Monday, February 8, 2010

Farmers’ Markets – Good Options for Beginning Farmers

I’ve always maintained that farmers who are directly selling their farm products aspire to be “Super Farmer” – and it’s simply unrealistic! Direct-market farmers rely on three unique sets of skills – producing, managing and marketing. Very few people (I haven’t met one yet!) – excel at producing the finest quality vegetables, fruits or other product; are financial whizzes who know to a cent what their profit margin is on each crop; and can market anything. Whew! Just thinking about it makes me tired. As a beginning farmer, be realistic about what you can do. Know that it will take time to develop production skills, financial management skills, and marketing and selling skills. Look for partnerships that will enhance your strengths and compensate for any weaknesses. (“Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers” is good publication for enhancing your marketing skills.)

A good way to get started refining all of these skill sets is to sell at Farmer’s Markets. Farmer’s Markets are good market channels for beginning farmers because they are easy to enter, you can experiment, and it doesn’t take much money to start selling. Most farmers’ markets have daily fees in addition to seasonal memberships which means that you can experiment with different markets to see which works best for you. Farmers’ markets are great for selling small volumes of different types of produce, and offer great ways to experiment with different products because of the immediate and direct feedback from customers. Because farmers’ markets often occur on the weekends or during afternoon hours, they can be very compatible with off-farm employment. (“Marketing Vegetables in Missouri” offers an analysis of different market channels for produce.)

Farmer’s Markets do have their drawbacks. They are very time intensive, which means that you will have high selling costs – even though you are getting a retail price for your products. That price can also fluctuate during the season depending on what products your competitors have to offer, and how much they have. You also have to produce a number of different products through the season to have a nicely stocked stand. Many farmers’ markets also are very weather dependent – meaning your customers could stay away in a big rainstorm or a terrible heat wave. That said – local foodies are pretty dedicated customers. Last summer, I shopped in the rain at the Columbia Farmers’ Market – with a lot of other equally dedicated customers! – Posted by Mary Hendrickson

No comments:

Post a Comment