food map where you can search for independent retailers, advice on how to sell, and basic documents to download, such as an agreement between a grower and a retailer.
Typically, retailers sell produce a third cheaper than at the supermarket, and the grower gets 70% of the retail value of sales, given in credit to spend in the shop. BigBarn founder Anthony Davison says: “Giving retail credit instead of cash helps boosts sales at independent retailers and keeps money in the local community.”
Other places to sell produce are local markets, farmers markets (stalls can typically cost £35, so you may need to team up with other growers), car boot sales, fetes, festivals, restaurants and cafes.
Fresh spinach is a popular product to sell. There are also new food markets that encourage individuals to sell, such as the recently opened Crystal Palace Food Market. Rachel de Thample, author of More Veg, Less Meat, is one of the organisers: “Anyone can grow for the market. People arrive with bin bags of spinach from the allotment, chilli plants they’ve grown indoors and handfuls of herbs and lettuces from their window boxes.”
The market sells bags of mixed leaves for £1 per 100g compared to about £1.50 at supermarkets (for non-organic). Packets of lettuce seeds cost less than £1 for 100.
If you want to get your pea shoots on to the specials board of your local restaurant, however, you need to start networking, according to Matt Smee, co-founder of Cheshire-based growers Natural Veg Men. “Build relationships with local chefs; find out what they want to buy, see if you can grow it. Let them sample your produce before you ask them to put in an order,” he says.
Cafes, pubs and restaurants are often able to take small amounts of produce for their specials, so there’s no pressure to supply huge, regular orders. Even if you have only a tiny space you can still make it work. Pick a sought-after crop and you are more likely to be profitable.
Sophie Davies, author of Design, Grow, Sell, a guide to running a garden business from your home, says: “There’s a market for home growers producing very specialist items such as herbs or nasturtium and borage flowers to decorate salads.”
Crops like asparagus are ‘little in volume but big in flavour’. Fresh spinach is a popular product to sell.
Crops that are expensive to buy can be easy to grow, says author and gardener Mark Diacono. He suggests asparagus, herbs and chillies: “These are transformer plants because despite being little in volume they are big on flavour.” Other ideas include rocket, spinach and pak choi.
Those growing on a larger scale can sell via co-operatives like Manchester Veg People, which supplies restaurants and shops. Deb Burton, 47, has sold baby sorrel leaves to the Aumbry restaurant in Manchester. She is working on Farmstart, an initiative which rents out land and trains growers to sell crops, and which sells produce through Manchester Veg People.
You may say, you had never thought you will be able to grow, let alone sell, produce, you may not make millions, but rest assured, one day you will earn a proper income from it.
Know the rules
Sell some courgettes to your neighbours and there’s no need to inform HMRC. But you do need to let it know if it’s more of a business. Its website lists several “badges of trade”, which determine whether you are considered a trader.
An HMRC spokesperson says: “Going to the market every day with a pile of produce to make money means you are trading – you need to let us know and pay tax on profits.”
Setup and transportation issues
If, as a matter of necessity you’ll be selling baked goods, many municipalities require that they be prepared in a commercial kitchen; some vendors rent a church kitchen for this purpose. Additionally, you’ll want to invest in a sturdy table that will survive when crowds hover over your goods, eager to pay you. Many vendors also buy a tent, about 10-by-10 feet, the size of many farmers’ market booths; a tent is good protection for you against sun and heat and helps define your area. Depending on what you’re selling, you may need a commercial scale for weighing produce and also bags and labels for packaging. If you’ll be giving out free samples — a great way to entice potential customers — be sure to have appropriate containers, as well as a nearby trash bin.
Be sure your family car or van is large enough to transport your table, tent, and goods for sale.
Prepare well each season and each week to maximize sales and minimize stress.
If you’ll be selling non-perishable items, such as crafts, use the months when there’s no farmers market to increase your inventory so that you’ll have enough to sell to make it financially viable to be in the market. Also, you’ll probably need help each week at the market, so hire someone, such as a family member or a teen, in advance. Be sure to package and price everything and make signs. Your prices need to be competitive with vendors selling similar items.
