Farmers markets have become synonymous with easy access to locally grown, fresh produce for many consumers. But with farmers markets seemingly becoming the new buzzword in today’s green, environmentally-conscious society, one question still abounds; are these markets profitable?
Farmers markets are profitable because the vendors can set their prices, and there is no profit erosion by intermediaries. However, because there are so many sellers, it is essential to differentiate yourself by working on your people skills and making your stand more visually appealing.
In this article, I will provide helpful answers to questions related to this topic. These include why farmers markets are profitable, factors that may undermine profitability, and how you can increase your chances of success. Read on for more.
Why Farmers Markets Are Profitable
Farmers markets are profitable for several reasons. In this article, I will discuss several of these reasons, including the following:
- No middlemen
- Access to a large market
- Shared costs
- Control over prices
Let us discuss these reasons in detail below.
Farmers markets are profitable because they provide a direct marketing outlet for producers. This essentially means that this model cuts out the middlemen entirely. This way, the producers can sell their products directly to the consumers at higher prices.
The amount of profit that actually goes to the intermediaries – who essentially produce nothing – vis a vis what the farmers get for their products can be ridiculous, even perplexing. For instance, an article on VoxDev notes that margins for middlemen in West Bengal range from 28% to 38% of the wholesale price.
The researchers thus suggest that farmers in this region could make as much as 65% to 83% more in terms of profits – if they could sell directly to the farmers market. Before you dismiss this as something that only occurs in the third world regions of South Asia, consider the following.
A study by Nigerian researchers observed that middlemen get a significant share of the profits in the agricultural products’ value chain. This has two implications.
- It raises the buying price for the consumers.
- It cuts into the profits that farmers get for their produce.
As the researchers note, it is the middlemen who enjoy the real profits because they buy the produce from the middlemen at meager prices. These views are echoed by a similar study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
Access to a Ready Market
With more people adopting a more health-conscious approach to nutrition, many people are turning to farmers markets. The markets are lauded for having fresher, more nutritional produce when compared to supermarkets and stores.
Farmers markets are easily accessible to consumers compared to supermarkets – especially for low-income communities.
They are also especially popular for urban communities, who are drawn to them due to their high quality produce, oftentimes nutritionally superior (or seemingly), compared to produce sold in stores. This means that sellers in farmers markets usually have access to a ready market, especially in such communities.
These markets often sport a ‘from the farm straight to you’ vibe that is very appealing to those looking for the best possible produce. As explained in the Columbia Climate School, farmers markets have a ‘cult-like’ following, anchored on several prevailing attitudes in today’s health and environmentally conscious consumer. These include the following:
- Locally produced food is considered better for the environment.
- Fresh produce from farmers markets tastes better.
- Buying from the farmers market is promoting your own community.
- Farmers markets produce less plastic waste.
Farmers markets present a very fascinating business model. This is because in the farmers market model, the farmers – call them growers if you like – typically share costs associated with advertising, insurance, and marketing.
As a result, farmers markets will not only lower the costs for the individual vendors selling in such a market, but will also potentially boost their profits. Therefore, it is not surprising that the number of operating farmers markets in the United States is pretty high.
According to an article by the University of Maryland, these markets have been steadily growing since the early 1990s.
This was long before the green movement became a mainstream idea.
Control Over Prices
Vendors in farmers markets can set the prices for their produce. This is partly due to the lack of intermediary influence in the value chain and the collective nature of these markets.
Additionally, farmers can set their price when selling to the final consumer, a luxury that they do not have when selling to wholesalers, who typically set the prices at much lower rates.
According to the University of Maryland article, vendors can potentially make somewhere from 40 to 70 percent more by selling via the farmers markets as compared to selling to wholesalers.
It’s kind of like setting your own prices when selling cookies. Different products, same premise.
Why Farmers Markets May not be Profitable
Success in the farmers market is not guaranteed. According to an article on NPR, many farmers markets are failing, mainly because the market is saturated.
As the Columbia State University article notes, farmer’s markets are not a magical solution. It takes hard work to succeed in these markets. You need to invest considerable time and effort into growing your business to enjoy sustainable profits.
Before taking your chances in these markets, I suggest first setting your own personal goals and sticking by them.
Drivers for Success
Here are a few guidelines you can follow to increase your stand visibility and boost your chances of profitability in the somewhat saturated environment:
- Work on your personality. Success in this space requires good people skills, and if you can get people’s attention, the better. Better yet, make them laugh.
- Get a more prominent space: Despite sharing costs, you are competing with other farmers in these markets. By getting a bigger space, you not only make your stand more visible, but you also increase the chances of customers stopping by.
- Work on your display: With many sellers, you only have a short time to make an impression. Luckily, by having a neat setup or piles, or creating an eye-catching design or artwork, you can draw customers’ attention easily.
- Give fresh samples: Bring new customers on board by providing freebies.
- Cleanliness and fresh produce: Always keep your space clean and neat. A messy space can be a deal-breaker for most customers.
- Learn how to save: It is essential to learn how to save to make the most out of your business. To get you started, consider following these basics.
In closing, farmers markets are profitable since they cut out middlemen, give farmers more control over profit, and provide access to a large, usually loyal consumer base.
You too can make a killing by participating in these markets.
However, you can optimize your chances of making a profit by putting in the hard work, working on your people skills, and increasing the outlook of your display to attract visiting customers.