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How do you get customers?

 
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The only advice I have seen on the forums thus far is to set up a booth at a farmers market and use the market as a forum to build a loyal customer base or to try and sell to local restaurants. What other ways can someone with farm-fresh produce get in contact with someone who wants farm fresh produce?

On the subject of farmers market stand customers, what is an appropriate way to maintain contact with customers during the off season? For instance, if I had a stand in spring and summer (I seem to remember most markets aren't open during the "off season" and I want customers to be able to contact me when they want overwintering greens or I want to contact them when I have a fresh harvest of early-winter mushrooms, how do people like to stay in contact if at all? Email sign up sheet?

What is a polite way to offer to sell produce (mushrooms in particular) to restaurant owners?
 
pollinator
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This is something I can comment too a bit. First of all 'polite' is a relative term especially as pertains to most restauranteurs I know. I've opened multiple restaurant accounts for several different farms I've worked for and what I've found to work best is to show up at the 'polite' hour of around 2:30 or sometime when I know the kitchen is staffed but not 'open' with a sample box and a list of available produce to talk with whoever is the senior cook (or hopefully head chef) in the kitchen. This works pretty damn well in my experience. Same for mushrooms. Broach the subject ahead of time if possible to ascertain interest, but generally just show up. Many if not most restaurants have a pretty good amount of flexibility to their menus, especially if you catch them early to mid week. The phrase 'Great, we'll run that as our special' should come to warm your heart any time you have a glut of something.

As for email lists: Personally, with a few exceptions such as fearless leaders, I hate them. Sometimes you get no response, sometimes you get way to many responses and thus disappointed customers. I like phone calls. Chat people up at markets and if they mention they're interested in a largish order of Tomatoes for canning or a bunch of tasty winter mushrooms, take there phone number and an approximate amount they'd be into receiving. and yes, you can fish for this information and steer conversation this way. That way you can work down your list from largest orders to next, fill out the rest in the smaller orders, and anyone getting left out will be non the wiser. It has worked well for me anyway.

It's early. I hope this is cogent. I should be back on this evening if it's not to try and clarify or answer follow ups
 
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Landon offers some good advice! I would suggest that an emailing list is a worthwhile endeavour even if a phone call/conversation may be worthwhile anyway given the relative lack of time investment that is required to sent a mass email to x number of individuals.

Social media can be a good way to keep in touch with customers as it can allow you to build a story/relationship around your food and your brand through the use of photos and status updates etc. Facebook used to be great but, over the past couple of years, the Facebook page I operate appears to be reaching fewer and fewer of the people who 'like' it; we have 1900 followers yet we're lucky to reach a few hundred with any given post. It's still a considerable number of people but Twitter of Google+ may be more amenable.

 
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I took samples of my produce to vendors with a business card stapled to the container. I gave it to them and I said to eat some and see if they liked it, and that if they wanted me to I would leave them some on consignment. That meant that they took no risk.

So I got a customer, and every time I dropped new produce off she would pay me for what she sold and return what had not been sold. It was a bit combersom, but produce does not stay fresh forever and this way I took all of the risk.
 
pollinator
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Landon gives good advice for chefs, Terri for stores. "Locally grown" is a huge label for grocery stores these days.

You can also try partnering with an existing CSA. Same deal as Terry suggests, try to remove as much risk from them or figure out how to make it a value add--maybe an optional distribution through the CSA, not part of the basket. People opt in for the additional product. Or maybe they want them at certain times as part of a themed basket. Lots of CSA's are looking to diversify their baskets or extend their seasons but know they are stretched too thin. They get a good cut of the margin but I would take half the margin on 4 times the product--I can scale production easier than do marketing and distribution.

CSA producer co-ops are going to be a big thing in some areas.
 
pollinator
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I recently joined a free forum called nextdoor.com. Wthin the forum they divide things up down to the neighborhood. I now get daily updates from posts within the forum. I see things like "I lost my dog" to "I'm going to be renting my house out in 6 months". I found out someone within my neighborhood sells free range chicken eggs from their back yard. So now I have already bought my first dozen... and took a tour of their yard.

meetup.com might be a good place too. It is more regional and I keep finding plant swapps... and chicken swapps and such on there. I bet you could create a few meetups of your own. They have any subject imaginable. You get to use your own imagination. Even saw 3 ppl sign up to hoolahoop in a park nearby. lol

Also, the website for agritrue is up and running now. That thing has smart ppl on top... and a good foundation filled with motovated and pashionate ppl. Even if it is small right now.

Oh, and food trucks tend to network for supplies and such since they are small businesses that want to make a great first impression with good tasting food. I bet you could find a network near most large cities.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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R Scott wrote:

CSA producer co-ops are going to be a big thing in some areas.



my current employer uses and swears by this model. It works very well for her and the other farms she's allied with
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
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Also once you get your foot in the door at one or two places in the area it makes things all the much easier to get more clients. Drop by/call/email other parties in the area and explain that you are already making deliveries to X and Y trusted business and you'd love to deliver to them too. All the restaurant people and most of the produce people talk to each other and hang out at the same bars anyway in my experience. Get your foot in good with one or two and the rest shall follow.

