In 2012, the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) celebrated the passage of a bill that would allow qualified small wine makers to sell and sample their wine and hard cider at farmers markets. MIFMA is collecting and sharing stories of businesses and markets that have benefited from this licensing option because we support increasing the size of the wineries that can participate in order to continue to grow a thriving marketplace for this local food and farm product.
Learn more about this licensing option by reviewing our Frequently Asked Questions.
MIFMA Advocacy Committee member Alexander Steward shares a conversation he recently had with Nicole Ward, co-owner of Forgotten Ciders about their experience selling at farmers markets.
Alexander Steward: How long has Forgotten Ciders been in business? Is there anything unique about your cidery we should know?
Nicole Ward: About 10 years ago, the family took over a unique apple orchard that grows over 1000 varieties of apples, and brought them to our local farmers market. When our family started making hard cider, we officially got licensed in 2015 and we wanted to continue selling at local farmers markets where we had already established relationships with customers.
AS: How long have you been selling at farmers markets and which ones do you sell at?
AS: What has your experience been with selling at farmers markets?
NW: The farmers market is a great way to market ourselves and encourage customers to come out to our tasting room. When we are at the farmers market, we bring maps and contact information for our cidery, so that even if they’re not interested that day, or at that moment, they can still familiarize themselves with us. People can get to know us, and we can communicate about the experience of visiting our tasting room while also providing samples and doing direct sales. People have responded very positively to meeting us at the market!
AS: How have sales at farmers markets impacted your business?
NW: Selling at the Midland Farmers Market has had a positive impact on our business. Being that we’re a seasonal business, it’s nice to have another outlet for our product and the market has helped us grow recognition in our name and brand.
Beyond direct sales, it has allowed us to make connections with stores that want to sell our product and to meet people who want to host events at our location. We have even been recruited from the market to speak at a local college! Our home location is a little off the beaten path and our presence at the market really helps draw people out to the cidery. People come out to see us because of relationships we’ve built with them at the market.
AS: Are you supportive of raising the threshold from less than 6,000 gallons produced per year to increase the size of wineries that can apply for a license to sample and sell at farmers markets? If so, what would be an appropriate threshold, in your opinion?
NW: Yes, we are supportive of increasing the size of the wineries that can participate by as much as triple the amount. This would allow a nice portion of the hard cider makers in Michigan to participate. You can certainly be at 18,000 gallons and still be small. Increasing the size of wineries that can participate would allow more vendors and variety at the markets, and that is always a positive thing for the customer. We would like to grow our business, and are looking at that right now, but maintaining a presence at the market is always a consideration since it has helped so much with our business. Just like our market has been supportive of us, we want to continue supporting the market by being there and offering the people that come something different and unique. Increasing the threshold would allow us to grow our business as well as allow more hard cider makers to come to markets.