For many of us, August is peak production month, and its easy to feel overwhelmed. But to make the most of your farm’s bounty, it’s also important to keep some attention on your marketing efforts. Here are a few quick tips to help with summer sales:
1. Make sure your booth or store has “curb” appeal. “Your farm stand or booth doesn’t have to be fancy, but it has to be neat and welcoming,” says farm marketing consultant Rose Wilson, who specializes in working farms and small businesses. “Think of your exterior presentation just like realtors do when selling a house. Curb appeal.”
2. Now, bring the same critical eye inside your farmstand or store. Do your displays draw customers further in? Whether you’re at farmers market or at your own farm store, it’s important to keep your products looking fresh and appealing. Learn more about easy ways to create attractive displays that encourage purchases at the New Farmer Project’s Marketing Toolshed.
3. If you grow produce or flowers, take advantage of the rainbow of color that late summer vegetables provide to boost the visual appeal of your displays. A complementary tablecloth, or well-placed bouquets of flowers can provide similar effects.
4. Consider showcasing products that are unusual or that home gardeners may not be able to grow themselves. “August is a high competition month with all growers in peak production. It is also a month when all those home gardens really start to produce,” says East Montpelier, VT, farmer Joe Buley of Screamin’ Ridge Farm and the Central Vermont Food Hub. Joe’s list includes items like greenhouse peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, as well as value-added products such as salsa’s and soups.
5. Make it easy for shoppers. Pre-package items in easy to grab units to keep the line moving. Some examples: quarts of potatoes or half-pound bags of green beans. Be sure to weigh the contents to make sure that your package is the right amount for your price.
6. Revisit your production expenses, especially as you begin to bring “fall” crops to market. “If any of your major expense categories have gone up or down, it may be an indicator to adjust your prices,” says UVM’s Mary Peabody, who also advises monitoring your competitors prices. Go to the UVM Direct Market Price Survey Project for pricing resources, including bi-weekly reports on produce prices throughout Vermont.
7. Seduce them with samples. Offering samples can be one of the most effective ways to introduce customers to your products, especially items like heirloom varieties that look different than conventional produce, and products that carry a hefty price tag, such as value-added or prepared products, meats, cheeses, and some produce, like melons. Rules regarding food sampling vary, so be sure to comply with local and state rules for your products. You can find guidelines for general food safety practices for providing samples of fresh produce, meat, eggs and dairy products and prepared foods and baked goods at UVM Extension’s Food Safety for Producers and Processors website.
8. Communicate! If you have a web presence, use it to post updates and pictures for your customers, says Matt Mole of the Intervale Center’s Success on Farms Program. “It will draw them in and keep you in their mind space. Let them know what special and unique products have, and what they can expect in the near future. Make them want to come to your farm or look for your stand at the next farmers market.” Friendly (but brief) conversation at market can do the same.
9. Take the time to enjoy summer. Really. While it may seem impossible to stop and take an afternoon off, sometimes it is just as important as any particular farm chore. “If you are stressed out and overwhelmed,” says Mole, it will come across to your customers when you interact with them, and reduce the quality of the interaction.”