World domination awaits.
 
pollinator
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All great ideas. But I guess it depends on how populated your area is and how many businesses there are. I'm in a rural, very small town area. Only five eateries within 30 minutes and only two would have the faintest interest in buying anything other than their weekly distributor delivery. There are 6 stores that sell some sort of fresh produce but only one has any interest in buying small lots of locally produced veggies. But a new health food store is soon to open that has voiced avid interest in local foods, thank heaven.

A small local farm has started a CSA which rapidly attained its quota of 26 members. But now that people have learned what it's like being a part of a CSA, I've been told by many that they won't sign up for a second go-round. So I'm guessing if one wants to go the CSA route, one needs to tailor their production to meet the expectations of the customers. I've never tried a CSA, and I'm not willing to be committed to a rigid production schedule. That's just me.

Farmers markets are very, very popular here as a way to buy fresh veggies. So setting up a booth there is a success in this area. We have three markets in my area within a 15 minute drive.

In addition to just standing in a market booth, I found customers by:
...attaching homemade business cards to produce bags. Since I had to legally post my address anyway, making removable tags made it easier for my customers to rip off and hand to their friends......like in "this is the vendor to buy tomatoes from".
...posting an announcement at the farmers market, on local bulletin boards, and on craigslist of an open house at the garden, a meet-your-farmer event. I offered a free bag of produce to any new customer coming to visit the gardens. While they visit, I ask what things they would like to see me grow. I no longer need to do this anymore, but it helped initially.
...hand out "coupon cards" to my special and good customers (by the way, the cards have an expiration date). The card is for them to hand out to a friend or neighbor and entitles the NEW first time customer to $3 off. Each card is coded so that I know which customer handed it out so that when it gets redeemed, the old customer also gets a $3 discount. Yes, it cost me $6 but it was cheap advertising compared to other forms of ads. And after a year, I don't have that many people that would be new first time customers anymore. So I seldom need to redeem cards now except for new people moving into the area. In the beginning, so that I wasn't swamped with coupon discounts, I was very selective on who I gave the cards to. That way I didn't go broke giving away $6 all the time.

Selling right off the farm is not an option for me. I'm off the highway so I'd get no drive by sales. Plus I don't want to be tied to a food stand. And I don't have the time to hang around waiting for someone to pick up a dozen eggs plus a cucumber.

Whatever I don't sell at the farmers market I can offer to the local restaurant or local food store.

I tried the email announcement thing but it didn't work out. I got more customers pissed at me because they missed out on something because they were at work or out of town at the time of the email. Someone else beat them to it. They resented missing out. So I stopped offering stuff that way. I just told people that I was too busy and that I'd be bringing everything to the farmers market.

I have no trouble selling just about everything I produce that is in sellable condition. But then, I also offer it at a fair price. I've seen vendors that go home with half their perishable stuff unsold. Not me. I price things so that I sell out, or almost sell out, at closing time. So sometimes a bunch of turnips is only $2, other weeks it may be $3 r even $4. Sometimes big onions are 2 for a dollar, sometimes a dollar each. It's whatever it takes to be sure to be sold out by closing. And I have a half dozen customers who know that they can get a good deal if they show up just as I'm packing up. I will sell a no-choice assortment surprise bag of veggies real cheap just as I pack up the truck. They don't get to know what's in the bag until they've already bought it. It works for those people and it helps me out since I don't have the facilities to store unsold veggies.
 
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I have answered this one rather succinctly for myself over the past 10 days. First, it helps to be me. I could sell sand to a cactus. My friends and I have a couple gardens that are bursting with produce. One year ago we had none. I decided it was time to try to market stuff, since the freezer is nearly full. Here are the results. Here's the gardens --- https://permies.com/t/27910/projects/Dale-Day-Garden

My friends live in a good area of Victoria BC. Every grocery store of any importance has organic produce. There are about 8 that are exclusively organic. Not bad for a metropolitan population of around 300,000. A large segment of the population is quite educated concerning food and can afford the good stuff. They don't want bug spray and they don't want truck weary stuff from California. They are accustomed to paying double the supermarket price for most items. Most are physically fit. Good start. Live where there is an affluent, educated customer base. Easier said than done. Twenty two years ago, I left Ontario, a place where I can't imagine selling my produce with the ease that I've experienced.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Dale's Vegetable Market
My friend lives in a condo, on a street that is all condos. Lots of people. No big gardens. A few herbs and lettuce on balconies. We have set up a table six times.

1.The first time was a dismal failure. My friend from Thailand is too shy to engage people who walk by on the sidewalk. She is very chatty if they come to the table but if they walk buy, she says nothing. Six dollars in sales in four hours. This was done in front of the house where a garden is located.

