Are Farmers Markets Great Venues for Cottage Food Bakers?

It depends, how’s that for a helpful answer? The real answer is like everything in business, you have to do your due diligence. Before we go any farther, I have to say this: cottage food businesses are real businesses, and need to run like one. Sorry for my “soapbox” comment, but if you are going to generate the income you want, you need a plan. In order to generate a plan, you need to know details.

Okay, so if you have read anything about cottage food laws, you probably have seen that many states allow sales at Farmers Markets. The first piece of information you need to know is, does your state allow you to sell your products at local Farmers Markets? 

Bakery Display

If the answer is yes, then it is time to start some boots on the ground research. Like many things in life, not all farmers markets are created equal. You are going to find out how much traffic they have, can you sell your cottage food products at their market. In addition, if they allow cottage bakers, how many other cottage bakers are selling there and what are they selling. Can you get a shaded spot? Do they have electricity?

Can You Compete?

You will have competition, and that is not necessarily a bad thing if the size of the market and their traffic justifies it. That is another piece of the information you need to know when you are researching. Do your math, how much foot traffic on a given day visits the markets. How many vendors sell the same products you make? When you are visiting, note how much business any competitor has. Perhaps visit at different times to see what the ebb and flow of the traffic. Noting how much product competitors have at the end of the day may give you some clues. Consider making purchases from your competition to see what you can improve on. 

Once you find a market that meets the criteria, you will need to contact them and check if they are accepting new vendors. If so, what are the requirements for renting booth space. For example, do they require you to attend all the days the market is open? Do they have a requirement on what hours you must sell.?  Will they allow you to only sell on a certain day of the week? In other words, can you pick your schedule. Do their fees fit your budget? 

It’s Showtime.

If you have found the answers to all of the above and decide that selling at a particular farmers market is going to work for your business, what next? Marketing is a huge subject, and I certainly can’t cover that in depth here, but I have a couple of suggestions for you to think about. Think about your customers, what will they see when they approach your booth. 

Are your products packaged attractively? How are they arranged? Face it, it your displays are a mess, it doesn’t speak well for your products. You may want to invest in display that can tier your products and appear professional. You may want your motif to give the “farmhouse ” feel. You can find inexpensive display pieces like metal trays, mason jars, you get the drift.

Is your booth or table attractive to kids? Do you have products individually packaged so that parents can purchase treats for their kids of themselves to munch on while they shop? 



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