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finding a market for diverse forest garden harvests

 
pollinator
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I am just wondering if anyone has thought of this or has done so. At the moment im not having problems growing eatable/medicinal/useful plants. its finding a market for the hundreds of small continual crops that come out of the forest garden. How would one manage such a wide range of products coming out needing to be sold or processed. the veggies and some herbs are not hard to sell, its the specialty crops that really don't go anywhere, but they are such useful plants.
 
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Do you already have a business selling produce or anything?  Its hard enough to sell new veggies to people so I can understand the trouble of selling a new edibles and medicinals.  I think a good way to get people to start buying them is setting them up as an impulse buy.  I did this at our market with a few wild edibles.  I packaged them in low cost bunches around a dollar and put them right next to my scale.  We made a sign that was small but had some benefits of each product.  Lots of people would pick out the normal stuff then as i was weighing stuff up for them we would make a point to mention the specialty stuff.  Lots of people would grab a bag or two.  Even though they were only a dollar it still ended up being around between 6 and 10 a pound which is better than almost all the things we sell.  After a few weeks we had our regulars picking them out with out us suggesting them.  Next year we are going to do small and large packages as our market gets more use to them. 

I was thinking that it if you knew an herbalist or wild crafter you could host a workshop at your location.  If you have people interested in the workshop you get a nice list of folks who would be interested in the products  you have. 
 
Jordan Lowery
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thanks for the ideas, i don't have much of a problem selling veggies and herbs. and im pretty good at getting people to try new things out. i always just ask people if they would like to try new things, so i will give them some for free. most of the time they are back buying it( lambs quarters for example this past year, "EAT A WEED!!" they said at first lol)

when i started this thread i sort of had the idea of selling raw materials to the producers of products people buy instead of directly to the customer. and mainly for the specialty crops like, dried roots, flowers, specialty woods, etc...

i also like the workshop idea, will have to see what i can do with that one.
 
josh brill
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If you are doing wholesale for any of your produce how did you go about doing it.  I would think it would be the same approach.  The best approach for me at least is going to the places where I would want to sell my products if they are close enough.  If they are not close enough then a phone call can work as well.  Cold calls on the phone or in real life are tough if you take it personally.  Both of my parents have been sales people all their lives basically and have seen many folks wash out because they take the rejection of potential customers personally.  And generally the first wave of calls gets met with lots and lots of rejection. 

That being said its pretty much the only avenue to going wholesale unless you happen to know someone already in need of your product.  As a grower I've been taught to always have a plan for my produce before i even start the seedling.  Knowing when it will be ready, how much of it will there be and where will it be sold.  Granted just like most things in farming its a rough estimate but it needs to happen weather your growing annuals or perennials.  When you make your calls or meetings you should have clearly stated goals of what you want out of it.  Make sure you know what you have and when you will have it if you are planning on doing multiple sales with this company. Find out what it is that they have a need for.  What are they looking for in terms of quality and quantity. 

The first calls tend to be just a foot in the door then you can build a relationship as you work with the person.  Once you get more comfortable dealing with each buyer you figure out what they want from you and its much easier to meet their needs. 
 
                    
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One way to develop a market is to work with foodies - these are early adopters. There are clubs for foodies in many areas which meet for an unusual meal every month - sometimes it is pot luck, sometimes it is catered. Be careful - if you get yourself invited to their soiree, there will be some who puts you on the spot to ask incredibly deep questions you never expected. Come prepared, be ready to share.

There are chefs who are open to new foods and experimenting. They need free samples and educational material (storage and prep info, recipes, etc).  Our local community college has a program for training chefs. Talk to the people that run it to see if they would accept free food for their kitchen - some of those chefs-in-training could graduate into being a big market mover.

Many chefs and restaurants are looking for ways to distinguish themselves and their menu. Can we help them? For example, a 'local food celebration' that also revives old-time foods can get them positive media attention (ie, free advertising) - from the local newspaper to the cable food channels.

Restaurants need to plan. A food calendar that shows the approximate harvest seasons for your 20 or 40 lesser known crops might get a chef thinking about making the menu changes needed to become a steady customer.  Without such information, unusual foods are often written off as interesting but impractical. Chefs also need to know how many plates of that edible canna tuber or fresh bamboo shoot you can provide in each week of the season.