2. All other sales have been conducted by me. The second and all other sales were done on the boulevard in front of the condo. This is convenient because the table and tubs, bags etc. live here. It takes me 7 minutes to park, go up the elevator, load it with table, chair and tubs of produce and set up shop. Bam - Pop up vegetable market. We only had a small quantity to sell on this second day. Eight people walked by on this quiet street in 20 minutes. Five bought stuff and our supply ran out. Five minute pack up. Done. This was done at 4:45 pm. on a Tuesday, just as people who walk home from jobs downtown come down this street.

3. I did the same thing on Thursday night with a lot more stuff and in under an hour, I sold it all. Same start time.

4. Friday. Same thing, roughly the same results. 30% were repeat customers.

5. Saturday 5 pm. I met more people on Saturday than on the other days. I only sold $4 worth of stuff during a 45 minute run. Many stopped to look and chat, but they weren't headed home to make supper. They were headed to the park or to the movies, or to other things where you don't want to have to babysit a bag of perishables. Many had attended the big farmer's market earlier in the day. There's food, crafts, entertainment ... It's a happening event that I'm not foolish enough to try to compete with.

6. Monday - Again, I began at 4:45 and sold pretty much everything. Lots of repeat business. Some of the slow eaters have said they'll grab more when they run out. I've discussed the possibility of weekly orders once we have greater supply. I called one friend about a $15 a week deal. He agreed, paid for 4 deliveries in advance and requested another bag after only 5 days. He feeds everybody who stops by the house. I had one of those big South African sausages when I made the delivery.

This experience has taught me a lot of what I already knew. Timing is important. Almost all sales were to people who were walking home from work or who went for a walk after work. If I talk to the people as they go by, about 70% stop for a look and 35% buy. I took several phone calls while manning the stand. None of the people who walked past during those calls stopped to look except for one lady who had bought twice before. About 65% of customers have been women. On average, men have spent more. My three biggest sales and the weekly order were men. None of my offerings were purchased by people who I saw smoking. Those who are walking and talking on a cell phone seldom stop. When a guy calls his wife and lists everything that is for sale, and he knows the names of everything, they buy a lot.

I know from this test, that sales are not a problem for me. I plan to clear an area of about 30,000 sq ft at the farm so that I can increase production by a factor of 10. over the next couple of years.

 
dan long
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You all have given me some amazing advice. Thank you.
 
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Do you have a farmstand? Are you in a location where that is even feasible as a sales outlet? If so, in addition to building out an email list, use the farmer's market interaction to drive people to a facebook/twitter type social media. "Like us on FB or Follow us on Twitter!" Then use that to drive traffic to your farmstand. "Stop by the Farmstand Wednesday after PM for fresh __________ and ____________!" Again, this depends on your location vis a vis your market.
 
dan long
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J D Horn wrote:Do you have a farmstand? Are you in a location where that is even feasible as a sales outlet? If so, in addition to building out an email list, use the farmer's market interaction to drive people to a facebook/twitter type social media. "Like us on FB or Follow us on Twitter!" Then use that to drive traffic to your farmstand. "Stop by the Farmstand Wednesday after PM for fresh __________ and ____________!" Again, this depends on your location vis a vis your market.



I dont have a stand and i dont know if there are any goo local outlets or not. We had planned on being in Washington in March but my wifes visa application is taking longer than expected. I am in the "research everything" stage of my garden.
 
gardener
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I live in a very rural area; population in the county is only 5K. I do attend farmer's markets, but only to deliver CSA boxes. I am not going to harvest veggies in the hope of selling them. We know exactly what has to be harvested to fill orders which cuts down a lot on waste. We have a bit of a spin on our boxes in that we allow substitutions if someone just doesn't care for an item or has an allergy. I am a firm believer in e-mails, we send out 1 every Tuesday with everything that will be available that week and what is going in the CSA boxes. We have plenty of people that get our e-mail that do not have CSA boxes; they e-mail us their shopping list which is boxed up and ready for pick up. This availability list also lets our CSA customers add to their weekly box. It takes some organization and prep but well worth the time and effort. This works really well here, we have 85% repeat customers. There are 2 restaurants that also get our weekly e-mails and place their orders; these relationships are the result of my scheduling a tasting with their chef.
 
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Something to learn from this thread. For every person that reports success with a given approach, there will be at least one person who willl say it does not work, or at least it does not work for them. I think the only method for getting customers that will not work (and, actually, I can imagine circumstances where it might) is "if you grow it, they will come".

