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Questions on how to price market garden goods  RSS feed

 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Hi Zack, welcome to Permies.  The book sounds great!

My question is about pricing.  I have a large garden and sell my excess at a tiny farmer's market.  I'm the only vendor and the customers are my fellow church goers .  I'm struggling to figure out how much to charge for "un-certified organic-ish" produce and jam/jelly.  I can copy the prices from the local bigger farmer's markets but those goods are usually not organic.  I also have an organic grocery store to compare to but they have a volume advantage.  My fellow church-goers are generally middle upper class and drive priuses.  The stuff I'm selling is excess and my cost to grow/process is pretty low so I can't just add up my costs and profit and come up with a good number (except partially for jam/jelly with the sugar, jar and pectin costs).

For instance, I don't sell jam/jelly yet but plan to.  A 1/2 pint of blackberry jelly is $3 at the organic store and $5 at the farmer's market.  Sadly they get $2 at my parent's farmers market and $8 at the hoity toity farmer's market in a distant big city.  I think I'll start at $5 but should I be asking more since mine is organicish?  I don't want to scare people off with higher prices.  I personally would laugh at paying that much for a tiny 1/2 pint of jelly but they must be selling if they charge that much at the market.

Another example is a good sized butternut squash at the organic store is $5, at the farmer's market $3, at my market I ask $4 and I think I'm getting good sales.  I'm not sure if I'd get the same sales at $6 or if I'd double my sales at $4. 

I'm sure years of experience will tell me the right amounts but my excess garden supplies vary a bit and my market is only every other week so my chances for corrective adjustment are infrequent.

Not sure if there's an answer for this, good luck


 
Zach Loeks
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Location: Cobden, ON
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Hi,  good question!

Pricing is tricky.

Don't compare to grocery store or huge farms.

Set your price higher then them and invest part of your mark up into labelling and signage and image to make your product stand out. 

What you are doing is making your product visually represent the actual specialty and quality niche it is part of!

It never works to sell cheap.  Better to make impetus to buy more if you feel you need to drop your original price.

For instance we sell radish at $3 or 2 for $5

Make your product different:  mix rainbow bunches, and always, always ONLY deliver the quality you claim.

🌿Zach

Check out our Instagram @kulapermaculturefarm for more photos
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Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Thanks Zack!  At first I thought you sold radishes for $3 a piece but then I realized it's bundles    Do you sell them with dirt on them like in the photo? 

Our biggest time sucker is making sure they're pretty enough.  Without a true washing station, our kitchen has to do double duty. 
 
Zach Loeks
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Location: Cobden, ON
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Hi,

We wash all our produce.  You cannot command a good price for dirty food for three reasons: 1. it isn't presentable, 2. its works for the buys 3. you gave away your soil gold.

Try setting up a simple 2x4 framed table with a chicken wire top and lay your bunches out on top and spray ten at a time with a garden hose.

-Zach
 
Su Ba
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I'd heartily agree that pricing is tricky! I live in a rural area with most the population in the low income category. Lots of retirees too.

I tend to bunch items so that they can sell for  $3, 2 for $5, or 5 for $10. But I also have a $1 table that is very popular. This means that I intentionally don't try to grow giant pumpkins, monster winter squash, huge cauliflower heads, or whatever that would have to be priced above $3. I know that this is a simplistic system, but it works well with my customers. They know what to expect from my booth. Perhaps I could make more money if I didn't discount volume sales, but folks around here are poor and need to have affordable food to eat. i get a "feel good" feeling knowing that I'm growing food for my community. I can't put a price tag on that because the feeling carries me for the entire week that I'm working hard on my gardens.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I tend to price things at $1 per bunch. And then make the bunches as big or as small as needed to feel good about  how much food people are getting.

The bulk pricing strategy has worked well for me. I price squash from $1 to $4 each. But offer a whole crate of squash for $10. I offer tomatoes for $1 per pint basket, or about 5 pint baskets for $3.

Sure I also pick more pricey and highly labor intensive and perishable items like berries, or cherry tomatoes. I ask (and get) higher prices for them.

Su: I love the joy that comes to me from picking specific crops for specific people. I love the look in the medicine woman's face when I pick yarrow for her. I love the adoration I get from the lady that buys two yellow tomatoes per week, "Because they are the best tasting tomato ever.", I love knowing that the okra guy will be there first thing to buy my whole crop, because he loves them, and "can't get good okra anywhere else".

 
Deb Rebel
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It depends. Where you are, what going prices are, what time of season it is, and how much demand. I do echo about making some logo art and otherwise branding yourself and your wares, it just makes you look so much more professional. Your pricing sounds good actually compared to what you have mentioned.  On a bad year when nobody got tomatoes and you have some decent looking mostly organic ones, you can get $3 a pound for them at the parking lot farmer market. When it's high season, everyone has them and several others are selling tomatoes too, you're going to get 50c a pound.... 

