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Upselling worms at the Farmers' Market


Red Wigglers.

I was standing behind my white plastic table at the Friday Farmers’ Market with a choice bucket of worm bedding spread out before me. As potential customers drift past the honey and lavender booths, they come to a stop and watch as I uncover a dark chunk of earth, break it open like a chocolate bar, and reveal several wriggling red worms.

“Looking for worms?” I ask. “They like to hide.” After a couple years of marketing for the small business, Milagro Compost, I still hadn't met many customers. But only a few hours in the hot sun taught me a lesson I will never forget. There is a niche for worms, and it is the same type of market I knew from the other businesses I have worked for: Collectors.

Yes, Worm Collectors. Often they are relaxed, middle-aged or younger men. They are not always gardeners; sometimes all they grow is worms. They are obsessed, fixated and proud of their worm beds. They show off their collection, trade composting stories, photograph them and take care of them. Once they learned that worms will eat your household organic waste with little or no help from you, they couldn’t stop getting more of them.

One gentleman came to the table and I thought he was an unhappy customer. Quiet and shy, he tells me, “I’m Tim. I bought a couple buckets of worm bedding last week.” The big red flag goes up: was he coming to complain, my first day selling worms? I’ve learned that if you don’t actually pour the bucket out for the customer and show them the worms wriggling in the sudden, bright sun, some people claim they never got any. I knew what to do in this situation; give them a free bucket, and chant the mantra: Show them the worms.

But Tim was not at the market to complain; he actually wanted more worms, another bucket. In vermicompost terms, once you have worms, you got worms. You really don't need to get more, since worms are hemaphroditic and seed the pile, leaving eggs, really little seeds that grow up on their own.

He asks a few more questions as we audit the worms in his new bucket, and he pays and leaves. Clearly, he’s a worm fanatic. And not so different from art collectors who need just one more canvas, one more bronze to complete their acquisition list.

The boss’ comment? “You should have told him he could get a yard for $100.”

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Small Business Links:

The New York Times has a rich site for small business news and information.

WESST Corp. in Santa Fe and Albuquerque offers marketing workshops and small business loans.

Farmers’ Markets of NM has a page of ideas on how to sell at the market.

Need worms? Milagro Compost of Santa Fe sells worm bedding by the bucket and by the yard.