DIY vendor cart

JD Farms in Mississippi has innovated another direct marketing idea while vending at the Crescent City Farmers Market. They have built free-standing carts to better present their goods and offer some flexibility in how they set up their stall. They have two of these with a third fixture being the yellow plant stand that can be just seen to the right in the picture.

What I like about this cart is how they incorporate customer needs like the waist-level display area, the middle shelf seen to the right of the shopper in the pic (which folds down), and the chalkboards on the bottom. The vendor side has recessed spaces for bags and a place for the cash box. Obviously, the umbrella slots into the middle of the display.

They can use a pallet jack to load these into their van and will be continuing to update the design of these.I have encouraged Don and Jeff to build then for others, or at least sell plans for making them. Feel free to join me in urging this side business for this talented duo.

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Will This New Labor Classification Save Gig Workers’ Careers? 

A new proposal by MBO Partners, which provides back office services to independent workers out of Herndon, Va., aims to alleviate those concerns. Under the proposal, released this morning, independent workers would be able to seek a special certification signifying that they have formally declared their status as independent workers and have opted out of the protections given to traditional employees. Companies who hired the certified workers would be safe from having the workers reclassified as employees.

“We’re not trying change any laws that exist today,” said Gene Zaino, founder and CEO of MBO Partners. “We want to create a safe harbor for people who acknowledge they don’t need the rights of an employee. For those people who don’t want to go through the process, the current laws still exist.”

There are some potential challenges with the proposal, he acknowledges. One is the potential for employers to pressure freelancers to get the certification–or lose out on potential work. To prevent the most vulnerable workers from being exploited, MBO Partners has proposed that only workers who earn $50 an hour or more could be certified.

Source: Will This New Labor Classification Save Gig Workers’ Careers? – Forbes

Baker shutting the door on markets

 

I had written about this baker giving up the weekday market almost exactly 2 years ago and now via his wonderfully written email newsletter excerpted and linked at the bottom of this post, I see that he is about to give up the remaining farmers market that he attends.

I have certainly heard a wide range of reasons given by producers about why markets no longer work for them, and thanks to my long ago human resources training, I learned to ask myself and my market peers what I used to ask of my staff about departing or failing employees:

Did we do all that we could do to help this person succeed? Did we offer the same resources and attention that we could offer or do offer to others? What else should we offer (if anything) to help situations like this not happen as often in the future? Or are there just circumstances out of anyone’s control that made this inevitable?

When I post this news on my personal FB page, I guarantee you I’ll hear  responses from market shopping friends as well as non-market shopping friends telling me their opinion of his products and his stall, both good and bad, a few who will blame the market and still others who will shrug and say it goes with the territory.

I also guarantee you that when I go and talk to him directly about this email, he will be fair (he always is) to the market management but also specifically critical about markets. He will suggest marketing ideas to me, some of which might very well work for this market and some that have been tried and not worked in the past, all of which may or may not have helped his business. I expect that we will find ourselves in somewhat of a standoff, although I will agree with him that markets should be reactive to the needs of their anchor and to their specialty vendors. I’m not saying that this market was not – I cannot know what the recent relationship is-  but wearing my hat of a market strategist for a minute, any and all markets should constantly fine tune their management and marketing based on their measurement of positive and negative impacts, and that does include measuring a spectrum of individual stall activity across the market.

The trick is to measure within the context of each business’ set of goals and true interest in being at markets long-term.

As a specialty item vendor (he’d  disagree with that description I am guessing, but his breads are unique enough for purchase that they have to be seen as specialty rather than staple goods still), finding his customers can be slightly more tricky than it is for the market to find the anchor vendors customers. And to further confuse matters, in some markets, once in a while the specialty vendors ARE the anchor vendors.