It is not enough to grow good food. People need to know that you grow good food, and that you are willing to sell it.
If you can communicate those two things, you will get customers. How you communicate that information will depend on your specific situation. In an urban environment where everyone is on Twitter, you need to be there too. In a rural place where the farmers' market is the place where people find out about the local farms, then you need a presence there. Permaculture in practice, observe and then act appropriately

There are marketing techniques that are more efficient than others in a given circumstance and you will probably not hit on the best approach straight off. But you may not need the best in order to be ok. There is a balancing act that includes what you are comfortable with and what your market are comfortable with. It may be that "the best" approach where you are does not fit within your comfort zone, but what you are comfortable doing gets enough business to suit your needs. Perfectly fine

I do a lot of thinking out loud in these forums, talking my way through things in public, where I may get some feedback that will be helpful. This whole arena of marketing and sales is one in which I am not comfortable. For someone planning to start a business, that is a potentially serious problem, because the sale is what propels the business.

So how can someone that does not "sell" worth a damn get past that, find and/or create a market and generate sales? For me, I think I have a potential answer.
I do not like to sell, but I love to tell stories and teach. I am even pretty good at both. And I think that by pursuing opportunities to speak about earth positive food production, to speak about the benefits that can come from farming in ways that contribute to the health of our world rather than degrade it, I can communicate to people that we are growing good food and people are welcome to buy it, along with the rest of the message;)

I think that everyone wrestling with how to find their market and make their market aware of them can benefit from some introspection about what they do well and enjoy doing and how they can leverage those skills to communicate with their market.

Pricing is a whole thing of its own. Salatin has some excelent advice in that regard (of course!).
 
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Here's a variety of research, customer survey results and ideas for learning more about the different kinds of customers who buy from farmers and farmers markets. It's mostly for beginner CSA's and farmers markets, but also contains helpful information for others. Once you know which of these customers you want for your business, it's easier to know how to reach them.

>>>>Outline:<<<<

Find out who the BEST Customers Are
> Potential Target Market
> More Consumer Characteristics
Customer Surveys
Miscellaneous Ideas & More Facts
> Cooking at Home (ideal customers)
> Not Cooking at Home (not so ideal...
>>Low Income/ SNAP (but really need it)
Additional Resouces


Find out who the BEST Customers Are

>>>Potential Target Market<<<
Following are research graphs that identify characteristics of farmers market and csa customers.
Note that this research has been conducted at various time periods, so the information is dated.
I believe it's mostly still reliable, except that more people who don't match these characteristics
are getting involved
because local and organic has/ is consistently gaining ground in mainstream
media and grocery stores shelves, so it's becoming more and more the "ideal" and "trendy" thing
to do. So, for some it is already a lifestyle, for others it requires lifestyle changes (like actually cooking).

Note: All links contain even more info.



Direct Marketing Local Foods: Differences in CSA and Farmers’ Market Consumers
http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/Economics_AppliedEconomics_2011-01pr.pdf

Is your Farmers Market located within 7 to 15 miles of target customers?


>>>More Consumer Characteristics<<<
Advertising gurus like to give cute names and phrases to segments of the population to help
them identify which groups can be targeted for certain products and services. It's based on
the individuals lifestyles, age, spending habits, personalities, values, income, education, etc.
It's demographic and psychographic data. Anyhow, here's a whole slew of names given to
segments that CSA and organic shoppers are a part of, put together by various organizations,
researchers and time periods.



Segmenting CSA members by motivation: anything but two peas in a pod
http://www.montclair.edu/profilepages/media/1853/user/Pole_and_Kumar.pdf
Excerpt:

CSA members are motivated to join alternative farming arrangements for a variety of
reasons. Results from cluster analysis (see Table II) yield four distinct consumer groups:
No-Frills Member; Foodie Member; Nonchalant Member; Quintessential Member. All four
clusters are significantly different from each other.

The No-Frills Member (Cluster 1)
seeks seasonal and fresh produce above all else. These members might be characterized
as utilitarian, primarily seeking seasonal and fresh produce. Low negative scores along
the other dimensions characterize this cluster, and again underline their singular focus.

The Foodie Member (Cluster 2)
scores high along two food dimensions – local/organic and seasonal/fresh – with low negative
scores on the community dimension, and low positive scores on price and convenience.
This group highlights the importance of food quality.

The Nonchalant Member (Cluster 3)
scored negative and close to zero along all dimensions suggesting that none of the traditional
motivations explain why members of this group joined a CSA.

The Quintessential Member (Cluster 4)
is the ideal CSA member who cares about all aspects of the CSA, especially building a
sense of community.

See also:

The 7 shopper segments of organic products
http://theconsumerfactor.com/en/7-shopper-segments-organic-products/

LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability)
http://academicsreview.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/Academics-Review_Organic-Marketing-Report1.pdf

Claritas lifestyle descriptions
http://sfp.ucdavis.edu/marketing/organic_734/profiles_449/


Marketing Farmers’ Markets: Ideas for Market Vendors & Managers in Nevada
http://agr.wa.gov/Marketing/SmallFarm/Greenbook/docs/Greenbook2014-Complete.pdf



Customer Survey Results
Learn more about what motivates customers and get ideas for creating your own surveys,
and working on solutions for the most common problems.



