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    How to start selling at a farmers’ or holiday market

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    Local markets are filled with handmade soaps and delicious pies. Among the many types, farmers’ and holiday markets tend to be the most popular. They’re quite different in nature — farmers’ markets are around every weekend during the sunny weather, while holiday markets come once a year when it snows. But there are a lot of similarities as well.

    This article discusses how you can go about selling at a farmers’ or holiday market. It highlights challenges such as obtaining permits, finding a market that fits your product, marketing, and purchasing the right insurance.

    Consider provincial and municipal permits

    Every business requires legal work and permits. Selling fruits and vegetables at the local market may seem simple enough, but provinces and cities widely regulate farmers’ and holiday markets, primarily if your stall sells food.

    Although it might seem like red tape, these regulations prevent food poisoning and other injuries. Or they may promote provincial goals. Every city and province has different rules. In Vancouver, Farmers’ markets require vendors only to sell products “grown, raised, or harvested in B.C.” It’s further recommended that vendors take the MarketSafe food safety training program. In Alberta, any vendors selling food at a public market must have a Food Handling Permit.

    You should also consider the regulations of individual events. Often, holiday markets only allow the sale of certain products that fit into their market themes, such as gingerbread houses or waffles.

    Find an event with a good fit for your product 

    You can’t just walk into any market and expect to make a profit. Some products may work at a holiday market but not at a farmers’ or Asian night market. If you’re in the middle of summer, hot chocolate might not be the best product for a farmers’ market stall. But it would be terrific for an event in the middle of winter!

    You should further find out which other vendors are attending. Pies would be great for a farmers’ market, but if there are already four pie vendors at a particular event, you may want to pass on it this time.

    Let customers know where you are 

    Not only do you need a good location, but you should market yourself as well. If this isn’t your first market, you likely have fans waiting for their next chance to try your products. That’s why it’s essential to connect with customers through social media or emails at every opportunity.

    You can initiate this in many ways. It may be simply asking customers to leave their email for your emailing list or having them follow you on social media. You could even incentivize them to do this with a small discount or a treat.

    Purchase the right business insurance

    Whether you’re at a farmers’ market, night market, or holiday market, there remain risks to selling products at a stall. Someone on your team may misstep and cause you to sell food that leads to food poisoning. Or, a customer might slip and injure themselves while viewing your products. In each of these situations, you may be financially liable for someone’s injuries. The right insurance policy can ensure you won’t have to pay legal fees or damage awards out of pocket if a claim arises.

    Additionally, some events may require you to have insurance ready. The fact that you’re insured protects the market organizers because plaintiffs won’t automatically turn to the organizers when there’s a reason to commence a lawsuit. Plaintiffs can look to you, or specifically, your insurance company, for compensation instead.

    Ultimately, having insurance for your vending stall brings peace of mind. You can focus on meeting new customers and selling your unique products without worrying that legal proceedings could ruin your business.

    Local markets are a great way to reveal your products to more people. But it’s essential to take steps to ensure the success of your stall. Not only does this mean understanding provincial and the market’s regulations, but also marketing your business and purchasing the proper insurance.

    Originally published November 2, 2021, updated August 25, 2023

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