Courtesy of Wally S., Wally’s Urban Market Garden, Saskatoon SK
Specialty produce is what sets SPIN farmers apart at market, but it requires a well thought-through marketing strategy. Take the potato. A “staple” that can be picked up in any supermarket, it is a low-value crop. I sell purple potatoes which aren’t yet widely available in supermarkets and try to turn it into a high value crop.
Adventurous eaters will try anything, and once they do they are pretty loyal purchasers of exotic crops. But they are a not a very big market. To sell the non-early adopters takes some effort. Since everyone knows what a potato is, it is not as tough a sell as if you were introducing an entirely novel crop like kohlrabi. I start by explaining that purple potatoes go way beyond regular white fleshed ones in their anti-oxidant value. Having a print out of their history, such as their origin in Peru, makes for a good story. What you attempt to do is connect people with the story of a particular produce item. They all have a story, so in essence you become a story teller at market.
Doing research online is a no brainer nowadays, so it is easy to research each of your crops and do printouts you can give to your customers, or do your own. For instance, this link to has lots of intriguing information, even which trendy restaurants are serving them.
While a big consumer focus today is on the health benefits of food, we can’t forget taste. That’s why you need to be cooking with your own produce, so you can give convincing first-hand accounts based on your own experience. You can display photos of your dishes at market.
Visual appeal is something you can really play up, especially during the drab winter months. I cut open the purple potato and display it with other crops. They are a stand magnet and also create upsell opportunities using SPIN’s mix-and-match multiple unit pricing.
With increased consumer demand, more marketing opportunities and a wider array of crops and varieties to grow, there is no reason to regard winter as an off-season any more.
Tell your customers that instead of going to their doctor or their travel agents, they can come to you for a cure for their winter blahs.