What Makes a Market Vendor?

Posted by Jessica Duncan on

We’re deep into market season, and I’ve spent the past twelve weeks schlepping tents and tables and tonnes of granola to and from farmers’ markets several times a week. It’s about this time every summer when I start to fantasize about a desk job that pays a regular wage and where I could sit for extended periods of time. Every July, like clockwork, I ask myself what the hell was I thinking starting a granola business. But, here I am, a long-time market vendor, selling my hand-crafted wares to both the unsuspecting public and loyal fans, and I also think to myself, life could be worse.

What does it take to become a vendor at a farmers’ market? I’m not talking about finding the application on line, completing it, losing it somewhere in the ethers, completing it again, and sending it off to the market committee. I’m talking about what piece of the human psyche inspires someone to spend huge chunks of one’s life creating things and selling them to the public.

It starts with a creative interest. Over time, as you perfect your skills, the interest develops into a passion, maybe even an obsession. Whether you are throwing pots or soldering silver, baking bread or growing vegetables, knitting, crocheting or sewing, painting pictures or snapping photos, you eventually find yourself buried in the fruits of your labour. You share your creations with your family and friends, and their friends. Everyone agrees you’ve got a talent. You’re a genius. “You should be selling this stuff!” they exclaim. Et voila! The seed is planted, and there’s no turning back. That one enthusiastic statement turns your hobby into an entrepreneurial venture.

But it takes more than passion and talent to become a market vendor. Taking that next step requires vision, planning and a willingness to take risks. Making or growing beautiful or delicious wares is one thing. Having what it takes to sell them is a whole other ball game. Vendors need to be able to share their passion with members of the public. Vendors need to be able to put a price on their creations and then convince the customer that it is worthy of their money. Vendors need to also be able to withstand the inevitable criticism that is occasionally thrown at them. Vendors need to be so committed to selling their wares that, after spending their weekdays producing, rain or shine, they schlep everything to the market, hoping to head home with a lighter load.

They say that entrepreneurs create new items to solve problems. I created Singing Bowl Granola to deal with the problem of overly-sweetened, highly processed breakfast cereals (and the problem of how to earn some cash while caring for aging parents and young children). The rows of farmers selling fresh produce at your local market are clearly helping you to reduce your food miles and eat produce that has been ethically grown and harvested. The myriad of artisans bring beauty, and often function into your life. The market butcher allows you to eat that was not raised and killed in a horrific industry that is bad for both animal and eater. The flower vendors bring smiles while providing food for bees. The entire collection of vendors together create the invaluable commodity of community.

Sign welcoming visitors James Bay Market in Victoria BC

It’s mid-July and we are deep into farmers’ market season. Do you have a favourite market you visit every week, or do you like to mix it up? Maybe you just visit a market occasionally, or maybe you’re like my sister where it is part of her weekly routine. Do you go armed with reusable bags, and ready for conversation with the vendors, or do you go to listen to the music and grab a bite to eat? Whatever your farmers’ market habit looks like, next time you go, maybe take the time to chat with some of the vendors to learn their stories. It is incredible how many friendships are born from these interactions between customer and creator.  

It’s mid-July and we are deep into farmers’ market season. And, for the first time in seven years, I am not dreaming of a desk job, but happily looking forward to every market when I will get a chance to catch up with so many lovely, loyal customers, meet new ones, and share space with my fellow vendors.

Jessica at a farmers' market

Me in my happy place, selling Singing Bowl Granola!

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