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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
world domination awaits.
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.
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.
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.
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!).
Find out who the BEST Customers Are
> Potential Target Market
> More Consumer Characteristics
Miscellaneous Ideas & More Facts
> Cooking at Home (ideal customers)
> Not Cooking at Home (not so ideal...
>>Low Income/ SNAP (but really need it)
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
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
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.
The 7 shopper segments of organic products
LOHAS (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability)
Claritas lifestyle descriptions
Marketing Farmers’ Markets: Ideas for Market Vendors & Managers in Nevada
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
Reasons for Joining:
Produce: Favorite/ Least Favorite:
Herbs: Used Fresh, Preserved or Unused:
Members Opinions of Various CSA Features:
Colchester Farm has customers surveys from 2009 - 2014:
Farm Finance Challenge, this site posts financial reports from several farms
with different produce/ stock and selling markets.
Results from Iowa’s Collaborative CSA Member Survey
Reasons for Joining:
Reasons for Leaving/ Not Renewing:
Community Supported Agriculture on the Central Coast: The CSA Member Experience
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.
Vegetarian Times Magazine
Eating Well Magazine
allrecipes.com (search for recipes by ingredients and/or create a profile with your farm name to submit recipes)
(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: http://www.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/
Less Eating Out, Improved Diets, and More Family Meals in the Wake of the Great Recession
>>>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
"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
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:
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.
Exploring Efforts to Increase Participation of SNAP Recipients at Farmers Markets
Check out my other post in permies Advertising thread
Customer Insights With Google Analytics Demographics
Small Farm Business Planning
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
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.
more about targeted advertising later
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
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":
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