USDA: Mini Vegetable Classes Boosts Sales at Farmers’ Markets

USDA: Mini Vegetable Classes Boosts Sales at Farmers’ Markets


Chef Jonathan Bardzik demonstrates using fresh produce at a farmers market.

USDA had such great success with vegetable classes at its go-to test market (the farmers market on the National Mall), it’s launching the program across the country.

Dubbed VegU, the classes teach shoppers how to grow, pick, and prepare that week’s featured fruit or vegetable. To get a feel for how the classes work, you can browse USDA’s VegU site for an extensive list of linked class videos and podcasts.


With that year’s worth of experience, here are five tips from USDA on making the program work for your farmers market:

  1. Recipes are reliable hits. The key for making a sale through recipes, however, is to keep the ingredient list short and for the resulting dish to be a little bit out of the ordinary. An example USDA shares is mangos topped with lime hot sauce, salt and pepper, cumin, and cayenne.
  2. Highlight varieties you grow, but are hard to find in stores. Don’t avoid spotlighting common produce like apples and mushrooms, but if you can include lesser-known varieties, it can boost sales. Give attendees a run down of what they should look for in fruit or vegetable. Think of the last wine tasting you went to. Being told to notice certain flavor notes, textures, and shapes makes customers value what they’re buying more.
  3. Provide samples! Research shows that you make more money with increased sales compared to the money you spend on free samples. USDA recommends offering the samples half way through the presentation to be most effective. Giving a rundown of nutritional values as they eat their samples helps, too.
  4. Bring in live plants to show produce grows. The more the public understands what goes into growing what they eat, the better they’ll view growers. USDA says that using living plants is especially effective for less common vegetables like okra. You can find container-grown home market varieties of most crops at garden centers, or you can grow your own in pots.
  5. Feature lesser known vegetables occasionally. When USDA highlighted crops like kohlrabi or fennel successfully, farmers reported selling out.