Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 1 ~ Comparing Your Sales Channels

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With the ongoing popularity of our Water & Drought Management and Labor & Worker Safety series, we’re excited to announce our next two-month series of blog features about Marketing & Sales. 

This new series will be a mix of practical resources created by our partners combined with farmer stories and useful tips. We are pulling information from branding experts, food safety and value-added food specialists, experienced vegetable and livestock farmers, and farms of all sizes developing their marketing and sales strategy.


To kick things off, we’re discussing the importance of choosing the right mix of sales channels for your operation. There are many issues to consider and many different channels to get your product to the final end-consumer.

Read on as we help you think about your strategy, how to choose the channels that will work for you, and – most importantly – maximize your profit!

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 2 ~ Pricing Your Products & Tracking Sales

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Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with tips from our farming community and University of Vermont Cooperative Extension on how to accurately price your products and track sales.

Tracking prices in the volatile fresh foods market is tough, regardless of how large or small your operation is. It’s inevitable that sometimes you’ll be below and sometimes you’ll be above the average market rates. Thus, the most important thing to ensure is that you’re making money on every transaction, and that you are truly covering your costs and making a profit. Luckily, there are many tools out there to help you do just this.

Read on as we help you think about your pricing strategy. Whether you’re a small or medium-sized farm, knowing the basics and thinking about how to improve your systems will pay off.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 3 ~ Safe, Inexpensive & Sustainable Packing Tips!

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There’s a lot to consider when packing for market, such as food safety, box sourcing, labeling, standard pack sizes, and much more. Today, we continue our Marketing & Sales series with tips from Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), Riverdog Farm, and Full Belly Farm on how to pack your product safely, inexpensively, and sustainably. We also give some great leads on box and supply companies referred by our farmer community. Read on for valuable tips about:

  • Packing and Food Safety
  • Wholesale Pack Requirements
  • Bulk Order Boxes & Labels
  • Cardboard Boxes & Supplies
  • Reusable Packaging

Packing and Food Safety

You’ve got to get your product to market, and that means putting it in some sort of packaging. While it might seem easier to just throw it in a box, there are guidelines – some by law and some required by different types of customers – that you must follow. Here are some tips from Heather Granahan, the North Coast Regional Food System Advisor for CAFF, on how to pack safely in the field and the packing house.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 4 ~ Mobile POS Payment Options for Your Customers

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Square mobile device

Have you considered turning your smartphone or tablet into a cash register when you’re selling at the farmers market, making deliveries or otherwise interfacing with your customers? If you’re not already accepting EBT payments at the farmers market, do you know just how easy it is to set up?

Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with a discussion of why a mobile point of sale (POS) system may be right for your operation, including recommendations on the best systems out there. Additionally, we discuss the CalFresh EBT program and ways you and your market can easily offer this type of payment system, and increase your customer base.


What is a mobile POS?

A mobile POS is a smartphone, tablet, or other wireless device that performs the functions of a cash register, anywhere there is a cellular or wireless internet connection. In just a few steps, a smartphone or tablet can be transformed into a mobile POS with a downloadable mobile app, and some simple hardware (a credit card reader, hand-held docking station or printer).

After setup, the POS system links to your bank account and can often also be an integrated component of your larger accounting and data management system. Either way, the cardholder’s information is encrypted and stored in a remote server, “the cloud”, so your customers’  privacy is protected and secure.
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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 5 ~ Tips to Improve your Brand and Market Value

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Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with tips on how to think about your brand strategy. We’ll walk you through the basic process of creating a brand by identifying your audience and the messages you want them to receive about your farm business.

Whether you’re new or experienced with the idea of branding, it’s incredibly valuable to create a brand for your farm that stands out in the marketplace and to periodically assess the appeal of your brand with your customers. These tips will also help you think about your big picture marketing strategy and how to eloquently talk with your customers about what you do and how you do it.


This feature was excerpted from the Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture’s (CISA) Marketing 101 Manual. Since 1993, CISA has been working to strengthen the connections between farms and the community, by creating and running programs that link farmers, community members, and markets. 

What is a Brand?

The most basic component of a marketing effort is a brand. Your brand is the story that you tell about your farm, the values that you communicate, and the sense that customers have of your business. And this is refined over time, so even if you have a branded farm now, there are always ways to improve the look and feel of your product.

Ask yourself: “When someone thinks of my farm, what comes to mind?” The answer defines your current brand: your brand is what your customers think of your farm business. If your current brand does not align with your self-perception, your values, or your goals, then it is not as strong a brand as it could be.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 6 ~ New Farmers Market Resources Added to Toolkits!

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We’re excited to announce new farmers market resources in our Marketing & Sales Toolkit! Whether you’re new to this direct marketing channel or currently sell at many markets, these resources will help you think about your pricing strategy, improve the look and feel of your stall, begin to introduce mobile payment options, and more.

All of our Toolkit resources are recommended by our Featured Farmerspartners, and the community. We hope you use the checklists, info sheets, spreadsheets, and detailed practical references to make the most of your markets and maximize sales. Below is a sampling of our new additions. We’re adding more resources to this Toolkit all the time, so stay tuned for updates!


Getting Started with Farmers Markets
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Comprehensive guide for beginning to sell at the farmers markets, including tips on what to know before you begin, choosing a market, finding your niche, and understanding your competition.
Source: Wallace Center

Farmers Market Break-Even Calculator 
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Loosely adapted from Richard Wiswalls’ popular book The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, this simple worksheet helps you quickly calculate your required daily sales at each farmers market to break even.
Source: FarmsReach

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 7 ~ Tips for Creating an Inviting & Usable Website

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Smolak Farms website, North Andover, MA

Written by guest blogger, Myrna Greenfield, founder of Good Egg Marketing

Creating your first website or considering a relaunch? Whether you hire a professional or build it yourself for free, having a website is still one of the most effective ways to market your farm. Often farms will set up a Facebook page instead of build their own site. Remember, social media sites are great way to get the word out about your brand, but can’t house all of the information potential customers might need.  So, don’t use them instead of having your own site; consider using them as a supplement to your site.

