Throughout the year in many different state-wide locations, ASAP and RAFI-USA (Rural Advancement Foundation International) will facilitate “Making the Most of your Market” workshops. These workshops are a part of a new initiative, Connect2Direct, created by partners ASAP and RAFI-USA in order to support the development of farmers tailgate markets in North Carolina. Lauren Hoffman, a communications intern for ASAP, wrote this first-hand account of a workshop held in West Jefferson, NC.
Engage. This was the last word from Mike McCreary, ASAP’s Program Coordinator and Asheville City Market Manager, during his workshop, Making the Most of your Market. “If you come away with nothing else,” he emphasized, “engage your customers and adapt yourself to their needs and you will develop a loyal customer base for your farm or your farmers market.”
The most recent workshop was held in West Jefferson which is located in Western North Carolina’s High Country; a region chock-full of local farmers and farmers markets. The High Country has poultry farming, several large commercial apple and peach orchards, timber and wood products, and a growing agricultural sector of vegetables and fruit. There were twenty-eight participants at the workshop which represented 10 different farmers markets in the surrounding area.
Mike focused on strategies to enhance at-market sales by increasing sales to existing customers, improving customer retention, and expanding the customer base.
One participant commented, “The ‘increasing-your-sales’ information will help our vendors become more friendly with customers thus strengthening their sales. I will share this with our market manager, our board of directors and our vendors!”
The workshop also provided a guide to SNAP/EBT at farmers markets in North Carolina. Participants walked away with a handbook which described in more detail the topics of the workshop with supplemental resources. A post workshop survey revealed that eighty-eight percent of the participants feel that they better understand how to implement and manage EBT because of the workshop.
The workshop participants also collaborated on specific ways to meet the needs of their customers. The group suggested ideas for one market manager about how to reward her loyal, weekly shoppers. Another farmer was encouraged to display her flowers with a new, eye-catching method. All participants were encouraged to develop a relationship with customers on an individual basis, as Mike had discovered as manager of the Asheville City Market, word-of-mouth is the best advertising.
One participant remarked after the workshop, “The presentation was concise, humorous, informative, and had great resource materials. Thank you!”
Interested in joining ASAP and RAFI-USA for a Making the Most of your Market workshop? Take a look at our upcoming workshops or register for ASAP’s 2015 Business of Farming Conference on Friday and Saturday, February 13-14, 2015.
Tags:Asheville City Market, Connect2Direct, farmers markets, Making the Most of your Market, RAFI-USA, SNAP/EBT, workshops