Friday, May 13, 2011

News from the Market Gardening committee: How many ways can a local produce grower market their crops to the members of their local community?

U-Pick saves the the grower the harvesting, washing, packing, labeling, transport, sales commission fees, invoicing, and possible inspection costs (organic labeling provides customers the trust when direct inspection {Caveat Emptor} isn't available). The customer base is limited by driving distances factored by crop selection. But once a local customer is hooked up with a local grower, the relationship is similar to your own backyard garden.

Farmer's Markets requires the grower to harvest, pack, transport, and sell (serious time investment), but dodges the labeling, sales commission, and some of the inspection requirements if his customers are familiar with his operation. Pre-sold harvests to repeat customers are incredibly valuable beyond just money. And vending at a local market can be a lot of fun meeting everyone!

Local grocery retail sales have almost all the costs involved, but the local retailer's connection to the community can be invaluable. Big box groceries are curious to meet local growers, but often have administrative rules affecting local managers.

Restaurant sales can be interesting, especially when the chef involves the grower in the seasonal menu creation. Consistency of product and production is critical. Restaurants need the profit margin only available with discount pricing.

Onsite, farmstand, retail sales aren't very common here in Central Florida. Zoning laws abound and travel to remote rural farms sucks gas. It's an option that should be considered carefully.

Selling to wholesalers, resellers, storefront produce markets is out there. Research opportunities for consistent production needs. Do you have to deliver or will they send their transport for a pick-up.

I'm sure there are plenty more options out there. What methods have you found to actually bring your crops to market?

Hope to see you in the garden, Tom.