Hello, my name is Alex Sanders and I am the site supervisor at Project Worth Outreach in Menifee County. During our last participant’s meeting I gave a presentation on marketing your Grow Appalachia produce. I have decided to share this with you and I hope it is of some benefit to you.
Planning and Preparation for Marketing Produce
- Establish a sales goal and develop a marketing strategy and plan to achieve that goal. Identify the objectives of your marketing strategy. Objectives may include raising awareness that your produce is for sale and educating potential buyers about the advantages of buying home-grown produce such as freshness, higher quality or lower price. Identify the steps you will take to accomplish these objectives in a marketing plan.
- Create signs, large enough to be visible from the road, that announce you have fresh home-grown produce for sale.
- Create a flyer on the computer using word processing or publishing software. Include what kind of produce you have for sale, where and when the produce can be purchased, contact information such as a telephone number and at least one reason why someone would want to buy home-grown produce, for example “Fresh home-grown produce tastes better!” Print copies of the flyer on colorful paper.
- Find out if there is a local cooperative of home-grown producers you can join. The cooperative will market members’ produce to local restaurants, for example.
- Create a Facebook page and add your friends to your Facebook account and create a Twitter account and encourage your friends to “follow” you.
- Place the signs near the road and decorate them with balloons or streamers so that people passing by are certain to see them.
- Post the flyer on bulletin boards that are available for advertisements, for example in a coffee shop or church. Ask local business owners for permission to post a flyer in their windows or to leave flyers for customers to take with them. Ask your church, if you belong to one, to make an announcement about your home-grown produce or to include the announcement in their newsletter. Give flyers to your customers to take home and give to others.
- Ask your friends and customers to tell other people about how good your home-grown produce is. Update your status on Facebook to announce your home-grown produce. Ask your friends and customers to “Like” your produce on Facebook, and ask them to update their status to let others know they are buying your home-grown produce. When you have new produce to add, make an announcement on Twitter and update your Facebook profile. Ask your friends and customers to “re-tweet” your announcements on Twitter.
- Provide some free samples of your produce to your local newspaper and ask them to write a story about the quality of your home-grown produce for the local news or human interest section. Most local newspapers will publish an article that you have written at no cost to you. They will even publish pictures, in some cases, if you provide them.
- Measure the effectiveness of the different marketing methods by asking your customers how they heard about your home-grown produce. Repeat your marketing activities throughout the entire time you have produce for sale. If you have limited time for marketing, concentrate on the methods that you determine are most successful based on feedback from customers.
How to Market Home Grown Produce
How to Start a Roadside Produce Stand
Running a roadside produce stand gives you the opportunity to work in the outdoors while earning money selling fresh food to your grateful customers. It doesn’t take much to start roadside business, but there are a few steps you must take before you can sell.
- Choose your location. Setting up on a main road is nice, but not as important as it once was. If you advertise your stand in the local paper, customers will drive a few miles just to purchase fresh items.
- Contact your state’s department of revenue to see if there are any regulations. Start tracking your investment costs and sales if you are going to claim the produce stand as a business.
- Design your stand to highlight your produce in the most attractive fashion. You can choose to pull a pickup truck to the curb and sell out of the back or build a fancy covered stand to display your items. In any case, make sure your display is appealing.
- Use a cash drawer to store your revenues. Before you open your stand, get enough small change and bills from the bank to make change for your customers. Decide if you will take local checks. If your business grows considerably, purchase a cash register totrack sales and keep your money safe.
- Construct eye-catching signs to entice customers to your roadside stand. Advertise your mouth-watering harvest by creating signs large enough for drivers to see. Consider promoting a single item at a reasonable price to get customers to stop.
- Converse with your buyers. Part of the fun of purchasing from a roadside produce stand is the experience of talking with the grower. Offer growing tips and share your stories to keep customers coming back for more. Start a tradition that will bring repeat customers year after year. You might start a side business by selling seeds to people who want to start their own produce or flower gardens.
If you patronize a local restaurant regularly, ask the chef if she’d be interested in buying some of your produce. Don’t be afraid to offer her free samples so she can see for herself how good it is. Look for other restaurants in your community that use fresh, local food, and meet their chefs too. Chefs who want to do business with you will expect a steady supply of produce on a regular basis, so don’t promise larger quantities than you can deliver.
Word-of-mouth is the cheapest form of marketing and, if the word is positive, one of the most effective. Tell your friends, family and neighbors that you have produce to sell. Mention it on Twitter, Facebook or other social networking systems. Listen as well as talk: If you find people would rather have homegrown tomatoes than carrots, plan your farming accordingly. If you find a lot of interest in your produce, consider community-supported agriculture, a system where customers buy a portion of your produce in advance of the harvest.
If there’s a farmers’ market in your community selling fresh produce, find out what it would cost to rent space there on a regular basis. That way, you’re guaranteed exposure to a steady stream of people looking to shop for fresh fruits, herbs or vegetables — though you’ll be competing with other sellers at the market. If there’s no farmers’ market but you know other produce growers in the area, consider starting a market or creating a cooperative to pool your marketing resources.
If you want to expand sales beyond what word-of-mouth and the local farmers’ market can generate, do some research. Based on your sales so far, estimate how much produce you could sell if you put more money and effort into your marketing. Calculate how much expanding will cost you, not only in added space for produce but shipping if you market to a wider area. That will tell you how much you need to charge to make a profit. Start your expansion with
cost-effective marketing strategies. Setting up a website, for example, allows you to reach customers anywhere.
- Pick your produce at the last minute. The freshest will be that which is picked the latest.
- Wash off any mud or dirt. Muddiness will detract from the appeal of the produce in the eyes of many consumers. Don’t dig or scrape the fruit, however; gently wash off what will come off easily.
- Keep cool and covered. All fresh produce appreciates being kept cool and if you have soft fruits, this is especially important. Keep covered from insects.
- Put fragile produce into appropriate containers. Make sure to provide buffers between your fragile produce and the knocks and bumps of transportation. Keep items in plastic bags, crates, small plastic punnets etc. as needed.
- Use refrigeration. If the climate is hot and the turnover is not fast, refrigeration is essential. Investing in suitable equipment can be a long-term savings if you plan on selling fresh produce frequently in a hot climate. If you don’t have access to electrical refrigeration, innovate with ice chests or a pot-in-pot refrigeration system.
- Keep herbs and green vegetables standing in water. Keeping the roots or stems in water helps to keep such produce fresh.
- Consider how you display your fresh produce. If you at a market stall in hot weather, it is worth investing in a canopy to give shade over your produce during the day. If you are indoors, you might want to consider the backdrop that you use to highlight your produce – keep it simple, clean and bright to encourage customers to look at your produce.
Root vegetables are best kept in the dark at a cool temperature if you plan on long-term storage for a longer selling season. Potatoes are one exception to cleaning off dirt; many consumers understand the need to keep potatoes coated in dirt to guard against light penetration.
I hope you have found this post helpful. Good luck in all of your marketing endeavors. Please wish us luck at Project Worth Outreach as we are in the early stages of opening our very own fresh produce market for all of our Grow Appalachia gardeners as well as the other gardeners in our region. Hope everyone has a great week.