On the morning of each market, arrive promptly, open on time, and dress appropriately. Remember a hat, sunscreen, sanitation gloves if you’ll be handling food, an apron, cash for change, and markers and labels if you’ve forgotten to price some goods.
Selling your goods can be a great way to make some extra income. You may want to start by sharing a booth a few times with an established vendor to see if you enjoy it. Next time you visit your farmers market, imagine yourself there as a proprietor instead of a customer and consider whether selling at the farmers market may be something you’d enjoy.
Allotments in Haringey, London
Commercial growers shouldn’t use council-operated sites such as allotments to run a business.
There is much discussion about the legality and ethics of selling allotment-grown produce. The Allotments Act 1922 has a general prohibition on any “trade or business” being conducted on an allotment. But allotments are allowed to have an allotment shop, which councils tend to regard as fund-raising rather than a business.
Some interpret the law to mean that while you cannot trade at the allotment, you can sell surplus produce away from the site. In general, the spirit of the law is that commercial growers shouldn’t use council-operated sites as a low-cost way to operate a business.
If you are an occasional seller of produce you don’t need a food hygiene certificate, but you must make sure the food is safe. However, the Food Standards Agency says that if you are a business you do need to register – selling at markets and shops may require council registration.
But even pint-sized entrepreneurs are giving it a go: some schools are growing produce to sell at local markets and fundraisers, and Waitrose has launched a scheme where pupils are given seeds and are able to sell produce in stores.
Farmer’s markets have become enormously popular places for consumers. However, farmer’s markets are also great places to make money. If you have a green thumb, know how to grow fruit and veg or flowers, or consider yourself a bit of an artist, you could be looking at a small goldmine in your own neighborhood!
Fruit and Vegetable
Farmers can obviously enjoy making money at farmer’s markets. Fresh produce and other farm fresh items (milk, cheese, etc) have never been more popular with consumers. Even if you just have a small vegetable garden, you’ll be surprised at how much cash people will be willing to pay for organic, locally-grown produce. It can be very easy to make money with a simple stall selling nothing but fruit and vegetables.
Farmer’s markets are also good options for florists to make money. Fresh flowers are popular year-round, and you can easily sell a wide variety of different flowers at your local farmer’s market. A simple stall or cart can easily turn into a great moneymaking resource. Be sure to hit up several markets in a day, as if you don’t sell your cut flowers at the first market they will start to wilt. Talk to stallholders to get an idea of how to start doing this, and any recommendations they have to maximize your sales so you don’t end up throwing produce away.
Artists can even get in on the act. Artists can make money at farmer’s markets by selling vintage prints or ‘country’ style items, such as decorative plates or tin cans. Other types of art can also sell very well here, as long as it’s innovative and crafty, but country themed items, knitted baby clothing, and vintage items are usually the most popular options.
How to Make Money at the Farmers’ Market
It is very important you know what you’re getting into before you become a vendor at the farmers market. There are many things to consider in order to make money at the farmers’ market.
Selling at the farmers market can be a big commitment. You want to be sure it’s right for you. Start by talking with some vendors at your market, particularly people you know personally, and ask specific questions. One vendor who built a specially designed motorized trailer for his booth, to sell healthy made-to-order sandwiches, didn’t realize he’d need to be awake by 3 a.m. each Saturday morning to be ready when the market opens. After a year, he’s closing shop. Interested in buying his vehicle for $75,000?
Peruse the website of your farmers market and read the vendor requirements. Many markets require that your goods be grown or produced in your state. You’ll need to decide exactly what you’ll sell, such as fruits or vegetables, baked goods (breads, muffins, cookies, or pies), arts, crafts (scented candles, chainsaw carvings, and jewelry), or body care items (lotions). Some markets require your commitment for the entire selling season; in many areas, it’s about six months. Booth rental fees vary but expect to pay an average of $500 per six-month season. Some markets allow you to rent a spot weekly for approximately $20. Booths are about 10-by-10 feet; you can choose your spot on a first-come, first-served basis. If you think you’ll need electricity or water for your booth, you’d better inquire long in advance.
