Monday, October 16, 2017

East Lansing Farmer's Market: Part II

The Wooden Shoe Herb Farm was still selling plants, even on October 15.

Wooden Shoe Herb Farm

The proprietor of the Wooden Shoe Herb Farm was charming and articulate.

Her signature products involve Lavender.  Much of what she grows is English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia).  English Lavender is the classic smell we associate with "Lavender".

She had about seven different Lavender cultivars for sale on her table.  I asked her for a recommendation.  She quizzed me a little bit to get a feel for my expertise as a gardener, my gardening site and how I intended to use the products.  Then she recommended "Phenomenal" Lavender.

Among the other wisdom she dispensed was that Farmer's markets are great places for people to test their entrepreneurial wings.  Many people are in love with the idea of owning and running a business.  Sometimes the reality comes as a surprise.  You have to wear a lot of hats when you run your own business.

A venue like a Farmer's market allows you to dip a toe into the water without being committed to a long-term lease of $6000 a month to rent  600 square feet of prime, mall location.

She also spoke to the necessity of having a presence on the internet.  I asked her if she meant "Social media" and, to my surprise, she said "No."

In her mind the problem with Social Media as a marketing tool is the lack of control.  Any random person can assassinate your business's reputation and it does not matter if their attacks are warranted or if they are motivated by politics, personal spite or unbalanced brain chemistry.

A major challenge of small business is poking up above the ground-clutter. Lacking deep pockets and a team of dedicated programmers, the small business relies on longevity and repeat customers to build traffic.  Total reliance on Social Media leaves the business vulnerable to having their account suspended for failing the litmus-test-du-jour and leaving your customers with the impression that they went out of business.  That is a quick way to lose three years of traffic building.

Wildlife Eco Farm
Link to Wildflower Eco Farm information

I love potatoes!!!

With the rain it was a bad day to have a leeky tent.

Pen included for size reference.
This proprietor had many good things to say about how East Lansing formatted their Farmer's market.  Primarily, it is a Farmer's market.  Many other markets allow non-growers to participate.  The non-growers can buy wilted vegetables at a wholesale auction for pennies on the dollar, spray them with water, sort out the rotten vegetables and sell them to the public.  They have no risk in the venture, very little sweat and absolutely no investment in muscling-up local food production.

Another thing he like about the East Lansing format is that everybody gets the same width for their booth.  You can go deeper but you cannot go wider.  Every vendor has the same amount of "face" to customers walking by.

A final point was the ample parking and the proximity of the event's timing (Sunday 10:00-till-2:00) to when the nearby churches have services.  They get foot traffic when church services let out.

The Country Mill
Green tagged containers hold organically grown fruit.

Red tagged containers hold conventionally grown fruit.

Tags are enhanced with information that is useful to consumers. 
The proprietor of The Country Mill booth jollied me into trying their mulled cider.

I was a resistant buyer.  Almost invariably mulled cider is mediocre, insipid cider that is steamrollered by gross amounts of spice.  It is a bit like somebody who compensates for mediocre hygiene with the lavish use of cologne.

The Country Mill mulled cider was a completely different animal.  The cider smelled deeply of apples.  The taste was rich: lick-lipping sweetness counterbalanced with the perfect amount of tart.

The spice was VERY deftly done.  The cinnamon walked behind the apple flavor and complemented it.  Holding the brew in my mouth for a couple of seconds and sorting through the layers of flavor allowed me to get a hint of allspice shyly waiting for its turn to be noticed.  No steamroller here.

Sapo de Solis
This is what the soap looked like under cloudy skies.  Flat, pastel, boring.

This is what the soap looked like on a sunny day.
This is a cool product, soap savers.  I know some old guys with diabetes who lack feeling in their hands.  They would appreciate the fact that these porous bags also make the soap less slippery.
These are the kinds of products that make me want to come back on a sunny day just to see what kind of difference lighting makes.

The proprietor of Sapo de Solis's bit of wisdom for me was to get good at crafting signage.  Play around with the signs.

Brush Script MT, Calibri, Euphemia, Verdana, Comic Sans, Castellar, Franklin Gothic Demi Cond
Figure out what kind of font and lettering size works best for your customers and products.  And given the circumstances of Sunday's weather, work out ways to "harden" the signs.  Sandwich them in contact paper, use magnets to hold them in place...whatever works for you.

Index of Small Business Reports


  1. Thanks for the follow up, and the bottom text works the best from any distance over a foot or two...

    1. Thank-you for the feedback, sir.

      I added a caption identifying the font types.

      Verdana and Comic Sans are considered dyslexic friendly. All Caps is not dyslexic friendly, nor is it easy to read intuitively.

      Euphemia, the third one from the top, straddles the gap between "print" and "script" and combines readability with a human feel.


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