Quick easy money: Potting up volunteer plants

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Market Garden, Pleasatndale SK

In early spring when your cash flow is still not developed,  your sales can get a boost from a source many growers overlook or toss out: volunteer plants from around your property. Typical plants that do well in pots are catmint, chives, horseradish, mint, rhubarb,  sunflowers and  violets, but you can try just about anything. So instead of weeding them out out, look at them as an early season cash crop.

Once potted up these plants  can be sold within a couple of weeks, after they have established themselves in the container. Typical price points for containers can be SPIN’s usual mix and match pricing scheme of  $3.00 per container, or  2 for $5.00, or even $5.00 or $10.00 each. I know for a fact people will pay $10 for potted up rhubarb. Mint is a big seller of mine, too. Containers can be the typical clay pot or  recycled deli containers.

Money does not grow on trees, but sometimes  it can be found under your feet.

SF photo easy money 1

Volunteers around the garden can be potted up. Basically, just about anything works. This is catnip.

SF photo easy money 2

Here is catnip on its way to market. Mint and rhubarb are easy sells, too.

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Jumpstart an Herb Business on 1,200 Sq. Ft.

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Market Garden, Pleasantdale SK

A SPIN member just joined the online support group looking to fast track some fresh herb sales. He wrote:

“Hello All. I plan to combine the sale of herbs only at two or three of my local farmers markets along with Pre-Packaged Nuts/ Seeds and Spices. My hope is to promote the sales of the nut and seed business with the fresh herb offerings. I have had success growing basil, chives, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and lavender on a small scale over the past three seasons and am ready to commit approximately x 1200 sq ft of garden space to this effort. Any feedback on what to focus on in order to maximize my effort would be greatly appreciated. I am a one man show, growing in Northeast PA. Zone 6a. Thanks in advance.”

Herbs are a great addition to diversify or compliment a product line,especially for solo operators because they are easy to plant, harvest and prep. Cilantro, dill,and parsley are good bets. You can get 2 -3 cuts of cilantro before it goes to seed. So you will need several staggered plantings to take you through the season. You can get even more cuts from baby/green dill, but again, you need staggered plantings. Parsley is all season, so there is no need for staggered plantings.

SF photo blog herb dill cilantro

Plant cilantro and dill with tight spacings using an Earthway seeder in 4 – 5 row standard beds, using the chard plate. Use transplants for parsley.

You should target units of production on the 100 to 200 bunches in total of the three herbs on a weekly basis. If you have a 20 marketing week period, you’ll produce 2,000 to 4,000 bunches. At $2.00 per bunch, you can target revenue of $4K to $8K.

Herbs are very high value, are always in demand at market and their fragrance adds a sensual dimension to your stand. So if you have some unused space next to the barbie, or can rig up some containers on a patio, you can make profitable use of it by growing the useful plants.

SF photo blog herb parsely in tubs cropped

FIND OUT OTHER WAYS TO JUMPSTART A BUSINESS GROWING FOOD IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE.

 

What’s Your Pricing Power? Just Ask.

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Pleasantdale SK

Pricing is one of the most important elements of marketing. We all know that. The pricing benchmark I set when I first developed the SPIN system was $3 per item or 2/$5. The idea was to use multiple unit pricing to get customers away from thinking about buying in quantity and to buy more items, and make convenient for them to grab and go without having to wait for items to be weighed out.

Customers liked it, and it worked for me. It kept a lot of $5 bills coming my way, and I didn’t have to give out change. Problem was a lot of customers seemed to limit their purchase at $5. So I decided to target $10 purchases. The best way was to make each unit smaller, and change the price to $3 per item, 2/$5 or any 5/$10. This seemed to work, and started getting more $10 sales. Believe it or not, many of my customers said this was too generous.

So I changed my price point yet again. Instead of $3 per unit, I increased it to $5 per unit, keeping unit quantities more or less the same. To make the new price point easier to accept, I made it $5 per unit or 3/$10. That worked. So instead of 5 units for $10, I was selling 3/$10. So less produce for more money. And no complaints from customers. Bottom line is that you have to keep on tweaking your price points. You don’t want to change too often, but don’t get stuck with the same price tier for too long either.

It also underscores the advantage SPIN farmers have over other retailers. Most retail is cut off from any significant dialogue about pricing decisions with those directly affected – customers. So retailers are left with only numbers to try and interpret. We have a HUGE advantage here, selling face to face, especially after you build up a repeat customer base because they’re a group that feels some loyalty and want to see you stay in business!  .

SF photo fb pricing power a

Being able to talk face to face with your customers is much better than looking at sales numbers and trying to wring meaning out of them at the end of a market. So when it comes to pricing, use your direct marketing advantage. Just ask. You might be surprised at how much power you have!

