After the once a month craft show/yard sale type events we enjoyed on base in early 2016 at the Naval Air Station in Key West, we had a five month gap before we did another market. Our rate of travel up the east coast simply did not lend itself to stopping for weekend farmers markets, and we did not fully understand the opportunities that were available in small towns throughout the country. Once we slowed down we stumbled across a small event in Grand Marais, Michigan, which in turn lead to a series of eight markets during a four and a half week period as we traveled through the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and into Wisconsin.
Since that robust period we had another lengthy drought as we wandered through upstate New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio, and then sprinted south from Minnesota back to Florida. But upon arrival in the Sunshine State, we have been able to do our research, adjust our schedule, take advantage of our nominal “local” status, and thus participate in a few Central Florida farmers markets.
Following our recent Silver Springs State Park visit we returned to Lake Monroe Park in Volusia County for a five day stay. But we have already discussed this very affordable county campground, so here we would rather catch you up on our plan, mentioned last post, to go “all in” on markets and vendor opportunities though the rest of November and December. We have gotten better at finding markets at which to vend, our pace of travel has once again slowed, and we have some big bills coming in December and January. Bottom line: we expect to end November having done five events, and then do up to ten more in December before Christmas.
One of the key lessons we have learned is that no matter how much online research you do, nothing can compete with local connections and knowledge. Just as the Bruce, Wisconsin market pointed us to the Rusk County Fair, our participation in the Sanford market has led us to a widening series of potential events through the region. It is not just a matter of finding out about the existence of a market, it is also about working with the individual market managers to make your participation mutually beneficial.
Here is how it has worked out for us: Conversations with other vendors at the Saturday Downtown Sanford Market put us in touch with the Sunday Sweetwater-Wekiva market manager. During our short stay at Silver Springs we filled out the appropriate forms, but did not hear back as to whether we had approval to participate in the upcoming Sunday event. So we decided to boldly show up ready to sell and see if the market manager was game. She was, and we had a great sales day that easily compensated for the $25 vendor fee. While there we talked with the other vendors and got details on three other local opportunities, including the Lake Mary market (a Saturday alternative to the Sanford event), the Windemere Market (a higher end event in west Orlando,) and the Volusia County Fairgrounds Market (a Wednesday flea market style event.)
And that’s just for Central Florida! Since we are also headed to SE and SW Florida for a few weeks, we pursued markets in those regions as well. We struck out in the Coral Springs/Pompano Beach area (market managers simply do not return calls) and in Venice/Sarasota (county ordinances restrict anything other than produce/food vendors.) But between SE Florida and Sarasota lies Naples, which has a much more flexible market policy, and after negotiation with a regional manager we are cleared to participate in two markets, a Saturday and Sunday event, for a couple of consecutive weekends after Thanksgiving. Then we will stop in Venice for a few days before returning to Central Florida for the series of markets there.
Even if we are approved for every event, we wont do them all; if we wanted jobs we would still be working! But now is the time to get serious because we are expecting a lot of bills coming due in December. In addition to the usual holiday expenditures, we also expect a repair bill for Serenity’s 12 volt electrical system, medical bills as we complete our annual checks and meet the yearly insurance deductible, and the pricey cost of staying at one of our favorite but most expensive regular RV parks in Sanibel.
So that means we need to push hard until Christmas, especially since we will be spending the first few months of 2017 in Key West, and our vending opportunities there will be quite limited, and our selling pace will slow considerably. We are extremely grateful to the many people who have supported us with purchases, and look forward to meeting many more of you out there. So if you are in Central Florida or the Naples region, we hope to see you at the various weekend markets.