3 golden rules for getting started at a farmer’s market
Experienced stallholder Jono Walker shares his tips for beginners.
Words: Nadene Hall
It’s one thing to be a great grower or food producer. It’s quite another to be good at selling it at a market. “It’s almost like being on stage,” says Jono Walker of Soggy Bottom Farm. “It’s a performance, you’re performing for (customers).”
Jono and wife Sarah farm heritage breed pigs, sheep, and cattle on their Waikato block. They produce a range of home-grown, free-range meat products which they sell at the Hamilton and Cambridge markets.
1. Make sure you’re the right person to be selling
Some people are brilliant at producing a product but hopeless at selling it, says Jono, because they’re not natural salespeople. “Attitude is a major thing. You want somebody friendly and polite with good customer service. Maybe you should take somebody who is really good with people if you’re not.
“The reason a lot of people fail is they sit down behind their stall, cross their arms, and look like they’re not having fun. Why would customers stop there if you look
Jono’s customers know him for his banter. He says sometimes he might even seem to be a bit… rude. “I’m very cheeky with my customers! But most people seem to like the banter, they give it back, they take the piss mercilessly, and I really like that too. I think people do like a bit of cheek and a bit of humour.”
However, Jono warns, be careful how far you take things in terms of confidence. “Customers don’t like arrogance. Sellers standing there saying, ‘mine is the best there is, buy it’ – that never works.”
2. Connect with people
If you’re nervous or unsure, Jono recommends careful observation. “Pick up something about them, something they’re wearing or doing, get to know them, get them talking, learn about them. Learn their name, what they like, what foods they like, which one of your products they like. People love that, they really like the fact they’ve got this relationship with their producer.”
A good strategy is to try to learn the names of two or three customers each week. “Before you know it, you know 20 or 30 different names and that makes people
3. Stay positive
It’s important to be upbeat, says Jono. “Don’t ever bag the market or complain about anybody else’s stall.
“When it’s a rainy, wet, horrible day and people, say ‘oh, I feel sorry for you being out here,’ you’ve got to say something like, ‘oh, we’re fine, we’ve got extra coats on, everyone is having a great time today’.
“Be positive, be up.”
7 BASICS TO GET RIGHT
■ dress smart
■ wear a clean apron with your logo on it
■ always stand up
■ don’t look at your phone
■ put some effort into the stall – don’t take in tatty bins or an old or dirty plastic table
■ create a good-looking
display of your products
■ have good-quality signage that tells your product’s story
Jono and wife Sarah live on 24ha of hills and gullies at Ngaruawahia and farm up to 90 pigs and piglets. They run Soggy Bottom Holding, a butchery and kitchen producing fresh and cured meats, sausages, pies, and puddings which they sell at the Hamilton and Cambridge farmers’ markets.