The Question of Sending a Worker to Market

At a certain stage of growth in our operations, it becomes apparent that we cannot do everything that needs doing all by ourselves. When this time arrives, we hire helpers to get things done in a more effective and timely manner, as well as to be able to simply do more overall. Hiring the right people to work with is a whole separate subject.

However, once you have good helpers on board you may realize that one place for them to help out is at market.

When you’ve finally got the production side of things well in hand, the marketing side may become the weakest link in your operation’s success. A good farm worker may—or may not!—be a good helper at market; it depends upon the person, upon how you integrate them into your marketing system, and what you expect of them.

  • Alone vs. as a market helper.
    Someone going to market instead of you can be a big boon to your marketing efforts, or it can turn out to be a flaw in your marketing scheme. It greatly depends on the person you send, and how well you have trained them in doing the market your way.
  • Training in “your system”.
    • Setup of display
    • Relationships with shoppers
    • Handling & recording cash
    • Familiarity with your products
    • Developing a feedback system to continue their on-the-job training
  • Loading, unloading & setting up vs. meeting you at market. (The whole experience vs just selling & restocking).
  • How does your market helper affect:
    • Your involvement in the market’s operation? Does your market helper understand how your farm fits into the market?
    • Your farm’s branding at market? Are they someone you are proud to have representing your farm?
    • Your sales at market? Do they bring home the bacon as well as you do? Better?
    • Shoppers perception of your operation? Are they at market regularly enough that shoppers recognize them after a while?
    • Your farm’s relationship with the other market members? YOU have certain relationships with the other market members; your helper will have different relationships with each of them. What is the effect of this?
  • Advantages (at market and on the farm) of having a farm hand also do market, as opposed to a worker only doing market and nothing else at your farm, or only working on the farm and never going to market.
  • Advantages/disadvantages of having a different personality at market than your own, either as a helper or solo. Their personality may complement yours; but may also clash with it while at market.
  • Keep an eye out for any of your farm workers who might like to go to market for you or with you. Understand that some great farm workers are not very good at market. Altho familiarity with your products and how they are produced is an invaluable asset at market, keep in mind that marketing requires a whole different skill set and personality traits than does on-farm work. For a farm worker, going to market may turn out to be a welcome change of pace, a broadening of experience, and a way to share with others what happens at the farm, giving them a whole added perspective on their farm work.

About Tom Roberts

When I started attending the Brewer Farmers’ Market back in August of 1983, my sole concern was being able to sell the produce my farm was growing at a good price. After attending market for a year or two, I began to realize that how the market was organized had a great impact on my sales. And how the market was organized also influenced how it made decisions about dues, new members, what could be sold at market, and how it promoted itself—and this, too, had an impact on my sales. So I got involved in the market’s steering committee and began to understand how various market members thought the market should operate. Some wanted a market czar, some wanted everyone to be allowed to do their own thing. But everyone seemed to agree that if the market as a whole did well, then so did they.