Summer farmers market season is in full swing, and I'm just as excited as most of you about raspberries, cherries, apricots, and other bounty of the market. I have a bit of a unique angle on the farmers market, as I'm actually a weekly vendor and talk to hundreds of potential customers each week.
I'd like to help shed a little light on what it's like on my side of the table, and what you can do (or not do) as a shopper to make your favorite farmers market vendors really happy.
My company Marge Granola currently does two markets a week in Seattle. There are days when working the farmers markets are really a summertime dream: the sun is shining (but not too hot); I remember my iced tea and water; the customers are gracious and excited about granola; perhaps I trade with a few of my neighbors for fresh salmon or greens. Life could get much, much worse.
Then there are other days that are, in truth, really challenging. The markets are highly physical to set up: the tent is not small; we pack four 25-pound blocks of sand to weigh down the corners; there's a lot of product and tables and signage — you get the picture. Coming to sell wares at the market means a lot of hard work, and logistics to figure out every week. And I'm not even picking tomatoes at 3 in the morning or hauling crates of fragile produce!
So based on my experiences at the market, I've come up with a few tips on things you should avoid doing that will — I promise — make your farmers market vendor love you forever.
5 Things Not to Say (or Do) at the Farmers Market
1. Eat Samples for Lunch
Samples are an inevitable (and fun!) part of any farmers market. They're part of the customer experience and, as a vendor, a necessary part of selling your product. Customers have to taste what you're selling to see if they like it and care to purchase your product. But if you make a slightly higher-end handmade product like we do (and like most vendors at the market), samples aren't free for us. Frankly, most would agree that it's rude to stand and sample everything if you have no intention of purchasing something that day ... or at some point in the future.
It's certainly one thing if you don't care for anything you've tried, but we definitely have customers who stop by to stock up for a mini breakfast, which really is disrespectful to the makers and producers.
2. Ignore the Etiquette for Trash
One thing most shoppers don't know is that vendors have to pack out their trash (Translation: I put our trash can in my little VW Rabbit and unload it in our own personal trash can at home). So granola sample cups are cool and what that little trash can is meant for. The occasional empty coffee cup? Cool. But your leftover corn dogs, pizza crusts, drippy snow cones and reject quesadillas? Not cool.
There are always large, municipal trash cans at any well-organized farmers market, and all vendors would appreciate it if you used that instead of their small cans for your non-sample trash.
3. Let Your Super-Cute Dog Near the Food
It's just not sanitary to have dog paws up on tables that are serving food. For some reason, many customers think this is just the cutest thing, but as a vendor we often have to throw away any loose product that was in close contact with your pets.
4. Try to Haggle Over Price
This could just be my experience in Seattle (and, previously, I did San Francisco markets), but most prepared food vendors don't lower the price as the market nears an end.
Farmers or florists might because their product is perishable, but anyone selling food products that aren't immediately perishable and that they can sell again next week (jam, hot sauce, beer, granola) really aren't going to be open to this suggestion.
5. Ask, Where Can I Find Your Product?
I love educating customers about our product — from what is in our granola, to how we make it, to how we got started. It's all fair game at the market. But nothing drives me crazier than customers who say how much they love the product after trying it and ask where they can buy it in Seattle. We're sold at a bunch of stores around town, but it is generally cheaper to buy it right from the producer, so it takes everything I have to not exclaim each time: You Can Buy It Right Here! Right Now!
→ Put your farmers market bounty to use: 10 Meals Straight from the Farmers Market
A Happy Farmers Market — For All of Us!
I'd like to reiterate how 95% of the time the markets truly are wonderful and the customers are amazing. It's absolutely not my intention to come off as ungrateful in this post — because I'm really not. I appreciate the opportunity to come out and talk with you all each week, and am truly humbled to think about how much of our granola graces our city's breakfast tables each morning.
My intention, instead, is to shed light on little behaviors that are probably driving farmers market vendors crazy so that you're aware of and try to avoid doing them. This way, the market experience is happier for all of us — and who doesn't want that?
(Image credits: Steve Pepple/Shutterstock; Megan Gordon)