This year, we participated in five main-season markets and a winter market—we will likely be part of two winter markets for the holiday season at least.

In our area, farmers’ markets have had a huge boom, and the flip side is that there are almost too many. A Saturday market started up at a garden center, for instance, even though there are two farmers’ markets within about five miles of the garden center. In the Newport area, we’ve gone from two per week to four, and that in a year when Newport is significantly less busy. Does this really hurt the main markets? Not too much, so far.
I think the markets I’ve chosen are on the best locations and days for flower purchases.

Frequently, your fellow farmers are your best source of information about whether a market is worth your time. I try to visit the market myself, but getting the opinion of my friends in the veggie and fruit worlds makes all the difference. We have a list of criteria for choosing a market:
•    Is it an established market that has room for a flower grower (or another flower grower?)
•    Is it in a high-traffic location, but not just people rushing past?
•    Is there enough real buying at the market, and it’s not just a social scene?
•    Is the market well run, and do farmers have a say in the market operation?

In addition to the good markets that we have been lucky enough to get into (some after three years of applying), we have each year tried out a new market or one with potential that isn’t a destination yet, especially if it is well run. We tried a Monday afternoon market this year in an affluent town that has great fellow vendors and an enthusiastic market manager, for example. Even her efforts didn’t make Monday a great day for folks to buy flowers, however, and we won’t be returning next year.

For us, a market needs to be financially sound on its own, but we also use the farmers’ market as a platform to promote our events and other parts of our business, such as plant and holiday sales. We have no farm stand, so this is our main interaction with the public. Every market display is as pretty as we can make it, and a small “We Do Events” works wonders at making our initial contact. I also use the farmers’ market as a place to build our email list, which then gives me a wonderful off-season way to keep Robin Hollow Farm in my customers’ minds. I also give a couple of “mention this email” specials each summer, just to see the response. It’s cheaper than regular advertising, and folks like being ‘special’.

Personal update: As of late August this year, my husband and I are finally farming full-time together again. He went forth and worked “out” while we capitalized our move to the new farm, and we are overjoyed to have him around more often. Wish us luck!

Polly Hutchison

Polly Hutchison Robin Hollow Farm [email protected]