Selling Honey At The Farmer’s Market – the 8th Circle of Hell

Tables of endless produce, organic offerings, unique vegetables, food vendors, and flower stands being picked over by young hipsters, old foodies, and bright-eyed wives dragging their longsuffering husbands who would have rather stayed in bed on a crisp summer morning. Yeah, Greenville, MS’s Farmer’s Market didn’t have any of that crap!

Instead, there were only 5 booths (other than myself) all selling tomatoes and squash and very little else. And while there was a steady flow of customers, most came with no more than $5 to spend and haggled over fresh vegetables that were already priced lower than the local supermarket. And did I mention it was hotter than jalapeño hemorrhoid cream out there? To say the least, it was far from what I had expected.

Nonetheless, the two vendors next to me could not have been more friendly. Bonny, the lady selling pickled everything at her booth, insisted that my wife take one of her portable fans – while Elisha, one of the four tomato farmers, gave me tips, encouragement, and even nudged customers my way.

However, the day was not a total loss. With low expectations, I had set a minimum amount of honey sales needed to break even. After 4 hours, I had surpassed that number by double.

While this might sounds good, if I were left with only this as a source of money, I ‘d have to subsidize my income by wrestling bees in underground beekeeping flight clubs. However, I gathered that this was a slow day at the market, since every vendor there tried to beat me out of my honey at wholesale prices to sell at their booths – I declined their offers (for now).

Farmer’s Markets were never meant to be a source of income in my grand beekeeping plan but the quick money could help me buy more equipment to build my business in the short term.

This coming Saturday, I will try the Cleveland, MS Farmer’s Market which I have been told is slightly larger (so maybe 6 booths). After that, I will decide which seemed to be the better fit for me.

So what is the Farmer’s Market like where you live? Is the the norm? Leave a comment below, I really am curious.

On a separate note, I got two different calls for bee removal this morning. That seems very odd, since I have only done bee removal once before. You ever feel like God is trying to tell you something? Maybe it’s just manna from heaven – free, healthy bees to diversify my stock. I’m guessing this little adventure will be next Monday’s Blog Topic.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Yes, listen for and look for the signs!! It seems you are being led further along this path. We went to our first beekeeping club meeting last week and now just can’t wait to get our swarm when spring hits here soon!! From recent reports from scientists bees and honey will soon be a rare commodity so hang in there!! Donna 🧚🏻‍♀️❤️🙏 donnadoesdresses.com

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Traci says:

    We had good luck at our farmer’s market last year. They moved it to a better spot this year and the traffic has gone from 50 people to about 300, on average. Excited to go on August 1st. Helps that I am strictly the unpaid help and driver, since my kid is the beekeeper. She does it for FFA. Don’t be afraid to set realistic prices. People told us we were too high last year. She only has 35# left from 400, and never lowered her price.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It could be a message and a new source of bees for you, indeed, but it could also just people making gross associations. I had a guy who when I heard I was studying permaculture started asking me how to keep his lawn, why his geyvilias were dying, etc, etc… Like of you do the payroll at the local telephone company everyone asks you to fasttrack their phone application? Interested to hear how the bee collections and the next farmers market goes.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hardesty Apiary says:

    This is my second year doing a total of 12 sessions at 2 local markets in small town USA. (Total for 2 seasons) I averaged $300 each 3 or 4 hour market session. $150 to $500 were the extremes. It’s fun to do and folks like to talk about bees.
    The real benefit besides immediate cash flow is exposure to markets you never expected. I’ve had residual sales as direct result of business owners and families coming by at the market that later purchased by the 5gallon buckets and the case. So far this year I’ve sold 200 lbs at 3 market sessions and 550 lbs from those market introductions.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amanda says:

    It depends on where you live. I’ve lived in SC, TX, MS, and TN. I’ve only seen farmers markets do well in towns that have at least 60K+ people or in towns considered more affluent. I am no expert just something I’ve noticed. Also, in the areas you mentioned, food deserts are quite common and poverty is as well. The majority simply cannot afford to pay what an item is worth. They haggle like mad because they are use to Walmart or neighbor so and so’s prices who only “sells” produce because he is retired and wants something to do or is someone also living in poverty and is just trying to get what the local market will allow. I think farmer’s markets could do well but combined with the income disparities in these delta towns and the lack of healthy eating, it’s just not going to happen over night. I would suggest focusing on festivals or events everyone knows to expect. Maybe even start one with other local partners with a range of products. If there is a quarterly market that is well publicized the turn out might be much better. In many small towns people simply want something to do because they enjoy getting together and events gives a good excuse for it. It could be combined with something like crawfish season or something most people will try to pay good money for. If done well, it can work. Also, think of educating people. Help the general public understand how much time and effort goes into producing your product. Have a visual on display of how it works (if possible) and again this would be better suited for a festival or larger type event. Once I saw a beehive that had plexiglas on one side so adults and children could see what the bees were up to and exactly where the honey was located. There is a value add when people can understand where a product comes from and how it got to the jar in front of them. Hope this is in some way helpful. Glad to hear what you’re doing and hope your next event isn’t so um….hot 🙂

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Follow your path young man. We won’t do removals (cut-outs) anymore, but are all about swarm capture. Those are fun, and a great opportunity to vary the genetics in your yard along with educating the general public who gather to watch the process. Farmers Markets in West Central IL, are OK I guess. There are usually 15 to 20 vendors (veggies, flowers, some hand crafted items) at the one we attend, we’re the only ones with honey and hive products. Some weeks OK, we’re not setting the world on fire but have managed to save $ to get more equipment if needed, and keep the girls happy and healthy. We love to talk to the people and educate, share stories and pass along a tip of the hat to the people who are there to visit and not crack a wallet. We also like to think of it as our ‘down-time’ ’cause we can just sit in a nice park, and watch the people go by for 5 hours or so. I do have to admit though it’s a bit of work to load up, drive into town, set up, sit for the alloted time, then pack up and come home. We usually get up at 5am to do this, so by 1:30pm when we get back home we’re beat. We wouldn’t do all this for free, so if the income drops below a certain range, we’d probably hang it up. Losing an entire day of production in other areas (that need attention in our lives) for small gains is not attractive to me. Good luck to you in your venture!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bryan Layton says:

      I’ve got 3 cut-outs scheduled but after that, I’m raising my fee to $200 minimum! It’s just too much work. I am all for swarms though – FREE BEES! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      Like

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