2013 CSA Survey Results ~ Chert Hollow Farms
http://cherthollowfarm.com/2013/12/2013-csa-survey-results/
Graph Excerpts:

Reasons for Joining:


Produce: Favorite/ Least Favorite:


Herbs: Used Fresh, Preserved or Unused:


Members Opinions of Various CSA Features:



See also:
Colchester Farm has customers surveys from 2009 - 2014:
http://www.colchesterfarm.org/surveyresults.html

Farm Finance Challenge, this site posts financial reports from several farms
with different produce/ stock and selling markets.
http://www.farmmarketingsolutions.com/category/farm-finance-challenge/


Results from Iowa’s Collaborative CSA Member Survey
http://www.soc.iastate.edu/extension/ncrcrd/researchbrief-csamembersurvey-lowres.pdf
Graph excerpts:

Reasons for Joining:



Reasons for Leaving/ Not Renewing:



Community Supported Agriculture on the Central Coast: The CSA Member Experience
http://casfs.ucsc.edu/documents/research-briefs/RB_1_CSA_members_survey.pdf
Excerpt:

In addition to exploring why members may leave, we also looked at factors
that are related to returning to the CSA.

Respondents appeared more likely to re-join when they were
* satisfied with the quality, quantity, and product mix of the produce;
* when picking up the box was convenient;
* and when people felt the share price was fair.

Also, members were more likely to return the next year if
* the payment schedule did not pose a financial hardship,
* and they were not throwing away or composting more produce
than before they joined the CSA.

One interesting finding is that those who said they or
their household experienced a change (in eating habits or in
some other area of their lives) as a result of participating in
a CSA were also more likely to rejoin.

For example, 82% of households that experienced a change in
eating habits would sign on again, whereas 65% of those without
such a change were not likely to rejoin
. It appears that learning to
incorporate or adapt to the new way of eating and cooking helps
increase the likelihood of staying with the CSA, as well as
encouraging desirable/valuable lifestyle changes.






Miscellaneous Ideas & More Facts

>>>Cooking at Home<<<
I'd like to stress the point that some of the most ideal customers already cook at home.

In all the variety of CSA websites and business/ marketing information I've looked at,
none of them really emphasized this as a major key selling point. Yes, most CSA's had
newsletters with recipes, but the overall feeling was that it was because they were
"suppose to" or "had to". It seemed to be, almost literally, the least they would do.
It wasn't any more exciting than grocery stores having shopping carts.

I seriously can't recall even one site having the word "cooking" on their home page
or anything like "Get Award Winning Seasonal Recipes....Sign up for our email newsletter."
Or... "Your Best Loved Recipes Will Taste Even Better with Our Fresh, Locally Grown Vegetables"
(or with Our Wildcrafted Herbs, etc.) or "More Flavor and Nutrition in Your Homecooked Meals", and so on.



Check out the mouth-watering description (advertising) for this free ebook on deliciousliving.com.
It could easily be re-worded to describe a CSA or Farmer's Market, with the call to action to subscribe
to the recipe newsletter and come to the next market for the ingredients.
http://deliciousliving.com/free-materials



Vegetarian Times Magazine
http://static-vegetariantimes.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/VT_MKP15.pdf


Eating Well Magazine
http://www.meredith.com/sites/default/files/mediakits/EW0215_mediaKit_full.pdf



See also:
allrecipes.com (search for recipes by ingredients and/or create a profile with your farm name to submit recipes)
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/310/food-and-cooking-sites-and-demographics-on-the-web.html
(note: the banner and ad position that gets the best results is just like those on this site at the top of the page)


>>>Not Cooking at Home<<<
"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."

I'd also like to stress that more people who don't frequently cook or eat healthy are being driven to do so,
either by the recent recession and/or because of the multiple mainstream push and support for it.

So, it's no surprise that CSA websites attract some people who like the idea of local, fresh, organic, and nutrition
but end up not liking the CSA experience because of the reality of cooking. And, a lot of people don't cook 50%
of their meals. Cooking and cooking know-how have seemed to decrease in proportion to the availability of
processed, microwavable, frozen, and other convenience foods. It may also be that they just don't have time.


