The most obvious answer that came to mind was: uh, just one thing? But there was a common thread in the answers I heard from my fellow panelists: communication.
So I’d like to share some of their thoughts, my own thoughts, and answers from other market managers around the state.
The number one piece of information we want you, our vendors, to understand is that we truly do care about your sales. We might not be out planting and harvesting, but we are invested in the market. Our goal is not simply to organize and event and measure its success by how many people show up: our goal is to help you sell your products. For one thing, if you’re not selling, you won’t want to come back next season, and then we have no market. But beyond that practical aspect, we’re all doing this out of conviction and a commitment to connect the community with local food. Across the country, many market managers are volunteers, giving their time to be out with you in the cold or wind or sweltering heat running around making sure everything is running smoothly. For paid market managers, this isn’t a job anyone gets into for wealth and power. We don’t usually have the time or resources to work with each vendor individually to boost sales, but we are invested in how each and every one of you do at the market, and we’re constantly working on ways to get our patrons shopping (and not just coming out for the social aspect of the market).
In order to make sure that we can serve you best, then, we need you to communicate with us. When there are major problems affecting sales, or even when you’re having a particularly good day, we want to know. If your market has a system for sales reporting, please please please supply that information. This is how we can best gauge the health of the market. Patron counts are one thing, but we need to know if those patrons are shopping. By providing your sales estimates, you can help us better understand whether our marketing is working, or whether they’re just promotional stunts that don’t drive sales. Most markets have pretty limited resources, and so we need to make sure the time and money we’re investing in advertising and activities at the market are wisely spent. We appreciate your help in keeping an eye on the market and alerting us to problems such as suspicious products, or suspicious patrons. I really appreciated it this summer when there was a shoplifting concern at our own market, and vendors immediately alerted me and each other so that we knew who to keep an eye out for. Although we might sometimes feel like we’re everywhere on a particular market day, it’s impossible for the market manager to actually do so; there’s a lot going on. For this reason we do appreciate it when vendors can alert us to products that perhaps don’t fit our guidelines (as long as that is done in a timely manner we can verify and is done in a respectful manner). We will address your concerns at the market, that’s what we’re here for, and we’re much more responsive when you come to us directly and we don’t have to find out through the grapevine.
In a nutshell, communication, and know that we really do have your best interests at heart, and that’s what we’re working for. Oh, and put your tent weights on!!!!
(Market manager readers, what else would you add? Let us know in the comments!)