September 2011 JSS Advantage Newsletter
September can 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 the year.
Encourage Buying in Bulk, Canning, Freezing & Drying
Here at Johnny's, we're celebrating the renaissance of interest in "putting food by"... canning, freezing, and drying. Perhaps you, too, or possibly your customers are familiar with these traditions. Most of us have seen the displays of canning supplies at supermarkets and big-box stores, and probably encountered numerous articles about the benefits of preserving food.
So the pump is primed… and even if you have never preserved food before, some guidance, to go along with an abundance of produce, may be just the thing to get you started. Here are some suggestions for encouraging you and perhaps your customers to give it a try and to start by buying in bulk.
Visual cues. Think about how you would preserve your bounty (if only you can find 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.
Books that offer invaluable practical instruction include The Gardeners & Farmers of Terre Vivante's Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning and Sandor Ellis Katz's The Art of Fermentation. Look to their pages for specifics as well as inspiration.
Recipes. Provide easy-to-make recipes for the items you want to move in volume. Ball Jars offers a clever feature that allows you to find recipes by main ingredient, preserving method, and ease. Try 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 do not have an excess, you can still encourage volume buying by throwing in a bonus; for example, offer a free pint of jalapenos or a bunch of basil with 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 nonperishable products can open doors to new markets and level out income. Winter markets, holiday craft shows, local specialty shops, and ecommerce 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 can be well worth it, though, especially if you can develop distinctive products that command a premium price. For example, many Canadian and New England farmers make maple syrup products that sell well year-round. 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 infinite. 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 create on the farm can become a profitable cottage industry. You can explore products at LocalHarvest for ideas that fit your interests and capabilities. You may be inspired by the high-quality artisanal products that other farmers are selling there.
To learn more, read Getting Started with Value-Added Processing