If you can, it can be helpful to hire a professional to set up your website, but if it’s not in your budget, there are several free or inexpensive web platforms that are surprisingly easy to use. In addition to WordPress, the favorite of most small businesses, sites like Weebly, Wix, and Squarespace, have lots of attractive features.

No matter which platform you choose to use, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you’re planning your site!


1. Keep it simple. Visitors to your home page should be able to “get” you in one glance.

  • Keep your topline navigation menu short, with easy-to-understand tabs.
  • Choose images that make your offerings as clear and compelling as possible.
  • Don’t use too many colors, fonts, flashing images, or boxes.
  • Be careful about using photographs as background images for your site. They can be distracting and compete with the main images on your page. Unless you’ve got good contrast between the background and the rest of your site, use a matching color instead.
  • Make sure the text is easy to read – no shadow typefaces, limit your use of italics and white type reversed out of dark background.
  • If your name of your farm isn’t self-explanatory, a tagline or brief descriptor can help explain what you do.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 8 ~ Agritourism as a Value-Add to Your Farm Business

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Wagon tours at Full Belly Farm’s annual Hoes Down Festival in Guinda, CA

Written by guest bloggers, Penny Leff, Agritourism Coordinator for the UC Small Farm Program, and Scottie Jones, Founder of U.S. Farm Stay Association.

Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with tips on the many things to consider when offering an agritourism experience on your farm. Agritourism continues to grow in popularity across the US and abroad as farms and agricultural businesses realize the potential for additional revenue and an enhanced customer experience. There are many types of agritourism – farm tours, U-pick, barn dances, and even overnight stays – each having its own set of considerations, benefits, and drawbacks.

Read on for some great tips to prepare you to add an agritourism element to your business. From a business plan to insurance, permits, and making sure your neighbors are on board, these tips will help ensure your new endeavor is a success!


1. Sell the experience; the products will sell themselves if your guests are having fun.

Think about what you, your family, and friends enjoy doing on your farm or ranch, and what aspects you are passionate about. It could be gathering eggs from your pastured chickens, picking fruit, making music under the stars, riding horses, distilling lavender oil, pruning trees, helping with the harvest, or just watching birds.

Think about how you might offer these experiences to the public for a fee. Could you offer tours or demonstrations? Workshops for do-it-yourselfers? A U-Pick operation? Farm dinners with a local chef? A fishing or hunting club? A festival? Farm camp for kids? A farm stay? A farm stand? A corn maze or pumpkin patch? An event facility for weddings, parties and retreats? Tastings?

And consider multiple agritourism offerings. If you’re offering a cheese-making classes, for example, maybe those same guests would love to stay overnight. How about U-Pick and then a Farm-to-Table Dinner with a cooking class for the preparation? How about a sheep shearing demonstration and then a weaving class with already cleaned roving from the farm.

Think about ways to add value to your venture so you can step up the income. This might not happen right away, but listen to what your customers are saying, and ask them for suggestions about what else they would love to do on your farm. You don’t need to charge for everything, and a package price is often better overall. Be creative and look for those added-value opportunities.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 9 ~ CA Takes a Bite Out of Farmers Market Fraud

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Our Marketing & Sales series continues today with an article on the new legislation to fight farmers market fraud. This new law, aimed at vendors trying to cheat the system by reselling wholesale items they didn’t grow, is the latest in an effort to maintain the farmer-grown reputation of farmers markets across California.

Read on to learn more about the rules of the new law, how it came to be, and why the punishment for false claims should have everyone paying attention!


Written by Brie Mazurek, Online Education Manager at CUESA.

Most people take it for granted that all the fruits and vegetables at the farmers market are grown by the farmers who are selling them. And with good reason: the purpose of farmers markets is to foster direct relationships between producers and consumers. Values like knowing your farmer, transparency, and nurturing the local foodshed are at the core of why people shop at farmers markets.

But recent reports of fraud threaten to undermine that foundation of trust. In 2010, an undercover investigation revealed farmers purchasing wholesale produce from Mexico to sell at Los Angeles farmers markets. Last year, LA County boosted enforcement at markets and rooted out 19 vendors selling produce they didn’t grow.

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Marketing & Sales Series: Pt 10 ~ Labeling Solutions & the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI)

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Today, our Marketing & Sales series continues with information on the Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI), including a Q&A with Top 10 Produce founder, John Bailey.

Many members of our farming community are already familiar with PTI regulations and have found labeling solutions that work for them. However, if you’re new to these requirements or are thinking of selling your product outside of direct to consumer sales channels, this is important information to know.

Read on to learn more about how the PTI was developed, what type of labels are required for your product, and why Top 10 Produce may be a great starting point if you’re a small farmer looking into labeling solutions.


Why was the PTI developed?

Federal and state agencies and the produce industry have had difficulty quickly identifying the source of foodborne illnesses, as shown by the difficulty of backtracking outbreaks in recent years. This has prompted the produce industry to work nationally and internationally on an industry-wide, voluntary, electronic Produce Traceability Initiative (PTI). This initiative was started by 48 leading produce companies and is endorsed in the US by the Produce Marketing Association and the United Fresh Produce Association.

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