September 2011 JSS Advantage Newsletter
September can also be an extremely busy month on the farm. Summer crops have peaked, fall crops need attention, and there is all that harvesting to be done. It's hard to look ahead to fall and winter markets, but in this issue of the JSS Advantage, we'll suggest some practical ideas and, we hope, provide some encouragement to keep you going and improve your bottom line for 2011.
Encourage Buying in Bulk, Canning, Freezing, and Drying
There has been a renaissance of interest in "putting food by"... canning, freezing, and drying. Your customers are no doubt familiar with the idea, even if they have never preserved food before. Most have seen the big displays of canning supplies at supermarkets and big box stores, and they have probably encountered numerous magazine and newspaper articles about the benefits of preserving food.
So the pump is primed...you just need to provide a reminder, some guidance, and an abundance of produce. Here are some suggestions for encouraging your customers to buy in bulk.
Visual cues. Think about how you would preserve your bounty (if you only had the time!) and decorate your market stand accordingly. You might dry some bunches of herbs at home, then hang them above your fresh herb display at market. Make a display of canning jars with the ingredients needed for salsa, pasta sauce, pickles, and so on. Braid some onions and hang them above your table. Be sure to include some reference material for those who are unsure how to proceed.
Johnny's offers a number of helpful books including How to Store your Garden Produce by Piers Warren (#9791), Root Cellaring by Mike & Nancy Bubel (#9459), and Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning by The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante (#9237), just to name a few.
Recipes. Provide easy-to-make recipes for the items you want to move in volume. The Ball website has a clever feature that allows you to find recipes by main ingredient, preserving method, and ease. Download a few recipes for each type of preserving.
Price incentives. If you have bushels of produce beyond what you can usually sell, offer a discount for volume purchases. If you don't have an excess, you can still encourage volume buying by throwing in something free; for example, offer a pint of jalapenos or a bunch of basil free for a 10-pound tomato purchase.
Increase Revenues with Value-added Products
If you would like to extend the season and increase annual revenue significantly, consider offering value-added products in addition to your fresh produce. You will find that selling even a few non-perishable products can level out income and open doors to new markets. Winter markets, holiday craft shows, local specialty shops, and internet selling sites all offer opportunities for making money after your growing season ends.
Food products, in general, are highly regulated and require some research and possibly investment in processing facilities. They may be well worth it, though, especially if you can develop distinctive products that command a premium price. For example, many New England farmers make maple syrup products that sell well year-round to tourists. Similarly, growers in New Mexico can do well with chili pepper jellies, salsas, and other regional specialties.
Non-food agricultural products may be easier and quicker to develop. The possibilities are nearly endless. Christmas wreaths, live plants, dried flowers, paper crafts, soaps, candles, body care products, lavender sachets, catnip toys, wool, and just about anything else you can make on the farm can become a profit center. If you would like to explore ideas for products that fit your interests and production, peruse the Store Categories at www.localharvest.org. You may be inspired by the high-quality artisanal products other farmers are selling there.