You need to develop a focused marketing plan before planting any crops. A marketing plan helps, but does not guarantee, that most of what you plant will be sold. However, a good plan can help eliminate wasted time, space, produce and money.
If you choose a wholesale market, you will not be able to charge retail prices,but your labor cost for marketing may be reduced. However, many market gardeners try to maximize their income by selling directly to consumers and bypassing wholesalers and other middlemen. Tailgate markets, farmers’ markets, roadside and on-farm stands, and pick-your-own operations are common direct-marketing strategies. Sales to restaurants, institutions and schools and grocery stores are common wholesale marketing strategies.
Diversity in marketing, as well as diversity in planting, is a cornerstone of stability.
Farmers’ markets are an excellent place for a beginning market gardener to sell their crop. Farmers’ markets do not demand that a vendor bring a consistent supply of high quality produce every market day, although that is the goal. If you have less-than-perfect tomatoes, you may be able to sell them as canners at a reduced price. A farmers’ market is a wonderful place to meet people and develop steady customers, which can lead to additional marketing channels.
On-farm marketing strategies include roadside or farm stands and pick-your-own arrangements. On-farm marketing strategies are often successful because pick-your-own customers who come for the enjoyment of spending time in the field will often also purchase harvested crops. Innovative farmers have found that on-farm entertainment,like animals to pet or pumpkins to carve,can be profitable additions to on-farm markets.
Tailgate marketing is also one of the simplest forms of direct marketing. It involves parking a vehicle loaded with produce on a road or street with the hope that people will stop and purchase the produce. This is commonly used for selling in-season regional produce. This method takes very little investment and can be set up on short notice.
Grocery and natural food stores may be one of the most diffi cult markets to break into for small-scale growers, but as interest in locally grown food increases, some stores are looking for ways to make this easier. If you want to sell to retailers, remember that they need consistently available and high-quality products.