LONDON — Farmers markets are an opportune way for Ohio farmers to sell their products. According to a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, since 2008 the number of farmers markets in the United States has grown by 76 percent. Ohio is ranked fifth in the number of farmers markets in the nation, with 335 Ohio markets registered and listed in the USDA directory.
“In Ohio we’ve got great opportunity for farmers markets,” said Mary Griffith, Extension Educator of Agriculture & Natural Resources, OSU Extension Madison County. “With our urban areas interspersed with so much farmland, we have a really cool location, state-wise, compared to some other states for selling food at farmers markets.”
Griffith spoke at the 2018 Farm Science Review, Sept. 19, in London. About 12 people attended Griffith’s session from various Ohio counties. Her topic was marketing at farmers markets in Ohio.
Griffith explained that customers usually come to farmers markets because they want to know where their food comes from. “They want to know the farmer,” said Griffith, adding that talking to people at the farmers market provides an opportunity for growers to tell their story.
“People are going to the market because they want to know you. Your personality, your values, and your farm is what you’re marketing,” said Griffith.
Griffith said visual display is an important aspect at the farmers market, emphasizing that a sign is a good way to help farmers tell their stories. “A sign can bring people in,” said Griffith. She advised to have prices and the names of the products clearly on the sign. People don’t like to have to ask for prices.
She added to put time and effort into the display, ensuring everything is organized, colorful and abundant.
Other reasons people go to farmers markets include social purposes, quality products, specialty and organic products and entertainment, according to Griffith. “Set yourself up so that you appeal to what people want,” said Griffith.
Engaging with customers is important. While at the booth, acknowledge people and say hello. One attendee at the event said that they’ve found standing up instead of sitting works better to engage people.
Social media is a good way to interest people in your business beyond the market and to bring in customers. Vendors can use social media to make people aware of what they will have at the market every week.
While using social media, Griffith suggested utilizing hashtags (for example, #farming or #vegetables), tagging others in social media posts and showing location. This will help reach and engage more people. She said to tag customers, people at the farmers market and co-workers.
“The most important thing [on social media] is visuals,” said Griffith. “Including pictures and videos is really important to get people’s attention.”
Why people don’t go to farmers markets
Griffith then transitioned into what prevents people from going to farmers markets. She referred to surveys that have been done on this topic. Reasons include: limited hours; limited parking options; inconvenient locations for some people; and seasonal variability in products.
“More and more people are having food delivered to their home,” said Griffith. Griffith explained that consumer trends are showing Millennials are eating based on their values, but are also buying prepared foods more than anyone else.
Millennials are becoming the largest group of consumers, according to a USDA report. The report also shows research on how Millennials purchase and prepare food.
At the farmers market, farmers can include recipes and food delivery kits, which contains all the ingredients and a recipe to make a meal. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is also becoming more popular. CSAs connect the producer and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms.
“People want things that are fast and easy to prepare, and prepared in ways that align with their values,” said Griffith.
Licensing and fees
“How do I legally sell food at farmers markets?” said Griffith.
Those new to farmers markets should understand license and fees. Fresh fruits and vegetables have no special license to sell. However, food like meats, cheeses and other types of prepared foods require certain licenses. For more information visit: www.agri.ohio.gov and then go to Food Safety, then Licenses.