Farm marketing is perhaps the most important business decision you can make. You can grown the largest crop, or raise the tastiest steak. If you can’t sell what you produce, you’ve produced it for nothing. If you can’t sell it for a profit then what you have in effect, is a very expensive hobby.
Marketing comes in many different forms, and can be done many different ways.
For this post were going to focus on small farms, with regard to fruit and vegetable crops and small livestock operations.
Your marketing plan will depend on where your located, what you’re producing, and the kind of time and money your willing to put into it. If your located in the vicinity of a larger population and urban areas, you’ll most likely focus on direct to consumer type of marketing. If your further away ffrom people then you’re most likely going to be focusing on online sales, or marketing to businesses or commodity sales. There is always exceptions to these rules as well.
Roadside stands are a great way to get your products to customers. If located directly on the farm, its a great way to sell a story along with your goods. People like to know where their food is coming from and many will be willing to pay extra just to confirm that by coming to the farm. Having a roadside market can have it’s detraction’s as well. You’ll need to establish hours and be able to man the market, or pay someone else to, unless you decide on using the honor system of payment. Along with staffing, the market itself needs to be in place. This can be anywhere form a wagon, tent, or pickup truck on up to a large year round farm store. A simple web search will enlighten you on some ideas to begin with. Along with the market, you’ll need advertising, signs, etc. Be sure to check you local zoning codes, etc. Localities differ greatly on what is allowed and what is not. Our county has some pretty strict rules to follow on what is and isn’t allowed and our farm market has had to adjust accordingly. We’d like to be able to offer much more by way of items and do things a bit differently, but you must work within the established rules or you wont have a business for long. We’ll discuss more on farm markets in a later post.
Direct to Restaurants
Restaurants are a great place to market you crops. Most like the freshest products they can get as they tend to sell better. However, just because you have the freshest doesn’t mean they want what you have. Most likely they will want certain things certain ways. Sizes, varieties, etc. will need to match what you customer is looking for. The timing that you can get the items to the restaurant and the reliability of your deliveries will be a big concern to chefs. If you can work all that out, then you’ll have a steady customer.
Many grocers, especially smaller independent ones, like to buy locally when they can find it. Stores will want the best of the best. Your produce will have to be the best as far as appearance goes. Shoppers want the prettiest they can find. Larger chain stores such as Walmart, etc. usually buy much larger quantities from distributors and packers. However, some are noww beginning to want more local goods. Depending on where you live you’ll need to contact them directly to determine their requirements to sell thru them.
Selling Direct to Schools
Schools across the country have begun to buy directly from producers as they look to increase the amount of fresh nutritious foods for their students. Check with your local school boards to find out if your area is using these programs or how you can participate.
Selling online can be a great way to reach millions of potential customers. You need to operate your own website for your operation or sell through an online marketplace. Online marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. These marketplaces have their own rules on what and how you can sell thru them but do offer some potential for profit. Setting up your own webiste can be done through site builders such as Shopify or Bigcommerce.
Checkout the Following for more Information on selling online.
Selling Online From Your Small Farm
Auctions are a way to unload large amounts of products quickly. They take away the need to establish relationships with buyers, and the worry of continual deliveries. The disadvantages of produce auctions however, are market prices. Auctions will usually be lower priced sales. The demand for your crops can vary week to week or even daily. You have the potential to sell larger amounts of product in one place but your most likely going to sell it at a discount.
Distributors and Packers
You may not have access depending where you live but they’re worth looking into. These businesses are larger operations that buy from many growers and sell to many retailers and restaurants. They are the middlemen in the industry. Packers will tell you how they want your products before they agree to buy. They will want particular sizes, colors, amounts, etc. While not quite as bad as auctions, selling to a packer won’t get you the highest price for your crop. Remember they have to sell to the next business down the line and still make a profit themselves.
Where you decode to sell your goods or how you decide to market your products is a big decision. It shouldn’t be taken lightly and should be given a good amount of thought. You may be limited in how you can market your products, or you may be able to market numerous ways.
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