Marketing of new eating patterns has to be sympathetic to culture in order to leverage culture. Food decisions are not primarily made by individuals in isolation. Social network analysis has shown that kin and friends affect a wide number of behaviors - food choices, weight, exercise, smoking/alcohol/, etc. 

An individual with a stall at a farmer's market is probably thinking about selling to the individual. If permaculture is to thrive, we need to also sell to groups. Once cultural changes take effect, they can be self-sustaining.

Tying into history and tradition can appeal to many people that are resistant to the 'new-age' appeal that many unfamiliar foods have. Half the population is psychologically geared to favoring the new and exotic, the other half is geared towards looking backwards to the good ole days. Can we provide local plants that were commonly foraged and a big part of our region's diet 100 or 200 years ago? Heirloom fruits and veggies from Grandma's time? That might double the market.

Thanksgiving Day in the US is predominantly a cultural replication of the Pilgrim's New England feast - central elements are cranberries, pumpkin, turkey, and cornbread (potatoes were later added, along with regional variations, and things have drifted a bit - but 'pilgrim feast' explains more about the meal than anything else). What other cultural events allow for the widespread use of foods adapted to other regions?

How can good permaculture food be incorporated into existing traditions? How can new traditions be invented and propagated?   
 
Jordan Lowery
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great examples Jonathan, i really like the college training chefs moving onto there own restaurants and needing fresh high quality produce. it helps that most are close to my age group as well.

An individual with a stall at a farmer's market is probably thinking about selling to the individual. If permaculture is to thrive, we need to also sell to groups. Once cultural changes take effect, they can be self-sustaining.



this is also what i was going at when i started this thread, or at least what was going through my head. the world needs to know that a large scale permaculture farm can provide what is needed while still accomplishing diversity in all aspects as well as a good profit. i have a goal that i am working at of a 100 acre forest garden system that produces hundreds of raw products throughout the year. this thread is also how to manage those crops successfully. and i like what has been posted so far.


but also just finding sources for stuff. a good example from today is i harvested my yerba santa plants today for the leaf. dried and packaged a few ounces sells for 15-20$. i will have about 20 lbs of dried leaf when all is said and done, but no where to unload it other than drink it myself or people i know. this is one of many things i could collect right now or things that are done all through the year.

thanks for the posts though keep them coming.
 
gardener
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I've been thinking about this myself. I keep hearing from others about 'value added' products. I've got access to about a half acre of horseradish, and have thought about partnering with a chef to make and sell a sauce.

Things you can make and sell at farmers markets in the off season might help people look beyond the 'weird and wild' aspect, and get them buying it, due to a lack of generally available local produce in winter. I've recently heard of a nearby farm having success freezing lambs quarters and selling that like hotcakes in the winter. I'm wondering about various root crops that could be cut up into french fries, seasoned (with forest garden herbs) and then packaged and frozen for winter sale. Failing that, you could dry some veggies and make chips. I've seen kale chips in a local healthfood store selling for a crazy price. Which I knw doesn't necessarily equate to craz sales but its an example of an uncommon dried food.

Pickling is also viable I think. If you need a health certified kitchen, asking churches or chefs to rent out theirs is an option.

Jeez, all I wanna do is grow stuff...
 
Jordan Lowery
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Jeez, all I wanna do is grow stuff...



tell me about it lol, i would love to find someone that would do a good job at selling the diversity of things i can offer and not be mentally obsessed with money. i can dream cant i haha.

lambs quarters sells pretty fast here in the summer, word has gotten around that its good stuff to buy at the market! but not that you can grow it yourself( or it grows itself is more like it)
 
Jordan Lowery
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ok heres another one for everyone. i have whats going to be about 30 lbs of dried nettle root, but not sure where to sell it.
 
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I understand the whole "buy local" ideology, and I hate to bring this up...
how about internet sales as a backup?
 
            
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Have you considered marketing to healthfood stores and herbalists?  You may want to consider taking out an ad in the trade magazines that market to them.
 
Jordan Lowery
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there is one heath food store in town and i have been talking to the owner about supplying what i can, but theres no way they would need all i have. haven't though of local herbalists, might have to grab the phone book or something and give a few a call. thats a great idea, i support them, they support me, customers get good herbs, we all win.
 
