Where is my favorite vendor?

It’s market day. You get out of bed and get to market early to be guaranteed first pick of everything only to arrive and find your favorite vendor MIA.

Annoyed? Yes, but it happens.

Debbie Moser, co-founder of Central Farm Markets explained that this year has been an especially difficult year for vendors due to the weather. “When it rains all the markets have less foot traffic, meaning lower sales. Some vendors choose not to come when the weather is too wet due to decreased sales or possible damage to their products.” From a management standpoint, this is frustrating because the same amount of time and resources is needed to put on the markets.

From a vendor perspective, a market absence often boils down to a financial decision.

Last January when customers complained about vendors not showing up on one of the coldest weeks of the year, this blog voiced the hurt many farmers felt over making the choice to protect their crops, infrastructure, products and themselves from single-digit temperatures. But it’s not winter…

There are many other reasons your favorite vendor might not be at market for a week or be gone for good.

Most vendors who have planned absences will alert their customers the previous week as well as through their social media. Prepared food vendors, especially ones with catering services, will sometimes trade out a market for a private event.

“I love all the market vendors and customers, but occasionally a special event wins out especially if it is more profitable and less stressful. It just makes good economic sense for me,” explained Josh Anson, owner of Cipolla Rossa Pizzeria.

Similarly, Janet Cherchuck, owner of Floradise Orchids has lamented being unable to attend market regularly as the temperatures drop. “We can’t have the orchids exposed to temperatures less than fifty degrees for any length of time or it will kill the buds,” she explained, “We don’t want to disappoint our customers with damaged orchids.” Floradise has experimented with ways to take orchids to market during colder weather but found that the fumes from propane heater (which many vendors use) kill the orchid flowers. “We’re taking it on a week-by-week basis, but the weather hasn’t been too cooperative.”

Inevitably, there are also unannounced absences. Vendors have unexpectedly skipped markets due to automotive troubles and illness. No one wants to break down or get sick, but it happens.

Sometimes vendors disappear for good. The two most common reasons are the business outgrows the weekly market model for a brick-and-mortar location and due to lack of help.

Farmers markets serve as incubators allowing businesses to cultivate a following in specific geographic locations before taking a permanent plunge. Products can be tested, tweaked and perfected prior to going into a larger commercial production without a big overhead and less risk.

Many of the vendors participate in multiple markets on the same day. Having reliable help is critical. When a vendor struggles to maintain employees they usually disappear from the market.

It doesn’t happen often, but occasionally vendors get tossed from a market for failing to follow the rules or unacceptable behavior.

Even beloved successful vendors hang up market life. To this day customers still ask about Culinary Nomad. We all miss Valerie’s Hot Mess, but she put it best. “I am a wife, a mother and a food truck owner. I wanted to have another child and knew I couldn’t do all three at once to the best of my ability. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be my family.”

As the regular season wanes along with decreasing temperatures, customers will begin to encounter fewer vendors at the markets. Farms that grow field crops will be gone by the end of the regular season in December. The Saturday (Pike and Westfield) markets close on November 17th until next spring.

The winter season is not far off now, beginning on January 6. The best way find out if your favorite vendors will be attending market on any particular week is to subscribe to the Central Farm Markets’ weekly eBlast newsletter which lists what vendors have committed that week to attending.

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