Happy Trails Farms had a great season at our local farmers’ market last year!  However, being new to flower farming, going into our fourth year has involved a gigantic learning curve! We discovered many great new ideas that in turn, enhanced not only sales, but our entire marketing experience. Hopefully the ideas shared in this column will be beneficial not only to the novice, but to the veteran farmer as well.

Information that we have gleaned the past season or so includes the importance of booth organization, use of proper containers, tips on attracting customers, bouquet presentation, and several different electronic/media ideas.  If only one useful tip is adopted by the reader, I will feel I have attained my goal by sharing the following ideas.

Booth Organization.  Our booth is set up with a center aisle and tables along both sides. Not only does this allow customers to walk into the booth to shop, but provides protection from the weather as they do. Another element to organization involves appearance. We were lucky to have a seamstress sew table covers that are seamed at the corners as well as the edges, making them fit like a glove. Since the covers go to the ground, this allows storage space underneath, thus preventing clutter.

Proper Containers.  I cannot stress how important this is! If you use five-gallon buckets, they will have much more “eye appeal” if they are covered with fabric or paint. During our first year at market we used buckets from a local bakery. Looking closely at these buckets we found there was an image of a choking baby along with the warning, “choking hazard”!  This is NOT the image you want associated with beautiful flowers! After searching for a proper container, we discovered that maple syrup cans work great. Sources for the cans may be found on the internet, as we got ours from Ebay. Finally, have little chalk boards hanging off the side of your containers to identify flowers and prices.

Flower Attraction.  While all of the above will help attract customers to your both, the MAIN attraction will be the flowers themselves. Ironically, people are drawn to funny and unusual flowers. Case in point being that we set up a display with various cockscomb.  Some were the huge crested ones while others were the smaller crested celosias, with the Bombay fan style being the final display. We erected a large sign out front that said, “Brains for Sale” and labeled the varieties as such:  “Brainiacs”, “Half a Brain” and “Scatter Brain”.  It drew a lot of folks into our booth and generated a lot of frivolity, photos and most of all, sales. Another good draw is the hanging amaranth, a.k.a. “dreadlocks”. We encouraged customers to feel them, which created a lot of banter, and besides, they just looked cool!  During autumn pumpkin-on-a-stick is a great crowd pleaser, so for us this is a MUST for eliciting attention to the Happy Trails booth.

One of the most important aspects of flower attraction of course, is the scent.  People naturally want to sniff the wonderful fragrances given off by the tuberose, oriental lily, cinnamon basil and ‘Purple Majesty’ millet. Always make these readily accessible by placing them prominently in your booth.

Good Public Relations.   Provide “dog water” at the market. Many customers bring their dogs and will naturally gravitate to or even seek out water sources for their furry companions. During the hotter months it is good to freeze a big pan of water. Dogs, as well as their appreciative owners, love it! As their pooch quenches his thirst, owners have the opportunity to look at your flowers while waiting. This is an excellent return on your tap water considering that most of these people will buy your flowers! It pays to always keep your eyes open for good PR opportunities!

Bouquets.  These are a must at the farmers’ market. The appearance of your blooms is very important. Considering companies spend large amounts of money on their packaging, this point is very important and it does make a difference. Happy Trails Farm sells bouquets in a couple of different sizes and in containers. We recycle tin cans with paint and a personal label such as “Can-O-Sunshine”.  Small, inexpensive arrangements are placed in cola bottles and are called “Little Swigs”. Customers just love these! Wrapped bouquets are also popular. Colored and pre-cut kraft paper from A-Roo (a-roo.com) is my favorite. The difference in the appeal of wrapped and unwrapped bouquets is something akin to a framed photo opposed to an unframed one. HUGE difference! Of course our label is adhered to the paper insuring that happy customers will look us up in the future!

Electronics and Media.  It is important to take advantage of all the benefits afforded by smart phones and personal computers. A most helpful tool using these forms of communications is the e-newslettter. Open a MailChimp account (it’s free) and send out a newsletter informing your readers as to where and when you will be at market, what’s on special, etc. (mailchimp.com). Customers sign up at our booth giving us easy access to an e-newsletter reader base. I try to send out a newsletter at least once a month and additionally if we are having a special or sale. Also, if you are not currently taking credit cards, make the leap next season for it will be well worth it! Many people carry very little cash these days, depending on the use of credit and/or debit cards. Several companies offer apps for smart phones making the use of credit card sales very simple and inexpensive. Look into apps such as Square, Intuit and Paypal for a possible plan. The fees are usually reasonable and the apps are user friendly. You will discover that the availability of credit/debit card use will generate many sales that you would otherwise miss.

In closing, we at Happy Trails Farm hope you will find the aforementioned information insightful as well as helpful. In the future, we would love to hear how these tips may have helped you put some money in your pockets, as well as sharing a few good ideas of your own!

Tanis Clifton

Happy Trails Flower Farm

Tanis Clifton Happy Trails Flower Farm Contact at [email protected]