Why Retail Should Matter To You As a Grower [Opinion]

As a grower, I’m sure you already understand that if there’s one thing people are always going to need, it’s food. Therefore if there’s one industry people are always going to have to count on, it’s agriculture. It would seem then that based on these dynamics, the power would naturally rest in the hands of the grower. As we all know — unfortunately for agriculture — that is rarely, if ever, the case.

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Agriculture is constantly at the mercy of outside influences including weather, pest pressure, market conditions, etc., that dictate what growers plant, when they plant it, and how they plant it. In ag, we often get hung up on bugs, politics, and weather, and consider them to be the driving forces of the industry, but we’re doing ourselves a disservice by not shifting a greater amount of our attention toward one key decision maker: the consumer.

Consumers are in a unique bargaining position when it comes to their food. To them, food is personal, and it’s directly tied to their well-being. With the increasing amount of information available to them, they are making purchasing decisions based on things they hear on the news or read online, that —  whether true or not — are directly affecting you and your business.

I must say, there is a lot of misinformation out there in regard to how our food is grown, and as growers, you are really fighting the good fight by trying to position ag in a more favorable light to the greater public. We consumers (yes, that even includes you as a grower) are a picky bunch. We want what we want, in season or out, and we want it fresh, delicious, and free of any visible defects.

At the end of the day, all of these demands create ripples that can be felt industry wide. Take the somewhat recent introduction of “superfoods” into the American diet. Only five years ago few people had even heard of kale — now it’s featured prominently on menus across the country and promoted in mainstream media almost as if it were the second coming. Hallowed be thy kale. And guess what? Growers are producing more of it.

A grower who runs a U-pick farming operation told me recently that she began to grow the crop due to increased customer demand and then saw a surge of younger customers interested in visiting the farm that she’d never seen in previous years.

We Americans might be a little persnickety and prone to hype when it comes to our food, but when all is said and done, a satisfied customer with a happy belly full of produce means more dollars in your pocket.

If you don’t already, maybe it’s time to start thinking about ways that you can tune into consumers’ purchasing habits. After all, by serving their needs, you’re indirectly serving your own.

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