Selling at Farmers Markets During a Pandemic: Our Experience

2020. What a strange time to be alive! Everyone knows the details by now (mainstream media continues to talk about all things Covid-19 24/7), but I wanted to share a quick bit about how we managed to move through our self-isolation and into a place where we were comfortable interacting with the general public while selling at local farmers markets.

Back in March life was still pretty normal and the main concern on the homestead was that maple syrup season was coming to an end! Little did we know what was ahead!

At the end of March we could see the writing on the wall; the virus was going to hit the US hard and we did our best to prepare. K already works from home so that helped, but I worked in a manufacturing plant with limited work-from-home infrastructure. I did what I could working from home, but after only a week of that I was furloughed with no definitive return date. After getting over the initial anxiety of potentially losing my job, I began to realize that this was a great opportunity to keep our family safe and isolate as much as possible in the heat of the virus!

From the end of March until the middle of June I had only been in 2 buildings that weren’t our own home.

We isolated with the best of them! From the end of March until the middle of June I had only been in 2 buildings that weren’t our own home. Staying free of the virus kept options open for child care if and when I returned to work so it was imperative to always be cautious which is where interacting with the public becomes quite tricky! You see, all of that maple syrup that we made this year normally is pretty easy to sell as we have lots of friends from up and down the east coast that love to support our project. All of the events that we could have seen everyone were cancelled and we weren’t going to them by choice anyway so we were sitting on about 20 gallons of syrup with no retail outlet. Cue the Enfield Regional Farmers Market.

We got lots of projects knocked off of the list during my furlough including building the ducks a brand new pond!

It was now mid-August; I had gotten the call that I was to return to work in the office. For better or worse, our isolation was over and we were exposed to more people everyday. As much as we weren’t happy about it, being back out in the world showed us that most people do respect “social distancing” and mask wearing so when we heard about the farmers market in Enfield moving from its traditional weekday schedule to being held on Sundays we decided to go check it out.

First thing we did was go to the market as customers. We wanted to see how the crowds were managed and if we felt comfortable in the scenario. The market is held on the town green so there was plenty of space and at no point were there crowds of people. That trip gave us the courage to sign up to be a vendor and we began a mad dash to get things ready in less than a week!

We’ve never sold at a farmers market before and we have a specific “aesthetic” that we like to maintain so purchasing signage and packaging would have been very expensive and the shipping would have been too slow so we wound up making our own chalkboard signs, designing and printing all of our labeling, and even came up with some new products to sell! It was a crazy week, but we managed to get everything finished and crossed our fingers that market day went well and we were still comfortable in the situation.

Our market booth on the first day that we were a vendor. Note that there is ample space between our booth and anyone to the sides of us.

Again, we were pleasantly surprised that everyone was super respectful of distancing and mask wearing which allowed us to enjoy the day interacting with all of the new customers that stopped by our booth! Sales were very promising and that trend has continued each week since! Interacting with customers is definitely more difficult since we have lost the visual cues that are covered by masks, but to me it feels like everyone that we’ve interacted with acknowledges that communication is more difficult now and takes a little bit more time before getting frustrated or annoyed.

Masks on and ready to “do battle”!

Keeping things clean has always been key in sales, but now that is even more important. Luckily, our products aren’t really things that need “inspecting” so there is limited touching from the public. Where we are most exposed is in the transfer of funds after a sale is made. Cash is super dirty and with more emphasis on viral and bacterial transfer on items lately we have made it a habit to use a quality hand sanitizer after we touch any money or customer’s credit cards. Once we get back home we can do a thorough hand washing, but at the market we feel that we are doing the best that we can and are comfortable with the risk.

Today was our fourth week at the market and it continues to be well-run and we are happy with the choice we made to utilize this market in particular as our sales avenue this year. We are developing more products and repeat customers so we are extremely hopeful that society can pull together and knock this virus out once and for all such that we can get back to doing more of the things that we have missed out on during this year!

One of the chalkboard signs that we made to share our specials and items of interest for the day!

I’m pretty sure this post was a bit rambling and lacked clear direction at times, but that just seems to be the way the world is right now so thank you for sticking with me through this! We feel like we are finally finding some sort of “groove” now so look forward to more posts and updates from the homestead!

If you are in the area, be sure to check out the Enfield Regional Farmers Market which takes place every Sunday from 10am to 1pm and runs through September 27!

Jonathan Sawn
Jonathan Sawn

If there is a way to automate, streamline, or perhaps even over-complicate a simple system, this is your guy! Jonathan is thrilled to share his first-hand experiences and knowledge from our homesteading experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *