Circle B Ranch didn’t spring to life overnight. John and I have worked hard—to build our name, our brand, and the products that we are proud of—one step at a time. When we first started out, we decided to begin by marketing our products at the farmers’ market. The market allowed us to deal directly with our customers and permitted us to personally promote our products in a way that suited our principles. We have always believed in being open and honest with our customers about our policies, and the farmers’ market is a great forum for producer-consumer relations. What better way is there to build your name or your brand than by proudly selling your product yourself and knowing that it has been honestly advertised?
When other producers ask me about getting started, I don’t mind telling them to begin their marketing process in the farmers’ market. Why do I openly suggest this?
- This type of marketing is the easiest, with a few caveats.
- This type of marketing helps you give back to your community.
First, you must find the right market for you. Pick a market that is right for your principles and your product. There are various types of farmers’ markets out there. Some require and verify certifications to make sure the producer is actually selling his or her own product, and some do not. Some markets focus solely on foodstuffs, and others may include vendors. Some markets are larger and run a longer span during the year; others are smaller and may be open only during the summer months.
Next, study the demographics. Does the market have a demand for your product? Is there a large customer base? This research is imperative; you don’t want to fail before you even get your venture started. The customer is the single entity who can make or break you since the customers’ needs will fuel your own and vice versa. Do your research before you apply and join a specific market.
Once you have found the right market for you, put the pen to the paper; get an application and fill it out. Some markets require a fee and some don’t. This is of course the easiest step in the process, but it is not to be overlooked.
Next comes the actual marketing, perhaps the hardest portion of the process. Label and advertise your product accordingly. Accurately portray your ingredients. Today’s consumers are becoming more concerned with knowledge about their food, and most of them want to know about any preservatives, chemicals, or absence of additives. If your product is truly organic, show it. If your meat is humanely raised and handled, put it in print. Don’t be afraid to show your certifications if you have them. Certifications assure the customer by backing up your word; they express your principles.
After you have accurately labeled your product, show up at the market and get ready to go to work. Neatly display your merchandise. A customer will be drawn to a farmer who neatly and creatively presents his wares. Be open to any and all queries about your product. Be willing to discuss any aspect of production and do so with pride. Sell at a price that is fair to both you and your patrons. Don’t undersell your product, but do right by your customers. No one wants to buy a product that is overpriced.
Lastly, don’t forget to give back to the community; the community gives to you by buying your products. Giving back to the community can be rewarding because it’s the right thing to do, and it also helps build your relationship with your customers. Farmers’ markets throughout the country support their local communities by supporting food assistance programs and aiding in times of disaster. For example, a farmers’ market based in Webb City donated produce to feed the tornado relief volunteers who assisted the city of Joplin after it was devastated by a tornado. The donation created 4,000 meals.
Beginning your marketing venture at the farmers’ market allows you to create something you can’t form anywhere else: personal, long-lasting relationships with your customers and your surrounding communities. Remember, neither John or I would suggest something that doesn’t work or that we haven’t already tried ourselves. That’s why Circle B Ranch fully endorses starting your marketing campaign at your local farmers’ market.