Before planting your first seed, you should ask yourself one question: How will you sell your crops?
A good marketing plan is an absolute must for a successful farm business. Know your market and your customers, and start by growing vegetables that are popular with people in your area.
Make sure you grow enough of each crop, and make sure the quality of your vegetables is good. Then consider the best way to sell them to your customers.
Here’s a few tips for some inspiration:
Sell Everything to One Place
If you have a big farm or live far away from customers, you might want to sell your food to one place, such as a restaurant, store, or food co-op. This is called wholesale marketing.
Selling your crops this way is faster than other ways of selling. It is also a good choice if you are not comfortable meeting and talking to a lot of people.
Wholesale marketing will probably not make you as much money as selling directly to the customer, and you may not get paid right away, but it is a simple and easy way of selling.
Selling Directly to Customers
If you don’t have a big farm or if you’re a new farmer, it is a good idea to sell your crops directly to customers. This is called direct or retail marketing. Although you can make more money and get paid faster this way, you will need more time to sell.
It is a good way to sell your crops if you are a good planner, have time, and enjoy meeting and talking to people.
Deciding on the Best Retail market
Many farmers sell vegetables at a farmer’s market or a roadside stand. Some farmers let customers pick their own vegetables. Which market is best for you?
The Farmers Market
Many people come to the farmer’s market to buy vegetables. If you want to sell your vegetables at a farmer’s market, look for one which is:
- In a busy area
- Well known by a lot of customers
- Clean and well managed
Once you’ve found the ideal place, you’re going to have to make your spot the best of the bunch. Here’s a few ideas to ensure that’s the case:
- Make the area around your booth attractive
- Take a laptop or tablet and ask people to follow your Facebook page. (Use your page to keep people informed across the year on how your growing is going – you’d be surprised how much technology is changing the face of horticulture and farming)
- Customers like a large display to choose from. Put as many of your vegetables out as you can while keeping them fresh in shade. Put your crops up on shelves, not on the ground
- Put each of your crops in a group to make large blocks of colour. Yellow vegetables, especially, catch the customer’s eye.
- Include a mascot for the kids. Incorporating a character with your brand works wonders.
- Make signs for all your crops with each name and price. Customers also like to read information about your farm.
- Use your veg to make food at your stall, then hand out free samples.
People like to stop at roadside stands to buy fresh vegetables. Roadside stands can be close to your home or garden.
You can sell your crops without traveling far, and you can make money selling only one or two crops. For instance, fresh-picked sweet corn, tomatoes, and pumpkins sell well.
Customers who stop at roadside stands like to see colourful plants, gardens, animals, even clean gardening tools. They also like to see your crops growing.
If your stand is near your garden, make sure your garden is in good condition and customers can see your crops.
If you want to sell your crops at a roadside stand:
- Find a place close to a town or city, where people would not have to drive more than 10 miles to reach you.
- Find a place where a lot of cars go by. The cars should be going slow enough to be able to stop. A place next to a stoplight or stop sign is a good place.
- Find a place that people can see as they drive by.
- Find a place where people can park their cars.
- Ask customers what they think about your stand. You can learn a lot about what they want. This will help you plan for next year.
- Check with your local council if its ok to park where you plan to.
Pick Your Own or ‘You Pick’
Some customers like going into fields and picking their own vegetables. This is sometimes known as a You-Pick or “U-Pick” field.
The best customers for a you-pick field need a lot of vegetables for canning or freezing. If you are near people who can or freeze vegetables, selling this way may be a good choice.
You should get in touch with your local council for further information on this. (For instance, you may need to have restroom and hand-washing areas for your customers)
Selling your crops this way can save you work, but could also hurt your crop if your customers don’t know how to pick. Plan to take time to show people how to handle your crops, and then watch them work.