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Hey, soil. I want to offer Etsy.com as one non-eBay site for person-to-person sales. I know I've been browsing pretty heavily for spring garden purchases among the sellers there, people who are very often independent small makers and growers like many folks here. Craigslist also has many new local portals for circumstantial sales -- I think you could offer specials during a peak in your season, or right as things become ready to sell, but maybe not post repeated advertisements as a business. The next step is always asking folks if you can be in touch in the future, a phone number or email address are still the best ways to reach neighbors, as they should be your first most important market. To be quite vague, I think you'll probably succeed with a mix of online, in person, via local classifieds like Craigslist, and then just cultivating your contacts as people get to know you and what you have to offer. Let your wares speak for themselves, happy customers will give referrals, remind people of gift ideas during appropriate seasons. Stay creative and eagle-eyed for new opportunities that are happening all the time. Sorry I can't be more specific -- what else do you have for sale besides nettle root? I'll probably buy something --
 
Jordan Lowery
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thanks for the reply summerstripes.  I agree that a diversity of ways to do this is going to be best. Ill have to check out etsy.com out. I do use craigslist to help sell some things. mostly veggie starts in the spring and fall as well as various propagated plants i have done. the best is like you said word of mouth, but it takes some time to get going. im getting there and word is going around my plants grow better because of all the selection and seed saving i do to localize plants. hopefully come spring the demand will be good.

on another note i had an idea of a business that someone would run. various local farmers would bring in there products and they would bargain and split the profits with the owner of the business to whats agreed on. people could come and get nothing but local products fresh and preferably cheaper. not sure what would be standing in the way as far as laws go though.
 
Barrett Johanneson
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Happy that you're online to write back and forth. I was thinking more tonight about a permaculture-oriented marketing, and wanted to be sure to share another post (How to find a market for your weeds) on Permies where Kerrick writes: "I've been working on a project that I call the sustainable wildcrafters network, for people to sell their weeds, their regeneratively-gathered wild medicinals, and their managed invasive medicinals directly to users. I need a few more people to express interest so I have motivation to actually finish the site. If you'd be interested in joining the network and testing it and giving me feedback, please send me a private message." So I think it would be worth an email? I certainly have wild-crafted stuff from time to time, but it really is a great question -- who wants it?

I also think what you're describing sounds a lot like a co-op, only they don't really have an owner. Are you interested in the collective space aspect, or the collective sales and earnings, or something else? I know of one co-op in my area, and their approach is more retail-oriented than the kind of clearinghouse you might describe. The primary focus is local products, but they fill in the blanks with fair-trade, organic, small growers, and other cooperatives. Is that like what you're thinking about?
 
Jordan Lowery
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well the "co-op" idea is mainly to set up a place where i can and other farmers can unload goods locally. we have local co-ops too, and they are almost like a regular old store. except they give you a catalog, you order once every two weeks and they order what you want then you pick it up. i want everything to already be there, sort of like a small grocery/general supply store. so people can come and buy things just like a regular store but EVERYTHING is locally made/grown.

that weeds thread was one that sparked my interested in creating this thread.
 
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Some rare/specialty herbs can be sold at a good price to herbal supplement manufacturers.
 
Jordan Lowery
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just call them up and ask or what? this is where i lack the knowledge. how do i know who wants what and when for how much.
 
Barrett Johanneson
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Soil, the co-op I know, Just Local Food in Eau Claire, Wisc., is a place like you describe. Their current building used to be a gas station / convenience store, maybe a little garage. All the glass cases and compact aisles of a minimart remain, but are stuffed with foods that are selected based on their proximity to the store. You can buy a weeks worth of groceries based on ingredients within 100 miles, easily. I know JLF seeks some distributed vendors, they accept potential vendors just like any customer at the front counter, or by appointment with one manager or another. I haven't been ready for many sales besides some mushrooms that a manager and I both decided weren't fresh enough to sell. (Wish I had chickens to feed those scraps to!)

Anyway, they have a model all geared toward local service and connections between local farms and customers that I think you would appreciate. You could also explore more private options like food buying clubs, or a business model like a locker plant. There are a variety of ways you could set it up. I sometimes feel rude asking if an attorney would weigh in, but I also think that the insight would be really helpful.
 
Jordan Lowery
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wow i wish a place like that existed here, we could really use it.

I sometimes feel rude asking if an attorney would weigh in, but I also think that the insight would be really helpful.



i feel a lawyer could add a ton of valuable info on subjects like this. problem is most want you to fill there pockets with green paper first. gotta find a lawyer who loves to eat good food and do a trade.
 
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