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An axiom of retail merchandising is that after September 1, it's autumn. It doesn't matter if the weather is still hot and leaves won't change color for another month. Nor does it matter that the start of autumn is officially three weeks away. Once the kids are back in school, and the days get noticeably shorter, people want to celebrate the change of seasons.
For growers who sell at a farm stand or farmers market, September is a good time to revitalize your display and emphasize the transition from summer into fall. That doesn't mean your product selection is going to change overnight; you'll still have summer vegetables, and people will still want to buy them. But you can change the overall appearance of your stand just by adding a few new items, and placing them front and center to attract attention. Here are some ideas for giving your displays an autumnal theme that will appeal to customers ready to welcome the new season.
·Bring in some straw bales. Nothing says "fall harvest" like bales, plus they make handy risers for displaying produce and plants.
·Put pumpkins around the stand (even if just a few at this point), and put winter squash and pie pumpkins in a prominent position, perhaps spilling out of an overturned basket.
·After your sweet corn is harvested, cut the plants and gather them into a few shocks simply for decoration. You may find that people want to buy them for their own front yards.
·If you have onions and garlic, make some braids to hang from your canopy. Again, people may want to buy the braids; you can either get busy braiding, or sell the ingredients along with instructions.
Here's a well-illustrated website and a good video.
·If you sell flowers, make some big, autumnal bouquets in colors of gold, orange, and bronze. A big bucket of sunflowers will look seasonal, too.
·Brussels sprouts make a big impact when you sell some as whole stems. To get the sprouts to be uniform for whole-stem harvest, you should "top" or pinch out the growing point at the top of the plant when the lower sprouts are 1/2"-3/4" in diameter. A full stem will develop in four weeks. You can treat some of your plants this way, and leave some untopped to provide a longer harvest period.
·Stimulate summer vegetable sales with recipe cards featuring hearty autumn dishes such as soups and roastedvegetables. Encourage customers to buy larger amounts for freezing, and give them advice on how to do it. For example, provide a pesto recipe and suggest freezing it in an ice-cube tray for flavoring soups and stews in winter.
·Start seeds now for plants to sell in a few weeks, including arugula, lettuces, salad greens, kale, parsley, and cilantro.
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Reprinted from JSS Advantage September 2009.