LEARN HOW TO PRICE, MARKET AND OPERATE A MONEYMAKING FARM BUSINESS IN THE SPIN ONLINE SUPPORT GROUP. FREE TRIAL MEMBERSHIP WHEN YOU PURCHASE ANY SPIN GUIDE.

Ring Up Holiday Sales

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

If you are in a year round farmers market like I am, you have the opportunity to fill your stocking with some extra Christmas cash. Markets have gotten much more sophisticated about attracting additional shoppers at this time of year, those who want gifts that are craftsy,  not made in China.

The Saskatoon Farmers Market promotes itself as a go-to destination for the holidays, with special events like a Gingerbread House contest (“all team sizes and ages welcome”). This year a special night market in early December became a much anticipated event , and the Dinner in the Dark, that laid out a farmers’ market sourced meal served under gradually dimming light and culminating with dessert in total darkness, sold out weeks in advance.

It’s fun and lucrative to play Santa. Handmade candles, soaps, baked goods, basically any non-produce item will sell, if you put a ribbon around it. To give you a flavor of our market this time of year, come along with Gail and I on a behind the scenes tour of this year’s holiday market.
Merry Xmas.
Wally

Year round indoor markets are in the unique position to capture extra sales at the holidays by attracting gift shoppers. But as a vendor you need to step up your game in terms of product offerings.

SPIN photo holiday tree

Decorating the tree has become a yearly ritual for vendors. We put forth a team effort and bond over some spiked hot cocoa. This tree is not local, and it’s not even alive. When it comes to marketing, we do what’s practical.  

Bakers really cash in. Platters of homemade cookies can go for as much as $50. Sometimes people gift themselves. At this time of year, you don’t have to twist any arms.

Blog holiday bakers

Candles are another sure bet. Diversifying your produce operation with value added items like these eliminates the hassle of having to have a commercial kitchen.

Blog holiday candles

 

SPIN photo holiday bird feeder

Another sure bet, tried and tested for several years by Gail. Bird feeder gifts are always the right size and color.

SPIN photo holiday book signing

A book signed by the author is a very personal gift. One you won’t get from a big box store. And whenever you are looking for a gift that is 100% pure how-to, always keep in mind a SPIN guide.

Even outside events draw crowds.

Blog holiday ice sculpture

 

SPIN photo holiday blues snowman

HAVE A COOL YULE EVERYBODY!

 

 

Farmers Markets Reality Check

Courtesy of Roxanne C, Philadelphia PA

One the most frequently debated topics in the SPIN online support group is our usually fraught relationships with our farmers markets. They’re the highlight of our weeks, and the most fulfilling part of what we do, where we feel the appreciation and trust of our customers, and get the satisfaction of knowing our products are helping them maintain their health and well-being.

What goes on behind the scenes is also our biggest source of frustration and disillusionment. As one farmer says, “Farmers’ markets are notoriously difficult to run. I’ve been in this business a while, at different farmers’ markets, and there’s been trouble at every single one.” Take your pick. Too few vendors. Not enough of the right ones. Too little traffic. Too much of the wrong kind. True farmers versus resellers. Board intimidation. Financial mismanagement. Too restrictive by-laws. Petty politics. Legal threats.

It’s a rude awakening for some, having to deal with all the things they thought they went into farming to avoid. But to generate income from farming, you need to realize that, being in business for yourself doesn’t mean you can be in business alone. It’s a collaborative endeavor, one that requires trade-offs and compromises.

As the local food movement gathered momentum over the last two decades, farming has attracted those seeking a deeper sense of community, and they’ll find it.But it’s not a refuge. They’ll also find conflict, too. It just comes with the territory.

SF photo blog farmers market blackboard a
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# 1 Success Factor No One Talks About

Courtesy of Roxanne C., Philadelphia PA

Soil building. Sustainable growing practices. Eliminating waste. These are what new farmers obsess about. They’re overlooking something that has a far more important impact on their business. No matter how good a grower you are, your farm’s success is dictated by something you can’t always control, and don’t think too much about until your gas bills start coming in or you start nodding off at the wheel. It’s distance to market.

Even if your market commute isn’t taking a big toll on your expenses or health, it’s a key business factor that needs to be weighed when considering new or different markets, or figuring out how to reach your revenue goal. Here is your key decision:

Longer drives to bigger markets with greater revenue versus shorter drives with potentially less revenue

To help you decide you need to calculate gas expense, commute time, and hours spent at market for each type of commute. Here are some of the trade-offs:
  Longer drives require that you are able to reach your revenue benchmark and has to justify the gas expense

  Short distance drives means less gas expense, but also maybe less revenue

  You might have to go to several short distance markets to meet revenue, but that means more time at markets

There are no easy answers to this crucial question, but not addressing it means your farm business is less likely to go the distance.

