“You guys are a traveling hardware store!”

That’s the line we get almost every weekend at the farmers market. And it’s true. We’ve got everything you would ever need to support, fix, mend, display, and level out your farmers market display. Whether you operate a truck, trailer or a tent this is like a Swiss army knife of life savers for food vendors.

BBQ Trailer built by M&R Specialty Trailers and Trucks.

Does this sound like a typical morning?

You pack “everything” into the food truck and head to bed, dreaming of an above-average sales day. The next morning, you wake up, grab your coffee, and head out the door. As you’re setting up in the park, rifling through a bin, you look up and realize. “Oh, no! I forgot my ______.”

It happens to every vendor at least once. There’s a lot to remember. Sometimes even making a list doesn’t help. Maybe you need to solve a problem that didn’t quite fit into an item on the list. You need a tool to level out your table, duct tape to fix a broken sign, etc.

When problems arise, you may need tools to fix them. Here’s a list of 10 items we always carry with us to every food festival, farmer’s market, and craft fair:

1. Rope

From hanging your banner to making sure everything stays on your hand-truck, rope solves all kinds of problems. We cary several lengths with us (mainly because my Dad likes tying knots when it’s slow). But, it certainly helps when you know your knots. Here’s a link to the most popular knots.

2. Excedrin

Headaches happen. But fighting through them on a hot summer day isn’t the best. It affects your attitude and ultimately your sales. Be proactive about your headaches. Grab some water and Excedrin to help fight-off your migraine.  You’ll be glad you did when you’re able to focus on your customers and not your headache.

3. Popsicle Sticks

Gluten free is the popular diet at the lunch table these days. While others have Celiac disease, many people are choosing to eat gluten free. And if you sample with pretzels, chances are they aren’t gluten free. That’s why we keep a bag of popsicle sticks in our bin. Plus, if you’ve got prepared food vendors, popsicle sticks are great utensils to spread your products on. And that’s one of the best ways to sample your products.

4. Tarp

Weather can be unpredictable. You never know when it’s going to pour, snow, become a hurricane, etc. Finding cover for your products and other market wares at the last minute is tough. That’s where trusty tarps come in handy. You can protect your product and maybe even yourself when it starts to rain.

5. Scrap Wood

Many farmer’s markets are outside in city parks where there’s roots, uneven ground, gravel, and trees. This makes for some uneven vending locations. And that’s the last thing you want when you have tall displays of product in glass jars. Make sure to have wood of varying widths. Our “level ground” seems to change every week. Plus, you never know if someone else needs a couple pieces of wood. It’s a great way to break the ice with vendors next to you.

6. Scissors/Pocket Knife

If you forget a sign or want to cut a scone if half for breakfast (it’s our Saturday morning tradition), you need something to cut it with. Have scissors on hand to make sure your signs are clean & neat.

7. Blank Note Cards

Customers, both new and loyal, are full of recommendations: new store locations, flavor ideas, recipes they’ve used your product in, etc. Rather than try and remember everything in your head, keep a few blank notecards in your cashbox. Write all the recommendations down and review them after the market. You’ll be glad you did when you’re stuck wondering “What was the name of that store?” While you’re at it, might as well keep and pen and pencil on-hand too.

8. Pliers, Screwdriver, and a Hammer

It’s a mini Home Depot! I’ve seen many farmer’s market displays that include homemade display pieces, often put together with screws, nuts, bolts, etc. These pieces generally require a couple of tools to put together. Make sure you’ve got a small toolset with you. If you don’t need it, your neighbor might. Bring along a hammer at minimum to make sure your tent stakes are firmly in the ground if you’re looking to secure your farmer’s market tent.

9. Small Level

Remember those uneven roots and sloping vendor spaces I was talking about earlier? That’s where a level comes in handy. Using your pieces of scrap wood, it’s easier to make your table if you, well, have a level. We recommend his small bubble level because it tells you what direction your table is leaning. We use it every weekend!

10. Duct Tape

And finally, duct tape. How could this not make the list? Sometimes you’ve just got to hold something down, whether it’s a sign, tablecloth or fixing a part of your tent, duct tape handles it. We keep a roll of gorilla tape in our bin and it’s served us well.

Problems always seem to happen when you least expect them. It’s better to be prepared for them than panic and react. It puts you in a funk for the rest of the day. And who wants to be in a funk?

What about you? Is there anything you bring to the farmer’s market just in case? Let me know in the comments below!