You can either work with these customers, providing them with ways to make it easier for them to transition
to a new lifestyle (ex.: quick and easy recipes, menu plans, positive reinforcement, etc., see my other post about
ideas for unused produce: https://permies.com/t/47906/farm-income/Fruits-Vegetables-Dye-Craft-Beauty),
or try to weed them out before they become members (ex.: New to CSA's? Check out the CSA pros and cons list
to see if it's right for you.) Here's a good one: http://www.tucsoncsa.org/about/why-you-should-join/


What's Cooking:
http://adage.com/article/american-demographics/cooking/44473/


Less Eating Out, Improved Diets, and More Family Meals in the Wake of the Great Recession
http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014-march/less-eating-out,-improved-diets,-and-more-family-meals-in-the-wake-of-the-great-recession.aspx#.VYXfVPlViko




>>>Low Income/ SNAP<<<


Trends in US home food preparation and consumption:
analysis of national nutrition surveys and time use studies from 1965–1966 to 2007–2008

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3639863/
Excerpts:

"Fewer people cooked in 2007–2008 compared to 1965–1966 for all income groups, although the
low income groups showed the largest decline in the proportion cooking, from 67% in 1965–1966
to 56% in 2007–2008"

"Although concern amongst public health scholars and advocates has often centered on fast food and other
away-from-home foods, efforts to boost consumption of healthy home-cooked foods have become
increasingly common across the US Programs include the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
Healthy Incentives Pilot aimed at increasing purchase of fruits and vegetables and the Women, Infants, and
Children (WIC) Farmer’s Market Nutrition program, which provides coupons for the purchase of locally grown
produce [21-23]. In both the UK and the US, promotion of home cooking has been viewed as a major strategy
to reduce obesity [24-28]. However, these initiatives assume that if consumers are able to purchase healthy
foods, they can and will prepare them at home."


in an interview with Sarah Kliff at Vox
http://www.treehugger.com/green-food/home-cooked-meals-are-idealized-and-perhaps-unrealistic.html



There are many farms and farmers markets targeting the lower income sector, particularly SNAP recipients.
Since the lowest income bracket also cooks the least at home, there should (ideally) be additional supports in place
to help them transition to healthier cooking and for this program to be a long-term success. They may not have
seasonings, cookware or utensils that recipes call for, so be mindful of this. Easy recipes with some of the more
common vegetables will help them build the self-esteem and confidence needed to try out new foods and recipes.
Lack of personal transportation or the Farmers Market not being on a metro bus route, may also be a barrier.
These may not be problems for all low income households, but they will be for some.



Farmers Market Coalition Report:
http://farmersmarketcoalition.org/snap-at-farmers-markets-growing-but-limited-by-barriers/
Excerpt and graph:

"Although farmers markets have grown immensely in recent years, the majority of them still operate on a shoestring budget
(or none at all) with an all-volunteer “staff.” It is not surprising then that many markets cannot afford to purchase SNAP
equipment. Those with the income to purchase equipment often lack the resources to hire staff to handle the SNAP transactions,
bookkeeping, and outreach. There must be a staff person present for the duration of the market to run SNAP transactions.
Afterward, transactions must then be reconciled and tallied on a regular basis, and farmers must be reimbursed for the SNAP
payments they accept. These expenses add up. For example, the Burlington, Vermont farmers market pays over $1,200 a year
in fees and spends $3,200 paying staff to manage their EBT system.

For markets that decide to get SNAP authorization and equipment, this is only the first step in running a successful SNAP program.
Farmers markets must deliberately notify, educate and attract SNAP customers to promote SNAP spending at their markets. The
lack of a budget and other resources needed to do this limits the success of SNAP authorized markets and may further deter
markets that are considering accepting SNAP."





If your farmers markets accepts or is interested in accepting SNAP, or you're committed to helping, check the links
below to learn more about these customers and the extra supports needed. Getting donations and working with other
local agencies and getting volunteers to help with these multiple issues will help make this program a success for everyone.


http://frac.org/initiatives/hunger-and-obesity/why-are-low-income-and-food-insecure-people-vulnerable-to-obesity/
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/54e3786ae4b0c344d00446b1/t/55806fd2e4b0e50836d1fca3/1434480594381/MDP+Short+Report_Website+%281%29.pdf
http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/09/classism-of-eating-healthy/
http://www.fns.usda.gov/ebt/learn-about-snap-benefits-farmers-markets
https://8b862ca0073972f0472b704e2c0c21d0480f50d3.googledrive.com/host/0Bxd6wdCBD_2tdUdtM0d4WTJmclU/good-and-cheap.pdf
http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/12/1/34
http://www.pps.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/RWJF-Report.pdf
http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELDEV3101257
http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/FarmersMarketIncentiveProvider.pdf


Exploring Efforts to Increase Participation of SNAP Recipients at Farmers Markets
http://static1.squarespace.com/static/54e3786ae4b0c344d00446b1/t/55806fd2e4b0e50836d1fca3/1434480594381/MDP+Short+Report_Website+%281%29.pdf




Additional Resources

Check out my other post in permies Advertising thread
https://permies.com/t/14585/farm-income/Advertising

Customer Insights With Google Analytics Demographics
http://online-behavior.com/analytics/demographics-insights

Small Farm Business Planning
http://casfs.ucsc.edu/documents/Teaching%20Direct%20Marketing/Unit_2.0_Biz_Plan.pdf

Potential Market Segments
a. Farmers’ Markets
b. Community Supported Agriculture/ CSA
c. Direct to restaurants
d. Specialty caterers – weddings, flowers, special jams for wedding favors, etc.
e. Value-added (e.g. , personal label jams, edible flower bouquets, and winter “gift gourds”)
f. Home Delivery
g. Farm to School

Region Examples:
a. Your town/ city
b. Different areas of your town/ city (if large)
c. Surrounding Area
d. Nearby towns/ cities
e. Their surrounding areas

and whether they are urban or rural.