If you build brand, with a consistent good product, you should be able to raise prices and keep customers.

Just beware your state cottage industry laws. I live in a state with very draconian laws regarding salsa, jellies and jams, preserves.... and the state office sent an official up here to shut down our very successful farmer's market because the food stuffs had to be processed/made in a 'certified kitchen'. Not someone's home kitchen. Fresh produce, okay. (though you couldn't hand out samples either!!!)  Crafts, okay. Some dared to sell salsa and jelly so they shut us down.

Good Luck
 
Mike Jay
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Thanks, we are already "branding" ourselves as the couple that grows their own food in a healthy way and bring the extra to church to sell.  We had our nieces make some cute signs for each type of veggie.  We are the only vendor at our market so my biggest worry is just the constant battle between selling too low and pricing too high. 

I'll be the first to admit that our pricing struggle is somewhat unusual since there's no direct competition and the local competitors either are organic grocers or inorganic farmers market folks. 

I think I'll just keep doing what we're doing and try to match the higher of either the farmer's market or the organic store unless it seems way too high or low and then we'll adjust. 

We are staying abreast of our state's cottage industry laws.  We can can pickles, jelly and other high acid foods.  Baked or otherwise processed stuff is not allowed.  Syrup and honey is allowed.

Thanks!
 
Wes Hunter
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My advice would be to take the prices others are charging, whether it's organic, conventional, local, shipped from the other side of the globe, whatever, gather them all up, figure the mean, median, historic price fluctuations, futures markets, etc... and then ignore those numbers entirely.

Figure out what you need (repeat: need) to charge to make it worth your while, and charge that.  Take all your associated costs, add in whatever you want to make on top of that, and there you are.  There is far too much hand-wringing, "Oh gee, will people pay X dollars for this?", when folks would do much better ignoring all the what-ifs and just forging ahead. 

I've been on both sides of this pricing debate, and things are much better over here.

Think about it this way: If you add up your costs, then include what you want to make on top of that, charge that, and then receive that amount, you're happy with what you've been paid.  You have to be, because you based that price on what you needed to get.  If people don't bite at your price, you can't go lower, because you've already determined that it's not worth your while at that amount.  And if 'the market' will accept a higher cost, and you decide to charge above and beyond what you need, isn't that called greed?
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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Good points Wes.

Wes Hunter wrote: And if 'the market' will accept a higher cost, and you decide to charge above and beyond what you need, isn't that called greed?


In my case, being the only vendor, I think so. 

In a traditional farmer's market, I think you have to consider the going rate so you don't undercut the other farmers.  But since that isn't my situation from the original post, I don't want to pull your quote out of context.

 
Wes Hunter
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Mike Jay wrote:In a traditional farmer's market, I think you have to consider the going rate so you don't undercut the other farmers.  But since that isn't my situation from the original post, I don't want to pull your quote out of context.



Undercutting is a funny issue.  Selling for considerably less than someone else isn't necessarily undercutting, in my opinion.  I think of undercutting someone as when one sells for less than another seller, just for the sake of selling for less (and presumably gaining customers), with no regard for one's cost of production.  That, in the long run, isn't sustainable.  But if my cost of production, or income needs and expectations, or what have you, are considerably less than someone else's, and I can thus sell for considerably less and yet do well enough, is that undercutting?  I don't think it is.  (Joseph Lofthouse had some good points in this regard in a thread on pricing eggs.) 

If I am comfortable with a 'low standard of living' (an idea that I think is bunk to start with), and can thus charge less than my competitors, I would consider that my advantage, not something to steer clear of so as to not upset other vendors.  That said, we tend to pursue products that end up being a fair bit more expensive than other local producers, so I'm not exactly speaking from experience.  But the idea remains: determine what you would be happy to be paid for something, set your prices thus, and go merrily along selling, letting everyone else busy themselves with hand-wringing and concerns over price point.

This is all assuming, of course, that one's production methods result in reasonable costs.  If your blackberry jam turns out to be too expensive because you insist on being compensated for singing to the canes for a full half hour each morning throughout the year, then you either need to pare down your time spent, reduce your hourly wage expectations, cultivate a really obscure class of customers, or go into a different line of work.  But on the whole, I tend to think that if someone produces an exceptional product, is moderately efficient, and has reasonable income expectations, these things tend to work themselves out.  I, at least, am relieved to be in a place where I can say, in effect, "This is my price, and if you don't like it I'll just sell to someone else!"
 
Have you seen Paul's rant on CFLs?
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