Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK
First year SPIN farmers are signing up for their farmers markets, and this is when I get what I call emails of doubt. “How will I stack up? How can I compete? I’m just a small fish in a big pond. Who will buy my produce?” If you, too, are facing your first season jitters, here’s how to psych yourself into a $500 market week – and beyond.
Use your small growers advantage: Being SPIN-scale allows you to be more adaptable than larger growers. Larger growers frequently have one time plantings of crops. They sell them, and they are done. Being small means you will have the time for frequent, even weekly plantings of certain crops, such as salad greens and fresh herbs, when they are in short supply at market, especially mid to late season.
Scarcity confers higher value: Other vendors may have greater volumes of produce than you, but your lower volume creates exclusivity, which supports premium pricing. Also, look closely at what others are offering. It might be of lower quality. Establish your reputation on smaller volumes of higher quality produce. People will feel great that they scored that last bag of arugula from you.
Foodie is mainstream: The Food Network has turned food into entertainment, and the most interesting developments in the food world are at everybody’s fingertips on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter. Government policies and health advocates are also turning up the volume on nutrition due to the pandemic. So customers are becoming much more adventurous in their tastes, and appreciative of quality. This gives SPIN farmers increased pricing power and infinite opportunities to differentiate themselves from other growers.
Home cooking is on the increase: Again, due to the pandemic, home cooking is becoming the default option for many different demographics. In the US, 71% saying they will continue to do so after the pandemic ends, according to a new survey by consumer market research firm Hunter. Driven by hundreds of thousands of youtube videos by pro and amateur chefs, more and more cooks are becoming confident in the kitchen. Others say cooking at home helps them to save money (67%), eat healthier (56%) and feel good (56%).
You’re embedded in your market: Unlike some growers who retreat to the middle of nowhere when the market is done, your always just a stone’s throw from the action. You just have to look and listen to what’s around you. Follow the lunch trucks around to see what they are offering. Read the trendy menus conveniently placed for you outside the door or on the sidewalk. Check out the pop-up restaurant in a warehouse. Ask neighbors, friends and family what they need and want. Then go grow it. Being market responsive gives you a real big advantage.
Think like a retailer: Make your stand and your marketing stand out. Pre-bag produce. Loose produce makes for slow processing time and frustrated customers. Come up with a pricing system that makes it easy for customers to spend their money. Create your own price, using SPIN’s mix and match unit pricing. Unitizing and packaging can take many forms. Come up with your own deals, like combining recipe-ready crops in a single bag or bundle and sell at special price. Change up the presentation of some of your crops from week to week, and tie them in with commonly celebrated holidays or local events.
Think virtual too: Initially farmers markets threw up an online shopping option in response to the to COVID, to minimize the interaction at market. Suddenly, farmers found themselves with a new type of customer and new ways to expand and change-up their crop repertoires and product offerings. So take advantage of this no-risk opportunity to test the online sales channel if your market offers one.
Fellow vendors are colleagues, not competition: It takes more than just a few vendors to create a destination point farmers market. More vendors means more product, and that means customers have a better chance of having a satisfying experience. That will keep them coming back to the market, and to you, you farmer rock star.
Kerri Fox of Green Sister Gardens rockin’ out in Moose Jaw SK.
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