~30 ~
more about targeted advertising later
 
Posts: 8
Location: Maisons, Aude, France
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For box schemes, and markets,one of the most important thigs I have found is recipe advice- the simpler the better, as well as a few words about the nature and benefits nutritional and medical of the product. I sell organic herbs and find that people's knowledge outside of parsely and basil is quite limited but a few words of advice and pointers on the hows and whys helps folks to experiment.

All the advice I have been given seems to indicate that the most important ingredient is patience, the general rule of thumb is that it takes five years before you really know if you have a sustainable business, that is the time it takes to larn the profession, build up a loyal clientele, both individual and professional. Find the right markets and outlets and, most importantly, find the right balance between production and marketing. (I'm at the three year point).

One more thing about markets, it is important to find a spot and stick in the same place-it is amazing how blind people are, loyal clients will bithely walk by without a hello if you move about in a market. It is better to have a bad spit consistantly than be bouncing about. We stay in markets in our off season as well, mainly to remind people we still exist, talk to folks about what they intend to plant next year- and because we live in a remote rural location and an important part of our social life is talking to clients and other producers
 
Posts: 83
Location: Zone 8, Western Oregon
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Heather A. Downs, that research you compiled is remarkable and extremely helpful.  Thank you!  
 
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I created a mobile app called Niche - Shop Local to help small-scale producers (and other small businesses) find new customers and stay in touch with existing customers.

Producers sign up on the Niche website - https://www.nicheapp.us - and describe their products, locations, and schedule.

Customers use the Android and iOS mobile apps to:
• browse local products,
• search for products by name, seller, category, and location,
• view product and seller descriptions, availabilities, and prices,
• save products to a shopping list,
• save sellers as favorites,
• get notified when favorite sellers make new posts,
• share product listings on social media, and
• get directions and travel times to retail locations.

Niche is currently free for both sellers and customers, and it takes about 10 minutes for a seller to setup their first product and see it in the app.



We also provide small signs (postcards) that can be displayed at farmers' market stands, and next to the register, telling customers to "Find us on Niche":


 
Posts: 47
Location: South East Missouri
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My idea is multi-faceted.  I want to open a Farm Market Stand / Kiosk out by the main road that will offer eggs and fresh veggies on the honor system.  Just put your money in the box.  I will post recent prices from the local Walmart for information, and the buyer can let their conscience be their guide.  I also plan to visit the local Farmer's Market every Saturday morning to set up a booth - again - honor system... pay whatever you like, but in this case with a twist.  Nine months out of the year the market is open on Saturday only, and since I am a believer in Y'shua (Hebrew roots) I want to respect the prohibition on selling on the Sabbath.  Therefore the produce offered on Saturday will be absolutely free of charge, although you can choose to donate to the local messianic fellowship - just put your money in the box.  The other patrons at the farmer's market may get upset if I am giving produce away, but hey!  This is an experiment!  It may also be a big hit.  While at the Farmer's Market I figure I can also be tooling leather as a free demonstration, and will have many opportunities to open a conversation with folks who might like to visit my Farm Market Kiosk or who might like to come down to the greenhouse in the wintertime for eggs or fresh lettuce / veggies / Tilapia.  What do you think?  Will this work?? Too weird?  I just need to get retired first.  Turned 64 last month.  It won't be long now!
 
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 4973
Location: SW Missouri
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goat cat fungi books chicken earthworks food preservation cooking building homestead ungarbage
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Phillip Stuckemeyer: My favorite honor system food stand listed prices per pound, and had a scale there. I asked the people who ran it, they said most people overpaid them.

My guess of why that might work better than totally free form pricing is I hate to try to guess what people want, maybe it's just me, but even things like tips, if I ask "is a tip customary?" and get told "whatever you want!" makes me feel uncomfortable, that I don't know the expectations, feel like whatever I choose may be wrong, and I will avoid that place next time I need a service.

Having the Walmart prices there would definitely help, and personally, I'd also make sure they knew WHY your produce is better than Walmart.

I read your post with interest, as I plan an honor system too, and am working out my own details.

Keep us posted on how it works :) And I wonder if you could provide produce to another farmer's market seller on Saturdays? Maybe if it's not allowed, explain it's a religious thing? Because I can't see free produce making the other sellers happy at all.

