How do small farmers sell their crops

Being a small farmer means you have to take care of producing plants and growing a good amount of produce. It also means, you know where to sell your products, how much to charge and how to market yourself.

There are a lot of great ways to sell your Products, you can, for example, offer them in a small farm shop, deliver your produce to restaurants and store or directly to customers. Farmers markets are another great way to offer your goods to the public. While there are many great ways to sell your Products and almost all of them offer a chance of success, combining multiple methods is the best way to go.

So here I want to offer you a couple of different perspectives on how to approach selling your crops, even if you do not produce tons of them. I will also give you a quick overview of what to look out for and what works good with each other.

Roadside stand or on-farm shop

This is probably the most common way to sell your products on a farm. There are a lot of different models to do so, but in essence you offer whatever you are producing directly on your farm or on a small (maybe self-help) stand on the nearby road.

Adopting this method to sell your products is really quite easy as all you have to do is showing what you are offering to get customers. There are a lot of good ways to do some, you could, for example, put a sign to show your goods, register your farm online or just speak to people living in the area.

There are some things you have to look out for when starting to sell products on your farm. First off, it is not easy to get a good customer base this way, and you have to do some good advertising on your side to get some interest going for what you are offering.

Furthermore, you have to know the demand of your community, it will not work out to just produce something without knowing if it is even demanded in your area. Try to talk to as many people as possible, start up an online survey or an email list so you can get information on what is most needed where you live.

While this can be a lot of work to set up, it is a very good way to earn money once you established a customer base. Additionally it will create a lot of opportunities to expand on other branches of selling once word of your farm goes around.

Selling on farmers markets

Farmers markets is one of the best places to start selling your own Products. If you just started out farming and it’s your first season it’s important to get some income and remain flexible enough, to handle all the challenges facing you.

One of the biggest strengths of farmers markets for a new small farmer is that they are easy to deal with and they are already established in many places.

So how do you sell your crops on a farmers market? It’s actually not that hard, I worked on multiple stands already and all you really need is something to offer, a couple phone calls and sometimes a small fee. Just look up a farmers market in your area and contact the organizer, he will tell you what you have to pay for a place in the market (the highest fee I ever had to pay was for a seasonal market and was less than 30$).

Once you have a spot it’s really just taking your crops out there, presenting them in a good fashion and waiting for customers to arrive.

So what are the advantages of farmers markets and what to look out for?

  • One big advantage is how easily they are accessible and the possibility to offer your produce stress-free. What do I mean by that? Well, once you start your farming business, you will need to produce a certain amount of plants (etc.) every week to satisfy your customers (and yourself). Selling on a farmers market doesn’t require you to bring a set amount of products with you each week, you can simply sell what is there and not worry about having too little products to fulfill the contract.
  • Another advantage is the direct financial aspect, as you will be paid immediately for your products, which is not the case when you sell to a store or some other retailer. This can help you cover costs on your farm to keep running your business more smoothly, compared to some other options.
  • Farmers markets are a great way to build customer relationships, you will directly interact with your customers every time you sell something. Giving you the opportunity to build a good relationship with this customer increasing the possibility of returning profit and a good way to promote your small farm.
  • There are some things you do have to look out for though. One of which is the demand of the individual farmers market. If there is way too much lettuce offered on a market and you go there with a huge supply of lettuce, then you will probably won’t have a good time offering your produce on this market. It’s important to get a grasp of the demand on your local farmers market, so you can try to supply exactly what is needed, which will help you earn money easily without much marketing at all.
  • Another important factor is to check the quality of your farmers market. There are some really bad markets out there and it’s not worth it to go to one, just for sake of being there. Get a good idea of how popular the market is for both customers and producers and decide if it is worth it to get a stand. Should you not have any good markets in the area do not try to force it too much, there is probably little demand for one at the moment, which means you should prioritize other means of selling.

Delivering your crops to shops, restaurants or customers

Delivering to certain restaurants, shops or private customers can be a great way to earn a good and reliable income. It certainly can be hard to get a contract going with these establishments but it is definitely worth your time, as you will sell a decent amount of produce with high certainty.

In the beginning, you should concentrate on a smaller family run restaurants and shops, as they are more likely to have an interest in your produce and are willing to take on lower profile farms more often.

Building up a good base of multiple customers and establishing a delivery route can help you to build up a successful long term business and create many opportunities for expansion. Offering to grow according to the demand of your customers (restaurants and shops) will help you not only to expand but also to diversify, leaving you with a much more stable and secure farm.

Selling your products to bigger customers will create another great opportunity to grow and market your farm. Keep in mind trying doesn’t hurt as some restaurants will turn you down, especially in the beginning, just keep going for it until you found enough customers for what you are offering.

Producing for a shop, restaurant or private customers is really good for a steady sales flow, but it will also require you to stick to a delivery schedule, so you do now have the responsibility to grow a set amount of produce every week. Failing to do so, will eventually lead to an unhappy customer and a terminated contract.

Some general Tips & important Lessons

There are a lot of great ways to improve the chance of success and increase customer interest in your small farm. Here are some tips, which I find very helpful:

  • It’s important to provide a good image, clean up your produce properly and make a small fashion show out of your products. Offering high quality and good looking goods increases the chance of returning customers and of initial sales in general.
  • Be open and explain how you produced your goods, offer to show your farm and tell your story and what got you into farming. Giving your small farm a relatable face and creating good customer relationships are essential for a small business.
  • Offering samples will also prove to greatly increase chances for a successful sale. While you are losing out by giving away free goods, it helps build the initial trust needed for a potential customer to actually buy something.
  • Keep on learning. There is no such thing as the all-knowing expert. Keep an open mind and expand your knowledge as much as possible. Listening to many different perspectives can prove to be vital to see problems for more angles and deal with them more efficiently.
  • Get a good Plan. Planning is a very important skill to have in farming. While you might not need it at the moment, developing this skill is necessary to keep expanding your business. Once you have a regular demand for products you will need to plan ahead so you do not produce way too much or too little.
  • Diversify. Taking on multiple different customers and growing a wider array can help you to prepare for bad years. Sometimes the demand for one product goes down rapidly if you have a good foundation your farm is less likely to suffer from unexpected changes.

Related Questions:

Do I need a permit to sell my produce? No, you do not need any permits to sell your produce. You may require a business licence to be able to sell depending in which state or city you live.

How can I promote my small farm? There is no cookie-cutter way to promote your farm, but if you produce high-quality products and sell them on farmers markets or an on-farm store, then word will go around and your farm will promote itself.

What should you watch out when selling products? Be professional and keep your image in the back of your mind. Selling will be one of the best tools for marketing your small farm, doing a good job dealing with customers will help you in the long run to establish a successful and trusted business.