It’s a business
Treat your farmers’ market booth as a business because it is a business.
You’ll want to start small and grow, selling more varied items as you tweak your business. Before the season begins, you must follow your city and state requirements for registering your business. Also, you’ll need to apply for a state resale number and know how to collect and pay sales tax that’s required in your state. Like any proprietor, you must maintain accurate records of income and expenses to be prepared for year-end federal and state income taxes. Proprietors use Schedule C to record farmers’ market profits. Your expenses will include weekly or annual booth rental fee.
You’ll need to be certain you’re insured properly. For example, if someone gets cut from jewelry that you sold to them, you want to be covered.
You also want to be set up for customers to use debit and credit cards if your farmers market permits that. Each customer credit card purchase will cost you, the vendor, approximately 3%, so price your goods accordingly.
Turn the farmers market into an agricultural showcase by inviting additional working farms and farm-related groups to participate. Contact organic farmers, niche farmers growing specialty crops, beekeepers and student farm groups such as 4H and Future Farmers of America chapters. Ask the county’s Cooperative Extension Agent for a list of regional agricultural ventures that might blend well with the farmers market setting. Establish a booth fee structure that provides good value for the exhibitor and welcome income for the farmers market’s coffers.
Entice farmers’ market attendees with weekly raffles featuring vendor-donated prizes. Confirm that city or county regulations permit the raffles, and obtain needed permits before selling tickets or promoting the events. Establish one price for single raffle tickets, and offer a small discount for multiple ticket purchases. Prizes might include a free box of produce, a basket of handmade soaps, several loaves of homemade bread or a local honey sampler basket. Promote each week’s raffle prizes on the farmers’ market website or blog, and ask a ticket-selling assistant to circulate among farmers market attendees each week.
Farmers’ market attendees might enjoy a series of food-related workshops, held in the market’s building or in a sturdy on-premises tent. After you obtained any necessary workshop permits, you recruit market vendors to volunteer their expertise. Speak to county Cooperative Extension Agents as well. Suggest workshops on bread making, canning, herb drying, heirloom seed starting or other food preparation or preservation skills. Charge a higher fee for single-class attendees, and offer a discounted series fee for students who register for all workshops.
Food Tasting Competitions
Cook up a rustic-themed food tasting competition with delicious food for attendees and exhibitor and admission revenue for the farmers market. Consider a restaurant food tasting, barbeque fest, chili cook-off or soup bonanza, for example. Ensure that all permit and cooking facility logistics have been resolved before planning and promoting the event. Charge a fixed admission fee that allows an attendee to taste all exhibitors’ entries before he votes for his favorite dish. Award donated prizes to the category winners. Adapt this concept to local farmers’ market facilities and regional food preferences.
Why You Should Shop at Farmers’ Market
While some food retailers do carry some local and organic products, not all of them can carry a variety of local foods, or ensure a fair price to the farmer. Shopping at a farmers market is a wholly unique experience that benefits farmers and producers directly (they go home with a greater share of the retail price than they would by selling wholesale, where the margins are, well, just that– marginal), offering you more unique products, more heirloom varieties, and more opportunities to build relationships and learn about healthy eating. Farmers markets are a community experience, where you can meet your neighbors, friends, and farmers, and where more of your dollar will stay in the community.
How you get paid at farmers’ markets
There are many ways to pay at farmers markets. Cash usually works best but many farmers markets also accept credit and debit cards. Moreover, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has partnered with FMC to provide eligible farmers markets and direct marketing farmers with the equipment necessary to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. In the past five years, the number of farmers markets and direct marketing farmers authorized to accept SNAP has grown from 1,041 to 6,500, and the amount of SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets has almost tripled.
In addition, more than 4,070 markets accept Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers and 4,590 markets participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). In 2011, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service reported that over $38 million was spent at farmers markets through these two programs alone. Some markets have even developed their own locally based currencies, like Health-Bucks in New York and Fresh Bucks in Rhode Island.
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