Where to Sell Your Produce

First, let's look at the retail possibilities.

I. Your Neighborhood. Letneighbors stop by, or you take orders and deliver. You'll be able to make cash sales and get top dollar for your product. A side benefit is that you'll be able to visit with friends. The drawbacks are that you probably won't do much volume and there'll be no guarantee of continuous sales. Because of this, you won't sell out every day, and there will be some waste.

  1. Roadside Stand. This method is not particularly recommended. If you don't live in a good location you'll have to find and rent one. Your stand itself will cost money to build and paint. You'll need signs, too — not just at the stand but also down the road. You'll have to set it up, be there while it's open, and put every— thing away — every day. Or you'll have to hire someone to work for you. Not many places can run on a self—service basis, and even a "beep—your—horn" stand requires a lot of your time. (Of course, the kids can help — but will they?) Although you'll make cash sales and get top dollar, you'll also have lots of waste and leftovers. And you'll get no assurance of sales. You'll be at the mercy of traffic and the whim of the public. Talk to any roadside owner— it's a tough way to earn a dollar.
  2. Farmers' Market Stall. This is similar to a roadside stand, but with a few added drawbacks. You must be there during certain hours, and you'll have the added expense of transportation to and from the market, not to mention rental fees. If it looks attractive, go to one and talk to a few people selling fresh produce.
  3. Door-to-Door. Remember the pickup truck loaded with fresh produce that used to come around to the neighborhood in the "good ol'days"? Well, it usually wasn't the farmer who drove that truck, but someone who bought the produce at the wholesale market and had a street route. This idea is really a roadside stand or farmers'market stall on wheels. It has all the same advantages and disadvantages of these two approaches, but is more expensive and time-consuming. You might wind up selling more if you establish a dependable route, but it's hard to find many folks at home these days. They're out working or driving the kids somewhere.

Next let's take a look at the wholesale market.

  1. Farmers' or Produce Market. Not recommended. Here you're in direct competition with the farmers, where you shouldn't even try tocompete. Prices are low and your home produce can't compete in the commercial market unless you use lots of fertilizer, insecticides, and water, which will further increase your expenses.
  2. Supermarkets. Most supermarkets are chain stores owned and operated by some corporation as unrelated to the food industry as you can imagine. Did you know that Grand Union (the eleventh largest supermarket in the country) is a subsidiary of Cavenhorn U.S.A.of Bridgeport, Connecticut, which is a subsidiary of Cavenhorn Ltd. of London, which is controlled by Occidental Holding Company of France, which is partially owned by the French car company, Renault? I'm not suggesting that you have to own a Renault and travel to London or France to get an order, but dealing with a chain might be just as hard in other ways. Most likely the local manager will tell you he's not authorized to buy any new products— he only sells what the main office orders. And where do you go from there?

You might be able to deal with a small, locally owned supermarket, but it will be very demanding on quantity and very low on price. It would be a good-sized order, though, and would keep you busy. Most markets want commercial-type produce because that's what the shoppers expect to see. You'd have to find a market owner willing to feature farm-fresh produce as a supplement to his regular line, and you'd have to practically guarantee a continuous supply, and that's difficult to do from your backyard.

3. Health Stores. These have better potential for you if you grow organic produce. "Organically grown" commands a better price and here you'll get it. Of course you'll be paid at wholesale prices. Again, you must produce a large continuous supply of either several specialized crops or many popular crops to keep them happy. They will usually work on a weekly order basis, so you're going to have waste and leftovers. Collecting payment is usually easy if the store is profitable and well-established.

The Best Market

Well, we've looked at the rest — now let's look at the best! In fact, I consider this market to be not only the best, but almost the only one for most situations and locations. It's a place that will welcome you with open arms every time you come; treat you as if you're doing them a favor; buy everything you can deliver; and pay you top retail price, in cash, on the spot. It's a place that will sign up ahead of time and give you a continuous market as long as you can produce, yet will take whatever size harvest you can produce. And it's close to your backyard — usually within five to ten miles. Where's this great Mecca, this goldmine for the square foot gardener? Believe it or not, it's your favorite local restaurant.

When I first started studying possible markets, I didn't even consider the restaurants. I thought surely everyone had already done that, and I wouldn't stand a chance of getting in. But, to my amazement, when I did go to one, the owner said, "Sure, we'd love. some fresh homegrown produce." Encouraged, I tried another one, whosaid, "Bring us all the fresh special lettuceyou can grow."Then a gourmet French restaurant owner said, "Can you grow us' tender baby carrots, beans, and beets? There's nothing on the market like that." And they were even willing to pay extra for those small, succulent vegetables.

Now I'm not saying every restaurant owner across the country will be gazing out his window waiting for you to arrive. As with any market, there are some good ones and some bad ones, and you may have to doa little selling at first. I've tried them all for several years. Here's some advice that will save you many wasted hours of trudg— ing around from place to place.

First, look for a nice, large, family—style restaurant owned and operated by local people. (Chain restaurants will probably be just like chain supermarkets, so don't bother.) If it's too large, it may be run so efficiently that the owner doesn't want homegrown produce because it's not uniform enough in size and shape. One restaurant couldn't use my tomatoes or cucumbers because they weren't all exactly the same size. This place used slicing machines even for tomatoes, and every one had to look like it came out of a mold. The owner told me, " People don't care what it tastes like, as long as it's uniform and every dish looks the same as their neighbor's." That restaurant is very successful, and you can't argue with success; it just doesn't have good potential for square foot gardeners. The other problem with a place that's too large or efficient is that it is mostly interested in keeping prices down. So you're not going to get top dollar, and your produce isn't going to be appreciated. And who wants to work and not be appreciated?

The next place to stay away from (at least at first) is a very small or specialized restaurant. Its demand for volume will fluctuate so much that you will lose out in the end. Chances are you won't be able to harvest enough of what it needs when it needs it, or else you'll have much more than it can use. Once you're established, you can try the specialized restaurants—French, Italian, steak-and-salad, but wait until the second year for them.'

0 0

Post a comment