Recruiting Farmers Market Vendors

To have a successful farmers market in Hawaii, you need to recruit a consistent set of vendors offering a diversity of products – and that can be a challenge! Some markets have waiting lists, while others are scrounging for vendors regularly. Use these tips to help support your efforts in recruiting farmers market vendors:

Step 1: Know What You Need & Create a Target List.

  • Target Products You’re Missing. Start by analyzing your market and looking for products you don’t have for sale. Is a certain product always selling out? Does anyone sell fresh flowers, eggs, jams, honey, or baked goods? Does your market have ready-to-eat food or plate lunch booths? Make a checklist of products you’d like to add to your market’s product mix.
  • Think Like Your Customers. Who are your customers? What types of shopping do they do at your market? Is it a locals market, heavily tourist-focused, or a mix? Do they have preferences (organic, gluten-free, etc.). Listen in to customer comments at your market, or ask them directly, to glean what they’re looking for.
  • Ask Current Vendors. If you notice trends in what your market needs, ask your current vendor base if any of them are willing to produce those items – you never know if someone has plans to expand into just the items you’re looking for.
  • Make a Vendor Target List. Once you decide what you’re missing, try identifying farmers or other local producers who sell the products you’re missing. Make a target list and approach them one-on-one with a pitch on your market and why you think they would do well at it.
  • Think Outside the Box. While it’s obvious that you’ll want to look at who vends at other nearby markets, also consider local brick and mortar or online businesses who might benefit from a new location to sell their products. Maybe your local baker or that auntie selling lilikoi jam would be interested!

Step 2: Create & Deliver Your Pitch

  • Track, Know, & Share Your Data. It’s a lot easier to convince a new vendor to participate in your market when you can share with them your weekly visitor counts and average vendor sales numbers to entice them! 
  • Sell What Makes You Unique. What’s unique about your market that will better attract vendors? Do you offer SNAP/EBT accessibility? Are you located in a high-traffic visible area? Do you have a big online following? Discover what it is and share. 
  • Create a 1-Pager to Market the Opportunity. Having a promotional piece that you can provide potential vendors is incredibly helpful in marketing your vendor spots. Make sure to include what you’re looking for, logistics, costs, your market’s data, what makes you unique, and your contact information for them to try it out.
  • Share Your Flyer. Post to Facebook Groups, share with Extension offices and farmers associations, the Dept. of Agriculture, farmer training programs, high school FFA and 4H groups, feed stores, commercial kitchen spaces, and others. Look on Facebook Marketplace for new growers that haven’t made it to any markets yet – maybe you can be their first!
  • Offer a Free Booth. Everyone loves a free sample and farmers are no different! It takes a lot of work and time to harvest, set up a booth, staff the booth, etc. – that time is a money to farmers. By trying out your market they can see if it’s a good return on investment to become a regular vendors.
  • Offer Other Opoortunities to Sell. If a vendor still isn’t convinced the market is the right fit for them, offer them the opportunity to have a split-stall booth and share the fee with another smaller vendor, provide items on consignment, or even sell some of their products at wholesale to re-sell at your market to add to your diversity and earn extra funds for your organization.

Do you have other tips on recruiting farmers market vendors? If you’re a vendor, what would attract you to a new market?  Share your tips here!

You can also view other Farmers Market Manager Resources on our site, including part 2 of this series focused on Retaining Farmers Market Vendors.

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