As the end of the market season nears and the summer cools down, it can be difficult to keep customers excited about all the great things on offer at your market.

This is no excuse, however, to stop promoting your market as a community hub, a fantastic place to buy local fruit and veg and a one-stop-shop for all things related to autumn.

1. Keep the kids interested

Create an educational and fun kids game that will entertain kids while parents shop (try market bingo). Not only will this keep children excited about being at the farmers’ market, it’s also an opportunity to teach them about the important role that markets play within communities. If the game is fun, they’ll beg their parents to bring them back–and this means more parents who are ready and willing to spend money at your market! Check out the FMO resource titled Food Fun for Kids that provides tons of ideas for entertaining youngsters, including puzzles, games and colouring pages.

Advertise that the game is available using flyers and posters pinned up around your market. Station a couple volunteers at the entrance and randomly throughout the market to hand out information about how the game works and where it can be picked up (tip: customer service is a convenient location). Check out this FMO resource about how to make Great Displays That Work and Wow, and this Great Displays Checklist.

2. Share personal recipes, memories and cooking tips

With Thanksgiving coming up, it’s the perfect time to remind customers that your vendors are the most knowledgeable source when it comes to sharing tips and tricks for cooking with their products. Consider having each vendor create and post a sign that describes their favourite Thanksgiving food that incorporates a product from their stall. This will encourage conversation between vendors and their customers. Nurturing the relationship between vendors and customers will lead to greater success for them and for the market as a whole.

Advertise this personal touch by sharing photos of your vendors on social media with a quick caption about their favourite Thanksgiving tradition, recipe or memory. Try a caption like this: “This is first name last name of stall name/farm name. First name says his/her favourite Thanksgiving memory was always helping her grandma make apple pie. Visit her stall this upcoming market day to learn her family recipe and pick some fresh name of orchard/farm apples!” Check out these 25 Tips to Maximize Your Market’s Social Media Efforts.

3. Plan a market-wide harvest BBQ

Plan a market-wide harvest BBQ to celebrate and thank your customers for supporting you throughout the season. This could be as simple as firing up a few BBQs and cooking sausages from a local meat farmer vendor with some corn on the cob and veggie skewers from vendors willing to donate. To thank vendors for participating in the initiative, make sure you list them and their location at the market on the advertising flyer. Consider inviting a significant community member, to the BBQ, like the mayor. A big name will encourage people to attend.

Note: when planning an event like this, you must know approximately how many customers typically attend your market on any given market day. This will help you plan accordingly in terms of how much food you’ll need. You can track this by positioning a few volunteers at each entrance to do a head count as people enter. On the BBQ event advertisement, you should warn that everyone is welcome to join the BBQ as long as supplies last.

Advertise this special event by connecting with local radio stations and newspapers a few weeks before the event to schedule free advertising. Check out this FMO resource about 22 Tips for Marketing Your Market.

4. Promote seasonal fruits and veggies

Tons of fruits and vegetables are in their peak season in September, including blueberries, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, raspberries and almost every vegetable. Check out the full list from Foodland Ontario here. Stressing seasonality adds a healthy sense of urgency to the customer experience by suggesting that now is the time to buy. Check out this previous Market Matters Weekly all about Promoting Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables.

Consider creating a few back-to-school lunchbox menus that consist of items that can be purchased at the market. This can easily be done by typing up the menus, photocopying lots of copies and leaving a small stack at each vendor table. Let your vendors know you’re doing this and encourage them to hand out the lunchbox ideas to kids and families.

Similar to keeping kids interested using a game, advertise this by promoting it on social media.

Always remember, your customers will keep coming back if you continuously promote your market and stay dedicated to your vendors and their success!