Anyone making a decent living selling food at greenmarkets? Just curious!

  • Posted by: petrea
  • May 16, 2012


SMSF May 23, 2012
Butters may be a bit challenging for shoppers at greenmarkets -- if they are buying the pats, for example, they would probably melt pretty quickly unless the customer had some kind of plan to keep them cool on the way home. Just a thought, not trying to be discouraging!
petrea May 16, 2012
Thankyou ALL for your input!!

Voted the Best Reply!

petitbleu May 16, 2012
Some background. I have a very (very) small baking business, and I sell only at farmer's markets. I make small batches of pastries and baked goods using locally sourced produce and high-quality ingredients. As high-quality as I can afford, anyway. Organic flour, seeds, nuts, and oats; Valrhona cocoa powder; local dairy and eggs, etc.
Using High quality ingredients means I have to charge more for my baked goods. Not a lot, but a little bit more. Some people are turned off by this because they're used to getting cookies for 50 cents at Wal-Mart, but a lot of people understand and appreciate the extra effort and expense on my part.
I try to keep costs down by renting a kitchen. Where I live (TN), you can have an inspected home kitchen, but you can't have pets. We have a cat, so I ended up renting a kitchen from a friend of a friend. He charges a very reasonable rate for daily use, and so I don't have the headache of trying to fix up my home kitchen for commercial use, and I don't have to rent a storefront somewhere and try to pay rent on it.
On top of this weekly kitchen rental fee, there's a booth fee at market. It's usually small, but it factors into your profits.
KNOW YOUR MARKET. I can't emphasize that enough. If you live in a very savvy, metropolitan area, you'll probably have no trouble. If, however, you live in a place where people may or may not know what the heck compound butters are, you'll have to do a little more encouraging. I find that the hard part is getting people to come up to your booth and talk to you. Once you do that, it's a lot easier to make a sale.
Also consider your set-up. Make it attractive and welcoming. Have your business name clearly displayed along with a tagline of some sort so people will know at a glance what you're selling. Have your prices clearly displayed. Nothing turns people off more than going to purchase something, then being told it's more expensive than they can afford or want to pay.
All this sounds very rudimentary, but it's important. Markets like this can be overstimulating, and the details are important.
The bottom line for me is that I make significantly more than I spend on supplies and ingredients. And guess what? So far, I do! It's been sort of thrilling. In fact, I think that for the entrepreneur who wants to start very small, farmer's markets are the place to be. People are much more open to new things in this environment, and they are more likely to give you a chance. What's more, you get a chance to interact with some fabulous people (some not so fabulous, but that's okay) and farmers and producers of all kinds. If you get someone to watch your booth for you, you can also get a lot of your own grocery shopping done, and many farmers are willing to trade.
Long spiel. Good luck though. I think you should go for it. As long as your overhead isn't too high, you don't have much to lose.
sexyLAMBCHOPx May 16, 2012
Selling anything requires a business plan, complete with cost per unit, time, etc - Also, if any health safety guidelines and certification to sell your compund butter is required by your town/state. Due dillegence must be done. Selling to greenmarkets or any other place may have their own requirements and fees for selling. I would walk around to each vendor and talk turkey and try to "survey" your potential customer base. Also, some marketing to introduce your product and solidfying your product/sales pitch sets the tone for your product. Can you share or piggyback a stall perhaps for buyer feedback? Perhaps a bread vendor to sample? Good luck.,.
Reiney May 16, 2012
In assessing your income potential, I would consider your ability to sell beyond farmers' markets to restaurants, cafes, grocers and the like.

Farmers' markets are actually pretty inefficient ways of conducting business - the time and effort to transport goods to a stand, the free samples, etc. It can be a way to get your name known, and thus a means to an end, but I'd be surprised if it is more than marginally profitable. To make a living you need to scale your business quickly (but not too quickly).
SKK May 16, 2012
Here in Seattle everyone selling fresh produce at Farmer's Markets grow their own food. Same with the meat, eggs, cheese makers, fish etc. And people who sell jams, jellies, salsa have to make their own. It is more than a full time job. If you have ever grown vegetables or fruit you quickly realize it is a life style, and not just a 40 hour work week. More like 24 x 7.

The term 'decent living' is open to interpretation. I recommend you ask some of the vendors.

Regarding giving up organic designation, farmers here are choosing not to have the designation in the first place, and they grow using no pesticides, sustainably. They invite you to their land to see what they are doing. I don't have a hard and fast rule about always organic when I am purchasing at a Farmer's Market.
ChefJune May 16, 2012
Here in New York, most of those selling at the Greenmarket are farmers who grow the products. I suppose it all depends upon what you mean by "a decent living." Most family farmers have a very low profit margin. Many I know have had to give up their Organic designation because they cannot afford to pay the fees for it.

No one in Union Square on Saturdays is getting rich, I'll wager...
Maedl May 16, 2012
Just to clarify, do you mean prepared foods or fresh produce?
petrea May 16, 2012
Thanks for your reponse! I'm considering making really good but also beautiful compound butters for sale.. Available by the log , but also on sheets of individual pats...any thoughts? I appreciate your input!!
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