 Don't assume a long commute isn't do-able or worth it. And yes, farmers are commuters too.

Don’t assume a long commute isn’t do-able or worth it. And yes, farmers are commuters too.

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In A Retail Frame Of Mind

Courtesy of Wally S., Saskatoon SK

Once farmers take on a year-round, permanent stand inside a Farmer’s Market building, they are in the retail business, whether they realize it or not. This presents some unique opportunities and challenges. On the plus side, you have less work because there is no setup and teardown on every market day. You can also invest in a more attractive design to give your stand huge curb appeal, which builds your brand and establishes you as a real pro.

And here’s what the pro’s know that beginners sometimes miss. Chances are your indoor market will be open multiple days per week, even in the winter. Some of these days the market can seem like a tomb. But to have a viable market means you have to maintain your presence, even during slow periods. This can be tough if you don’t have the right mindset. You need to think of your stand as a retail storefront. All retailers have slow periods, but they don’t turn out the lights and lock the door. They stay open even when the number of daily customers can be counted on one hand. The plus side at market is that, without the crowds, you can take time to forge deeper relationships with your regular customers.
SF photo blog empty market
The only way to sustain and grow a Farmer’s Market is to make it a place that customers want to come to, and can rely on, regularly. And that requires a critical mass of vendors being open. Beginning farmers, especially SPIN-scale ones, who don’t have a retail mindset, come and go at market, which is why I’m always glad to welcome and mentor new ones. Because the more of us who remain open, the stronger all our businesses will be.

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Basket Case

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

Here’s a small touch that can generate a big increase in sales – offering a shopping basket at your stand. It works in several ways.

SF photo fb grocery basketIt It makes it much easier for customers to load up if they aren’t having to juggle different items and encourages impulse buys. It also puts them in supermarket mode, where they are used to buying lots of items. It even gives you a friendly ice breaker because you can say, “Hello, would you like a basket?”

All of a sudden the customer feels like they are in a different space, a more familiar space. Taking a basket means they have committed to seriously shop at your stand, and not just spend a few dollars. Many chain mall retailers use this tactic. It’s easy to test out with a few baskets. If it works, you can scale up and have a rack of them with a sign that says “Take one for your convenience.”

One farmer who did this reported that sales doubled, and it turned some occasional customers into regulars. Try it  – bigger sales may be in the basket!

SPIN Farmers Target Cat People

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon, SK

Cat grass is a good niche crop. Many of your customers will have cats, and who doesn’t want to treat their cat? Most cat people are familiar with cat grass, so there is no need for a hard sell, and it’s a great impulse buy.

Things in your favor are it’s fast and cheap. Days to harvest is around 2 weeks. You can use feed oats. I get mine at a local feed store.

A good way to sell cat grass is in these 4 inch by 6 inch trays, which are cheap and widely available. I get mine at a local garden center. They come in a pack of 6 trays, joined together.

SF photo blog cat grass tray Wally uses

Spread some moist top soil in the bottom half. Then lay in some oat seed. More or less back to back. Cover with soil, water the tray down a bit. Cover with card board or plastic and put into a germination area. Wait till the seed starts to emerge. Remove covering. Keep watering until grass is several inches high. Then it’s off to market.

SF photo blog cat grass large

A good price point is $5 per container. You can plant at least 25 of these trays per hour. Very low cost, with quick return. Test market a few of these trays, and see what happens. You can ramp up very quickly if it sells. And then you can convince your customers to treat themselves with some salad greens.

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How to Get Big Sales of Big Onions

Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK

One way SPIN farmers make bigger sales is by using a mix and match multiple unit pricing strategy – $3/unit, 2 for $5, 5 for $10. We sell our onions in mesh bags, and this fits this strategy well, with small onions making up about a half pound bag. But what do you do with large size onions that weigh a half pound or more? They can’t be plugged into this strategy.

What works for me is marketing them in braid form. The large onions sell at well at $10 a braid. Each braid has 5 onions and are about 3 lbs. per braid. I also test marketed an upscale version with garlic and dry peppers. Those go for $20. This customer bought one of each, for a nice $30 sale.

In addition to capturing more value from certain crops, braids make your stand more inviting and help differentiate you at market.

In addition to capturing more value from certain crops, braids make your stand more inviting and help differentiate you at market.

Some come to SPIN expecting hard and fast rules, like always following a set pricing strategy. But that’s not how farming works. When it comes to pricing strategies an important point to understand is that practice overrules orthodoxy. SPIN farmers are master rule breakers – especially rules of their own making! So be creative not just with your braiding, bu also in your marketing and pricing strategies.

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