:D



 
Phillip Stuckemeyer
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Location: South East Missouri
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Pearl, thanks for your contribution.  Very encouraging.  By the way, you misspelled my last name!  You left out an "e" and that is 1/21 of my entire name!!  ;}   Seriously, though.  There is a family named "Stuckmeyer" who operates a large farm with a fantastic farm market in Fenton, MO.  Stuckmeyer's Farm Market and Greenhouse.  They are about 25 miles from us here in De Soto.  I am part of the Stuckemeyer clan that settled in Illinois.  We are all family.  Nevertheless, I hope to sell some of my produce in the Stuckmeyer Farm Market store.  Small world!!
FarmMarket.jpg
[Thumbnail for FarmMarket.jpg]
 
Pearl Sutton
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 4973
Location: SW Missouri
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Phillip Stuckemeyer wrote: By the way, you misspelled my last name!  You left out an "e" and that is 1/21 of my entire name!!  ;}  


!! My apologies! Some days I don't proofread my posts well :)  1/21 is a high number to mess up :D

Good luck working with your semi-relatives :)
 
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From Peter Ellis- “This whole arena of marketing and sales is one in which I am not comfortable. For someone planning to start a business, that is a potentially serious problem, because the sale is what propels the business.
So how can someone that does not "sell" worth a damn get past that, find and/or create a market and generate sales? For me, I think I have a potential answer.
I do not like to sell, but I love to tell stories and teach.”

That sums up my mindset exactly! And because of that, I sell plants, not produce. I do not have to worry about ‘spoilage’ since any plants that don’t sell just keep growing! (That one factor is huge to me). There is no pressure to have ripe tomatoes by Saturday. There is no need to try to time harvesting anything to maintain freshness. There is a good markup/profit. Many people who are unhappy with high prices for produce will consider growing their own. It gives me opportunity to teach people as much as they want to learn about organic growing. We can compare successes and failures, share ideas, bitch about pests and weather, and just generally become acquaintances and possibly even new friends. It does NOT ever feel like selling, which I love! I primarily sell strawberry, tomato, pepper, squash and common herbs like basil, oregano, parsley, chives, cilantro... plus a few exotic things that I want to try for myself, so if they don’t sell, I can happily plant them at home. Spider plants and aloe do ok too. This year I will be trying out small trees I’ve started- lilac, arborvitae, weeping birch, and blue spruce.
So far I’ve only sold at the Saturday swap meet at the feed store parking lot, which is free space and gets a lot of traffic. It also does not lock me into a space at the farmers market where I’m required to be all summer, since most of my operation is only April-June. It’s a few thousand in extra income, takes up just one 6 hour day per week of actual selling, and of course I hand out contact info. And since it’s a swap meet, I can always trade my stuff for eggs or goats or homemade jelly too!



 
Phillip Stuckemeyer
Posts: 47
Location: South East Missouri
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Julie Reed wrote:
I do not like to sell, but I love to tell stories and teach.”



Julie, I completely agree.  I cannot sell.  I do not want to sell!

I described earlier my idea of setting up a booth in the Farmer's Market and then tooling leather while the folks browse my wares.  By tooling something interesting, I figure that some people would like to comment.  We might strike up a conversation.  This might lead to some business (I may agree to tool a leather portrait of your family based entirely on a photo that you provide.)  The subject of my leather craft would be important if I want this to work.  Not your typical belts and key fobs.  Full size portraits.  I might actually spend a number of weeks on a single portrait, and allow the patrons to come back to watch my progress.

Just another way of telling a story. or opening the door to a story telling session.
 
Julie Reed
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Leather tooled portraits sound interesting! Not a common craft. I have a sketch of Willie Nelson that would lend itself to that.
I like the vendors who sit quietly doing their art, or reading, rather than hounding me to buy something, or try something, or forcing a conversation about what they sell. I greet people immediately, and then leave them alone to look, or to ask questions if they want information or to buy, or to move on if they aren’t interested. I want my stuff to sell, obviously, but I don’t need or want to ‘push’ sales. My prices must be ok, based on selling 80-90% or so of everything I have every year. I let the plants do the work. I always bring bare root stock and other plants to pot or re-pot, both to get something accomplished and to be able to demonstrate proper methods.
 
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas
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I'm another one who isn't good at chasing down sales. As an introvert with anxiety, I tend to stress about inconveniencing people when I approach them with a product (since I don't like when people approach me just to try & sell something.
Like Julie, I tend to prefer selling plants versus produce; and have had good results in farmers/flea markets where people are constantly walking by and browsing. Since plants are one of my biggest interests, I find it easier to initiate a conversation when people stop to look at something. (I just have to make sure I don't go overboard with the science part & overwhelm them with botanical/horticulture terminology & have them "tune out" when they don't understand what I'm talking about.
Additionally, I don't view it as a source of income (yet). While I do take any extra veg & herb starts to sell, my niche focus is on old-fashioned ornamental plants; and my main goal is just to support my hobby by covering expenses for the things like pots, stock plants, supplies/tools, booth rent, seeds, etc.
Over time I'm hoping this will help me to be more comfortable with marketing and I can begin to expand my business (and profits) from there.  
 
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