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How to Sell Your Produce: Tips for Small Farms
If you’re a farmer who grows produce to sell, you know the importance of having a plan in place even before you plant the first seed of the season. How you plan on selling your crops is going to affect how much you grow, which is why understanding your market and marketing strategy is a must.
As a commercial farmer, you probably already know farmer’s markets are a popular choice for selling your produce, but there are a number of ways to market your crops that you might not have on your radar. From CSA’s to U-pick farms, let’s take a look at a variety of options you can choose from to sell your produce.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs)
Becoming ever more popular in the farming world is Community Supported Agriculture — more popularly known as CSAs. What is a CSA? Simply put, it’s when a consumer buys a share of your farm’s harvest in advance, and you use the advance to buy supplies for your growing season. Once your crop yield is available, the now “members” of your CSA will receive a regular distribution of your produce throughout the harvest season.
Starting and maintaining a CSA takes hard work, organization and a solid marketing strategy — but it’s worth it if you’re determined! Does a CSA sound like a good fit for you? Follow these tips for starting a community supported agriculture group.
Consumers are drawn to the farm-to-table appeal that comes with a roadside stand — after all, stopping to pick up a bag of corn to shuck for dinner is a summertime staple for many. When it comes to roadside produce stands, there’s a great appeal for farmers, too. You can have control over your pricing, receive up-front payments, create jobs for family members and friends, and it’s not overly expensive to break into the roadside business. And, while a farmer’s market usually takes place once or twice a week for a few hours, you won’t have these restrictions with a roadside stand.
But, roadside stands aren’t for every farmer. Having good exposure, a dedicated customer base, knowledgeable staff to run the stand and a variety of produce will determine the success of your business. Will a roadside stand increase your farm’s income or will it eat up more time and resources than it’s worth? While sometimes you just never know until you try, creating a marketing strategy can weigh the scale in your favor.
Pick-Your-Own and U-Pick Farms
If you’re not familiar with a pick-your-own or U-pick farm (PYO), the definition is in its name — it’s where people can come to your farm and harvest the produce they want to buy. A PYO operation is meant to give your customers a hands-on experience and a little taste of farm life.
Going the U-pick route can reduce labor required for harvesting on your end, since your customers are doing the work themselves (and they enjoy it!). And, all the sorting, storage, packaging and shipping are largely taken out of the equation since the business transaction takes place right on your farm. If you’re considering a PYO or U-pick endeavor, keep in mind that your location should be reasonably close for customers, you’ll need room for parking and you’ll be working long hours.
A PYO farm is a business that needs a positive image, attractive facility and friendly staff. Much of your business is conducted during weekends, so advertising and promoting your farm will play a large factor in how well it does.
If you choose this route, it’s important you have a safety plan in place for when visitors come to your farm.
Culinary Tourism on Farms
Culinary tourism is more popular than ever, and farmers are cashing in on the trend. As it relates to farming, culinary tourism offers people the opportunity to tour your farm and eat the produce while there. More and more farms are becoming part of the “agritourism” trend, as it’s also known, bringing visitors to their farm so people can learn, appreciate and consume the produce. Choosing this route means heavily marketing what you have to offer, and if you have the means to create an experience such as this, it can be a great way to provide a stable income and share your lifestyle with others.
Do You Need a License to Sell Produce?
With any business, it’s important you’re familiar with and adhere to rules and regulations set by your state and the federal level. Whether you need a permit or license to sell your produce typically depends on the type of channel in which you’re selling.
A good place to start to ensure you have the proper permit or license is your state’s Department of Agriculture and Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is an important step to make sure your product is licensed and legal to sell in your state.
Restaurants, food co-ops, farm to school programs, wholesale — there are countless ways you can get your produce out on the market. It just takes some digging to discover what’s best for you and your specific farming operation. Take the time to research your options, talk to a variety of farming businesses and even tour their farms before settling on an idea.
Then, once you figure out what kind of business you want to conduct, talk to one of our American Family Insurance agents to make sure you’ve got the right protection in place to safeguard everything you work so hard for.