Some applications are more detailed and lengthy than others. The application below is a simple one-page form for the market I sold at last year. Here are some things to consider when filling out an application:
Every application will require your contact information. This includes your name, address, phone number, and email address. It may also include your website or emergency contact information as well.
2. Product Plan
Most markets want to have an idea of what you are going to sell. That way they can avoid having too many crafts, not enough vegetables, etc. Sales of certain items (meat products or plant starts, for example) may require certain licences or certification from the government in order to sell. Be sure to read up on state regulations before making your product plan.
Some markets are more stringent than others concerning regulations. Last year there was only one time when a state inspector came to my booth. There were many times during the season that I saw people selling things like meat or prepared food products without having the proper labeling or licensing. Pesto, for example, is supposed to be made in a licencsed kitchen if you are selling it. I also saw people selling jam without the ingredients listed and other regulatory blunders. Technical rules may or may not be enforced, but I would recommend planning your product mix according to local rules and regulations.
For me, it has been a little difficult to find good, marketable food products that fit within all of the rules. With the cottage food law, for example, I can't use cream cheese in my baked goods. I also can't sell things like salsa or pickles, because they're not "safe" enough.
Keep in mind that by only selling dessert items, you will limit your customer base. There were many people last year that didn't even stop because I wasn't selling anything healthy. Plus I got hurtful comments like "I've gained five pounds just LOOKING at that," or "Do you have anything that won't give me cavities?" I would have LOVED to sell healthy things like kombucha or goat cheese, but state regulations just don't allow it. So this year I am going to sell more produce and eggs to keep the booth looking "healthy". I'm also going to put pictures of the orchard and animals out for people to see, which may help with the healthy aspect.
My passion is not really desserts; it is creating a viable home economy. Selling desserts is part of creating that home economy. In order to make the market more fun and fulfilling to me, I am going to make my booth and products more reflective of my passion. Some ideas I've had are to create and give away meal plans based around in-season produce, or printing out some of my articles to share with people there. Being passionate about what you are selling is so important. I don't want be the person giving people cavities or making them fat. I want to sell health and happiness.
Many markets want to know which dates you will be attending the market. Some markets are a free-for-all where vendors show up or don't depending on the weather, but many are more organized than that. A few weeks ago I went through my calendar and noted which days I would be able (and wanted) to attend. I ruled out any Saturdays with weddings or travel, and also some Saturdays that I knew would be slow at the market (from last year's experience). Then on the application I circled which dates I would be coming.
4. Fee Structure
Knowing how many days you will be attending will help you determine how to pay booth fees. Many markets will have a price per day ($20 or $12 per day, for example), and also a whole-season price where you pay for the entire season in advance and get a discount. Last year I chose to pay for the whole season ($200 or $8 per day). This year I will only be selling for about half of the market season. I considered paying the daily fee ($20), but when I did the math it was still cheaper to pay for an entire season. An added benefit to this is that I will be able to sell on MORE days if I want to (the dates I marked on the application can be changed by contacting the market master and letting her know).
It's Easy Peasy
The short application above is very straightforward. It asks your contact information at the top, what you will be selling below that, then which dates you choose to attend, and how you want to pay the fees. Lastly, they ask you to sign an agreement that you read the rules and agree to comply with them.
That's it! Many applications can be found online. However, I did have to email the market master to receive the application above in the mail.
If you are considering selling at a farmers market in 2016, it's time to get busy! Many markets don't start until June, so there is still some time to plan. If you are wondering what it is like to be a vendor, or want some help getting started, be sure to pre-order my book, One Season of Farmers Market, on Amazon. The price for my whole first year of experience is only $10. If you are a newbie vendor, I can guarantee that it will give you at least a 10x return on your money. It will be available for reading on April 15th.