Selling at a farmer's market

mossflowerJuly 14, 2014

I sell what I grow at two farmer's markets. I sell my produce for a living and also have a CSA.

I would like to know how other growers that are small scale (I grow on only 1 acre) deal with the lower prices that other larger farms at the same market charge.

I have already lowered my prices at one of our markets and still cannot compete with the lower prices of another vendor. As this is my sole source of income I can't really go any lower.

Any ideas? I sell heirloom vegetables, herbs & flowers.

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Don't lower your prices! Make your role in the market to have the best quality, not the cheapest. Grow different varieties than everyone else (ie, instead of butternut squash, grow black futzu) Certified organic will also make you stand out from the crowd. If you don't want to certify, or can't afford to, then educate yourself on all the requirements and tell your customers that although you are not certified, you are growing according to the National Organic Program. But most importantly, to compete as a tiny grower at market...quality, quality, quality

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:22AM
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the way to get higher prices is to have things that folks want before anyone else does. low tunnels, high tunnels, mulch plastic. early varieties. they all help.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 12:40PM
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little_minnie(zone 4a)

I feel for you! I am glad I don't need to earn a living this way because I wouldn't. It is very hard to be the smallest! Besides growing different varieties, you can market things differently. Take away all comparison opportunity. For instance, do green bunches in water for kale, chard, carrots, beets, instead of bagged. Do Red Russian kale instead of the curly and long storing kind. Do different radishes and keep those in water. I also sell icicle radish rattail pods. I don't use produce bags for anything but baby green mixes/loose lettuce. Grow pole beans, edamame, herbs, flowers, anything others do not. It may be possible to come up with a niche and start to specialize in an area or be the only one to grow something. I am the only one to grow sweet potatoes at market, or purple cauliflower, fingerling potatoes, Cinderella pumpkins, and lots of heirlooms.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2014 at 10:34PM
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jrslick (North Central Kansas, Zone 5B)

Kelise beat me to it, don't compete on price. Are the bigger farms conventional? Organic?

I grow on 1.5 acres and have 6 high tunnels. I don't compete on price, I work hard to have crops before the big boys do. I beat them to market, get my customer base and then have them try the other guys (at cheaper prices) and then they come back and tell me that my stuff tastes better. I also try to produce stuff they don't mess with, Cherry tomatoes, little cucumbers, personal size melons.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 12:21AM
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Thanks everyone for your advice. We cannot afford a high tunnel and use our greenhouse, low tunnels. The other vendor I mentioned is organic but doesn't really advertise that fact. My farm is Certified Naturally Grown and we do tell folks about the CNG program. We do grow many of the varieties mentioned but melons and winter squash as we have a terrible problem with stink bugs.

I think our display is good (many compliments) and we have a good selection as well. The photo is from our winter market and I think it looks pretty good.

I am looking into pea shoots, or sunflower shoots something that isn't available at our market. I also resell Shiitake mushrooms and we make our own beeswax candles.

It is so frustrating when we work so hard and then they low ball their prices. Trying my best!!

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 10:36AM
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Can you also sell perennials and biennials (markets permitting) for transplanting out ... again, sell things that the big box stores don't sell, like native plants and less common varieties. After you get your spring seedlings out, start the penstemons, yarrows and other things that are best planted in late summer and fall for next year's blooms. Let your customers know they are "in the oven" and take pre-orders with a deposit (non-refundable) if they want a lot.

Get a FaceBook page and let your customers know about it on your business cards - update it when you know what's coming in well. A grower here does some okra and one post on Facebook that it's in season has people waiting for her truck on Saturday ... she sells lots of the stuff at $5 a pound because it doesn't ship worth a darn.

Ask customers what they have been looking for they haven't seen - and see if you can grow it profitably.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 3:56PM
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