As farmers and artisan producers, we’re pretty easy-going people, but sometimes there are things people say at the market which, as field-to-fork producers, makes us want to tear our hair out. Mostly, we hear these comments from casual and first time visitors, who come to the market with misconceptions about how farmers’ markets work. If you’re thinking of visiting a farmers’ market for the first time, try to bear in mind some of these rookie mistakes.
I’ll Come Back Later
You’ve tried a sample of a stall holder’s produce, and it’s really delicious. Often it will be of better quality and taste to the mass-produced equivalent you’d find in a supermarket. So go ahead and buy it. Seriously.
It’s frustrating and disappointing for a producer to hear you singing praises about their goods, then add. ‘I’ll get some next week/month/Christmas/Easter.’
It’s a tough time to be in business, especially for small businesses such as you’d find at a farmers’ market. If you don’t support them, or any producer whose goods you enjoy, right now, they might not still be here next week/ month/Christmas/Easter.’
Can You Put This Back For Me?
Most producers are happy to put the item you’ve purchased from them behind their tables now and again, while you carry on doing the rest of your shopping. However, we will not generally put an unpurchased item back for you.
Look at it from our point of view. If we take that item off our stall for you, we can’t then sell it to someone else who’s ready to pay for it immediately. After all, what guarantee do we have that you’ll actually come back to buy it? Indeed, what incentive do you have to walk all the way back to us once you’ve got to the other end of the market?
So by all means ask us to look after an item you’ve bought until you’re ready to leave the market, but please don’t expect us to reserve an unpaid-for item.
If I Buy Two/Three, Can I Get a Discount?
Ask yourself if you would realistically walk into a supermarket and ask for a discount on the three bags of carrots you have in your trolley. If there’s a special offer running on carrots, then of course you’d get a reduced price. If not, you’d properly expect to pay the full price.
It’s the same at a farmers’ market.
Some stallholders run promotions, where if you buy more than one item, you get them at a discount. These promotions are carefully-thought out, and are clearly advertised on our stalls.
Our produce is highly labour-intensive – made, picked and reared by hand – and our profit margins are small. This means special offers, and even small discounts, can involve making a loss on what we’re selling. If there is no special offer on, please don’t ask for a reduction in price, even if you’re buying several of the same thing.
Don’t Try to Haggle
It’s embarrasing. For both of us.
Haggling is not usually done in the UK. Except maybe when buying second hand goods.
Please don’t try to haggle at a farmers’ market. Most of our customers wouldn’t even dream of it, but there are the odd few who try.
We don’t buy in the things you see on our stall. We’ve produced them from start to finish. For each of our products we have to calculate how much it costs us to make: raw materials, feed or fertiliser, labour, transport, packaging – everything, in fact – to produce it. Then we set the price, keeping the profit margin as low as possible in order to stay competitive. So not only is haggling culturally not practiced, it’s not practical if a farmer plans to stay in business.
Don’t Ask For a Reduction at the End of Trading
It’s the end of the day. The farmer or producer is packing down their stall, but you can see they have a few items left over.
They’ll want to get rid of it at a discounted price, right? Not necessarily.
Many of our stallholders have other markets to go to within a day or two of Taunton Farmers’ Market. This left over produce will stay fresh for several days, meat in vacuum packs for a couple of weeks, and cheeses for months. For producers selling items like jams, drinks and sauces, these keep for even longer than this. So, no, they don’t want to get rid of it. It can be sold elsewhere at full price.
There’s also a good reason why things like fresh-baked goods are not discounted.
If we gave discounts at the end of the market, people would simply wait till the last ten minutes to shop. This is unfair for other customers who paid the normal price. They’d be annoyed to learn they got charged more for showing up on time.
In order to stay in business year after year, farmers must get the price they ask for.
Things Not to Do
Many stalls offer tasters, so their customers can try what they’re selling and discover if they like it or not. This is offered with no obligation to purchase, but the hope is that you’ll enjoy it enough to buy some.
The vast majority of customers respect this as a courtesy and do not abuse it. There are a few, however, who will come back week after week, trying the same samples but never buying the product. Presumably they like it, or they wouldn’t keep coming back. Please remember to buy from us now and again.
We also see people who stroll by grabbing fistfuls of samples without any intention of stopping. Please don’t be that person. Those samples cost us money, and the intention is that several potential customers, not just one or two, will have the opportunity to try before they buy. A farmers’ market is a place of business, not a venue for a free brunch.
We see quite a few dogs at the market, and we like to see them. Indeed, they like to see us, too, as they often get a tasty treat while their owners make their purchases. Of course, lots of things on our stalls smell extremely good to a dog, and it’s natural for them to want to investigate.
If you bring your dog to the market, please be aware that it might want to sniff at the stalls and even jump up to the tables. As businesses selling food to customers, we have to be conscious of the hygiene issues that raises. If your dog is big and boisterous enough to get up to or sniff the contents on (or under) a table, please keep it under control.
On another issue, please also keep an eye on it as you are walking with it through the market. Male dogs will cock their leg on anything, and there are tablecloths and A-boards at just the right height for a thorough spraying. Remember the stallholders who have to pack up those tablecloths and A-boards at the end of the day and manhandle them into their vans.
£50 Notes at the Start of Trading
In fact, we don’t see many £50’s. But you’d be surprised how many £20 notes we see first thing in the morning (thanks, ATM machine!), when our floats have just been unpacked and we don’t have a lot of change. This can make the start of trading difficult for a stallholder, as they then have to scratch around for change for the next customer.
If you possibly can, please pay with smaller notes or the correct change early in the day. It helps us enormously.
Visit Us Regularly
Like any other kind of business, we rely on customers coming regularly to buy from us. We cannot stay in business otherwise. Spending just £5 each week at the market can make a huge difference to us over time, and will help ensure that we are still here the next time you want fresh, locally-produced food.
Some of our traders have card machines, but most can only take cash. Please come expecting to pay for your purchases in cash.
Bring Shopping Bags
As people who work directly with the environment, we try to keep our carbon impact as low as possible. Where possible we use paper bags, but sometimes you might need something larger. Re-use old carrier bags, or bring along a cloth or hessian bag to carry your purchases home in.
Remember, we’re not like a general market which sells anything and everything, and whose sellers simply buy things in and add their cut. We have been responsible for the products we sell before they came into existence, and we’ve seen their growth and development right up to the point where you buy it from us. We are proud of what we’ve produced, and we think it deserves a little respect.