Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Farmers Market Secrets

While I'm sure many of you, faithful readers, are likewise faithful farmers market attendees, there may be a few things that you did not know about these markets. I'm talking about fundamental economic underpinnings here, people. More specifically, these are rules that anyone who works at a farmers market does - or should - know.

Rule # 1: The Last Item Never Sells

If 19 of your 20 pints of strawberries sold in the first half hour of market, that last little pint will sit there, forlorn and alone and depressed, until the end of time. It may sound counter-intuitive, but it's true. One might assume that, if there is only one left, the product must be delicious and deserving of purchase... but apparently consumers have a deep-seated aversion to taking the last of anything. Whether that is due to the fact that our mothers admonished us for taking the last piece of cake throughout childhood, or because we assume there must be something wrong with the last piece, I don't know, but whatever it is must be deeply rooted in our subconscious.

In fact, this rule is so true that I know farmers who purposefully pack far more product than they can sell, just so they can keep a fully stocked display. It looks nice, and apparently that appeals in some meaningful way to our psyches.

Rule #2: Customers Never Read Signs

You might think that you're saving yourself a little work by putting up signs describing products, their uses, even their prices... but I am here to tell you that you are WRONG. Customers do not - repeat, do not - read signs.

I tested this theory last week. At the dairy, we make a product called quark - it's a traditional German cheese made from yogurt, and it says so on the handy-dandy little sign that we put next to it. Well, darned if everyone doesn't ask the same thing: "What is quark?" So I posted the sign directly above the sample of the quark. You know, where you absolutely cannot miss it if you try.

By my estimate, I received exactly the same number of "What is quark?" inquiries that I would have otherwise, minus one lady who smacked her husband and pointed at the sign when he asked. Thank you, anonymous lady. You are amazing.

Rule #3: Actually, People Are Just Not Very Observant In General

Lest anyone think I am hating on people who attend farmers markets, let me just say that I am as guilty of this as anybody. A few weeks ago, I went to see a movie*, and could not find napkins for the life of me. Finally I asked the girl who had just sold me popcorn. Turns out they were mounted on the wall, exactly at eye level, right above the counter where I had been looking. I hang my head in shame.

That being said, there's a big difference between not being able to find napkins, and sticking your finger in the yogurt sample that it sitting out so people can help themselves, because you apparently did not notice that there was no lid. Which not one, but four - four - people did on my watch. And that is just sad.

This all being said, I should say that farmers markets are one of my favorite parts of farm life. I love getting to know the regulars and the fellow farmers, I love all the delicious produce that I get to trade for behind the scenes, and I love belonging to and participating in a community that cares about where its food originates.

*The Avengers. It was awesome.

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