Market sales reported to drop at end of season

Aug 27, 2007
Posted by: Small Farm Central

On the market-farming e-mail list, farmer's market sellers have reported a drop in sales around mid-August and extending to the rest of the year. This is something I have noticed in my farmer's market experience, but I thought it was just an anomaly of the market or the area.

 

From my reading I noticed the following facts shining through the emails:

  • Market sales are often highest in the month of June.
  • "A lot of folks have a small garden or container garden at home, and now is the time that their two or three tomato plants, squash, peppers, etc. are actually starting to produce, so they don't need as many veggies from the market. " -DeBerry Farm. Oakland MD
  • School starts around this time and people don't have as much time to come to markets.
  • "Local gardeners clandestinely and anonymously leaving vegetables in cars
    and on doorsteps of non-gardeners." - Debbie in west central Ohio
  • There are a lot of local exceptions to the rules above.

There is a ray of hope for market farmers, though - from sora at coldreams.com:

"As a market manager...over the years we also saw a regular drop off in over all sales at the market this time of year. We decided to do something about it and started to schedule "events" to draw folk in. And yes indeed, it works! Today we did a Green Festival, with music and all sorts of alternative energy folk, and, key factor, lots of advertisement, radio, paper, flyers etc.

In 2 weeks we have our Garlic Festival and then for the end of the market the Harvest Festival. It makes all the difference in the world and keeps us viable through the end of the season. We had so much luck with it that we added an indoor Holiday Market the weekend before Thanksgiving that most of the vendors consider their best."

I am not sure what we should take from these observations. It certainly sounds like some farmers are planting for this seasonal decline, but often August and September are the most productive months for the fruiting crops and it seems a shame to not get those potential crops in to the hands of the eaters.

Is this the time of year to focus on value-added production instead of market sales? It sure would be nice to have some salsas, jams, and other products to bring to that first market in the Spring when everyone is so hungry for the local food. This also makes a case for CSA or subscription models where your sales are guaranteed throughout the year and "market-fatigue" can't come into play.

I really like the suggestions of "sora at coldreams.com" who focuses her marketing effort in the late summer when sales start to get sluggish instead of in June when sales are so good. Perhaps, a really good internet campaign could keep customers interested in your goods -- collect email address during May, June, and July and when your sales start to drop, send weekly emails talking up all the new products you will have available in the late summer and early fall. Maybe you can get some customers to the market who have never tried your yellow-fleshed watermelon. If you are a vegetable producer, many of your customers probably don't know that there is another whole season of cold-weather vegetables coming in September, October, and November. This is when an email connection to your customers can really shine.

Have you noticed a drop in your sales during these months? Are there any measures that you have taken to stop this change?

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