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Coming Full Circle: Reflections on Being a New Farmers Market Vendor from FMC’s Former Executive Director | Farmers Market Coalition

Stacy always chooses her words carefully, works deliberately and thinks about how her actions affect others, sometimes to a maddening degree for someone like me who does not employ those restraints most of the time. What is so clear from her post (that we all demanded that she write for the newsletter!) is that that is a good personality type to be a market vendor and even more so, to describe what it’s like to become one.
Lovely thoughts about work here that Wendell Berry himself would read and nod in appreciation:

No one complains because they know they are blessed with this utmost human privilege– to work way too many hours and earn way too little in the pursuit of what fulfills you, most of us lucky enough to be well fed, if nothing else. These are the colleagues and coworkers whose shared goods and inspiration will make or break any vendor’s market experience.

and I think this might be useful for her market to use as a lead in to the vendor application?

Nervous and bleary-eyed from two consecutive late nights baking, labeling, and scrambling to generate last minute signage, I found a parking space, chased down someone on market staff, and began unloading my boxes. I forgot to write down the space number I had been assigned: E42? F24? Something like that. I have no tent, and share one with another small start-up vendor. Holy expletive. I am actually doing this.

I wish very good luck to my pal in this endeavor and encourage every market manager to encourage one of these posts from a new vendor for their newsletter.

Source: Coming Full Circle: Reflections on Being a New Farmers Market Vendor from FMC’s Former Executive Director | Farmers Market Coalition

Waterloo, Louisiana: An Open Letter to New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine

The published letter linked below was written by one of our region’s most innovative direct marketing bakers, and (obviously) one with a great deal of sensitivity and wisdom. Graison has struggled with getting the ends to meet in his tiny business (even while he is unquestionably the region’s preeminent bread baker), much less in it pulling him to the place he dreams his business should be.
He and I have talked a few times about the lack of support for small producers in our region and I can assure you that he is ready to talk with or work with anyone willing to further the needs of he and his peers, but to little avail.
I recommend that people read his essay and also read between the lines of what would drive a full-time baker to spend his time writing and publishing this. If you want my response now, it is because he knows what is at stake is his entire future and the future of the healthy food revolution that may never reach maturity unless we deal with the issues that small businesses face everyday: the lack of infrastructure support, duplicative regulations, half-hearted allegiance to local ingredient sourcing among shoppers, refusal by many (most?) to address vital environmental concerns in food work, commodity-type products taking most of the shelf space-if and when local is even invited, the lack of skilled workers available, necessary policy changes not handled by organizers of food initiatives and so on.
So ask yourself-are you doing everything you can as often as you can for your anchor vendors?
Waterloo, Louisiana: An Open Letter to New Orleans – Antigravity Magazine.

Blue Apron

Many market organizers and vendors have seen the market box concept in action in their region, where a non-profit or an entrepreneur picks up goods from participating producers and sells them as a package or allows for individual selections, packed and delivered. In my area, Good Eggs has the corner on the regional ingredient delivery system right now. Their delivery van is seen at most markets first thing picking up orders from individual market vendors.

Another version of the delivery service of “fresh” but not necessarily local is Blue Apron which delivers the precise ingredients for meals to your door, and adds seasonal recipes and detailed instructions. Hello Fresh is another well-known company using the same model, but Blue Apron is seen as the industry leader and just raised 135 million dollars so is now “valued” at 2 billion dollars.

So do these services help local food?
The truth is that many eaters will never become regular market shoppers but many can be introduced to the joys of seasonal whole foods through these services and so market organizers should at least be aware of them and do their best to work along if it does not impair the direct sales of the market’s vendors. However, we need to be vigilant about communicating the benefits of markets even more in these crowded times.

Blue Apron charges approximately $10 per meal, and makes over 3 million meals every month. Blue Apron now operates two distribution centers with over 1,800 employees, and thousands of customers.
Other facts from their site:
Recipes never repeated in the same year
Meals are 500-700 calories per serving and take 35 minutes to prepare
Ingredients are perfectly pre-measured so there’s no waste
Cook with seasonal ingredients that are fresher than the supermarket
Discover specialty products that are hard to find on your own
Convenient Delivery
Free delivery nationwide
Choose a delivery day that best fits your schedule
Ingredients arrive in a refrigerated box so food stays fresh even if you’re not home

What it’s like to use Blue Apron – Business Insider.