Mixing It Up: part 3
Are there enough vendors at market throughout the season to entice shoppers to stop?
Ah, the old what comes first the chicken or the egg issue…Vendors will say they need more shoppers to make it worthwhile and shoppers need a critical mass of vendors to feel a market is worth stopping for. And honestly, both camps are correct. Vendors can’t keep coming to market if there isn’t anyone to buy the fruits of their labor-at least not for long. And you’d be hard-pressed to convince shoppers that it is worth their time to make a special trip to the market if only two vendors, both with similar products, are set-up.
Product diversity really comes into play when we’re discussing the need for adequate vendors at market throughout the season. Our Kansas climate dictates certain cultivation parameters when it comes to fruits, vegetable and flowers. When your market also counts bakers, meat producers, nurseries, artisan crafters and prepared food vendors among its membership, you’ll have more to offer at either end of the growing season. Having these vendor categories represented increases the likelihood that your market will appear vibrant and hopping. As these vendors gain a loyal following, it is almost certain that your produce growers will begin finding ways to extend their season.
Jill Elmers, of Moon on the Meadow, will be speaking directly to this issue at this month’s Kansas Farmers’ Market Conference in her presentation Capturing Your Marketshare. Jill has taken the view that the method for increased profitability for her farm is to boost production and sales in the early and late seasons of market. Last winter she erected a hoop house and is developing a planting schedule that will allow her to have a diverse selection of vegetables from the time the Downtown Lawrence Farmers’ Market opens in mid-April until it closes the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
By developing a diverse membership spanning numerous vendor categories a market has the potential to reach that critical mass to draw in shoppers all season long.
Next week we’ll discuss how markets can recruit vendors to fill-in the gaps in products.