Denise Petersen, of Kaysville, enjoyed her hobby of making jewelry out of antiques. When people started noticing her jewelry and wanted some for themselves, Peterson considered making a business of her hobby.
But she wasn't quite sure if her hobby could really make it as a business. Her next step? Opening a booth at a local farmers market.
"I wanted to see if my stuff would sell, if there was a demand," Petersen said.
Two years later, she has logged time as a vendor at farmers markets in Ogden, Brigham City, Eden, Bountiful, Logan and Park City.
Known as Reinvented Objects, Peterson's jewelry is selling well so far. In five hours at the Ogden farmers market, she said she brings in an average $600 each Saturday. That means she sees revenues between $400 and $1,400 in a single day, not bad for a hobby.
After a decade of frequenting local farmers markets from central Idaho to Southern Utah, Larry Baird and Ru Pudlewski saw similar daily revenues. Their business went from a concept, to a farmers market booth, to a website at www.mkngscnts.com, and now to an actual storefront. Making Scents, offering over 400 individual combinations of fragranced bath and body products, opened at 151 25th St., Ogden, 18 months ago.
"Without the recognition of the farmers market, we wouldn't have a store today," Pudlewski said.
"It is a Cinderella story. Because of the farmers market, we are where we are today with a storefront," Baird said. "There's a lot of room for entrepreneurs to break out and make it if you stick with it."
That's just what farmers market organizers hope for each of their non-farm vendors.
"It's a good opportunity to test yourself, learn about what your local community is interested in," said Peter Barrera, Ogden Farmers Market director.
"We have seen many examples over the years of artists and growers starting out with a booth at the market and growing their venture into proprietorship of a storefront or gallery," said Ginny Stout, Ogden City arts director who helps with Ogden's Historic 25th Street Farmers and Art Market. "Many of our vendors have expressed to us that their earnings from their market booth help them with things such as school tuition, living expenses and other financial burdens that they would otherwise struggle to cover."
"For a non-farm business, a farmers market can serve as an expo, so to speak, for a business trying to promote their goods and/or services to a local market or region, and for pretty darn cheap," said Marliss Scott, public relations and marketing with Clearfield City Community Services. "It's a great way to meet the public one-on-one, generate sales leads, and get immediate feedback on your product and services. We give the vendors a way to offer their products to the local community, in a low-cost venue."
Ogden's "little sprouts" program allows children and teens, chaperoned by an adult, to get in on the market action. The young entrepreneurs have found success selling things from dog treats to bark art.
"These are first-timers that come out with their parents and make some money," Barrera said.
But not all vendors are a good fit at farmers markets.
"It depends on the type of business," Scott said. "A non-farm business has to determine if the farmers market attracts their desired customers and demographics."
At local farmers markets, the nonfarm vendors are plentiful and varied. There are candles, kitchen gadgets, dairy delivery service, artisan breads, cleaning supplies and books, to toys, pottery, jewelry, crafts, paintings, photography, non-profits and handmade lotions.
Usually, the emphasis is on handmade products while large corporations are invited to be sponsors or featured businesses.
"As long as it is locally made, they can participate in the market," said Shawn Olsen, Utah State University extension agent in Davis County.
Estimates put the number of non-farm vendors at Ogden's farmers market between 82 percent and 89 percent. In Clearfield, non-farm vendors make up between 60 to 75 percent of booths. At the Utah Botanical Center Farmers Market, it's about 50-50.
Clearfield Farmers Market organizers say there is a fine line between having too many non-farm businesses vs. fresh produce vendors.
"Last year was a challenge because crops were harvested late in the season due to a wet spring. For the first few weeks of the market we didn't have many farmers," Scott said. "The public complained because, after all, it is a farmers market."
Market organizers claim their venues, in general, are a benefit to their communities.
"It's a source of fresh, local produce that's only been transported a short distance," Olsen said.
"Markets are great for people to socialize," Barrera said. "There's a lot of mutual benefits for the people there to sell or people there to buy. It offers things regular supermarkets don't."