To Charge Or Not To Charge At Farm Markets

To Charge Or Not To Charge

There seems to be a delicate balance between what customers will pay for and what they won’t, especially concerning “extras� like value-added entertainment features at farm markets including hayrides, straw piles, and corn mazes. In many cases, these features attract customers to a farm market and keep them there longer than the average visit to come in and buy apples. But at what point do growers have to seek some return for all of the investment it takes to keep these attractions going? David Patterson of Patterson Fruit Farm in Chesterland, OH, says when it becomes too expensive to maintain and you start losing money, it’s time to start charging admission fees.

When the festival began, Patterson charged $2 per person and as its features grew and expanded, admission increased to $5 per person on weekends and $3 per person on weekdays, with children under age 2 admitted free. Patterson says while most customers pay admission with no complaints, there are still those who don’t understand why parents or grandparents are charged.

“It’s a family fun fest and we want to encourage the family playing together, not just dropping your kids off and letting them play,� Patterson says. “We want the moms and dads right there in the straw with the kids.�

Patterson Fruit Farm operates a market at the entrance to its Family Fun Fest, where visitors can buy apples, gifts, and other agricultural products. The market and festival are on the same site as the farm’s PYO orchard as well. Patterson says the operation does charge more for its apples and other products because its operating costs are higher than an orchard that doesn’t offer activities; however, asking customers to pay these prices also allows the farm to keep admission rates low in comparison to other family events in the area.

“I think people perceive a larger value with all the extra things to do,� Patterson says. “If we didn’t offer the attractions and have that extra revenue, I think we would have a hard time being where we’re at today because the cost of land in this area and the cost of business is so expensive.�

The Family Fun Fest is the most profitable entertainment offering Patterson Fruit Farm operates, Patterson says, and it continues to grow each year through word-of-mouth and even second-generation families making the festival an annual tradition. The operation measures its costs and profits from Family Fun Fest visitors by how much beyond the festival rate they spend, and track it on a daily and weekly basis.

“We consider ourselves apple growers and apple sellers, and that’s still our main business,� says Patterson. “By people purchasing the apples and cider there in the market, it allows us to keep our admission price lower than if they weren’t buying everything.�

Fewer Customers, Better Profits

In a July e-mail to American Fruit Grower, Ross Nelson of Nelson Apple Farm in Webster, MN, said in 2005 his operation began charging customers $4 per person over age 6 and $2.50 per person for age 6 and under. The admission fee came after the orchard experienced a decline in profitability when families or child care groups would spend two hours or more at the orchard on wagon rides, at the petting zoo or the corn stalk crawl, without purchasing anything.

After the orchard began charging fees, some customers did complain, Nelson said, but most of the customers were very accepting of the admission fee and understood why the change was made. By the 2006 season, there was much less resistance, he said, and positive aspects included a less congested parking lot, less frequent wagon rides with better service, and, most importantly, increased profits.

“Those families that were at the orchard to ride the wagon, see the petting zoo, walk through our 7-acre corn maze, and purchase little were irate (about the admission fee),� Nelson said. “We got rid of a group of people who were not paying their way and made it better for those who were here to have a good time and let us make a profit.�

The orchard’s plan for this fall was to again charge the $4/$2.50 fee and improve check-out lines to better accommodate the Fun Fee charge, said Nelson. By fall 2008, he plans to increase the admission price to return to the level of profit Nelson Apple Farm experienced in the past.

Nelson added that other orchards around his local area near the suburbs of Minneapolis/St. Paul were experiencing the same problems and said if all apple growers charge for entertainment services, it will lead to profits for all.

“Unfortunately, most orchard owners are not good business people and don’t really know if they are making money or not,� Nelson wrote. “I am the treasurer for the Minnesota Apple Growers Association, and we will continue to have seminar topics at the annual conference on such topics as what growers can do to increase their profitability.�

Topics: ,

Leave a Reply

Farm Marketing Stories
Winter Park Farmers' Market FEATURE
Farm Marketing
August 17, 2016
The Top American Farmers’ Markets Ranked
See which farmers' markets made the cut for American Farmland Trust's annual list. Read More
Portland Farmers Market free use FEATURE
Farm Marketing
August 8, 2016
It’s National Farmers Market Week
USDA highlights the role farmers markets play in the community. Read More
Farmers' market in London, UK FEATURE
Farm Marketing
August 5, 2016
Buying From Farm Marketers Really Does Help The Local Economy
A new study from UC Davis shows buying directly from farmers has a much bigger impact on the local economy. Read More
Anguili's Farm Market Facebook bike post FEATURE
Farm Marketing
August 5, 2016
How Anguili’s Farm Market Built A Community After Last Week’s Fire
Late in the night of July 27, a fire engulfed Anguili’s Farm Market, located outside of Youngstown, OH. Equipment, produce, and Read More
Live music woman playing guitar free image FEATURE
Farm Marketing
July 22, 2016
How To Book A Great Band For Your Festivals
Want to add live music to your fall festivals? Here's a step-by-step guide on how to find the right band for the right price. Read More
Valery Cordrey on a radio show
Farm Marketing
July 22, 2016
How To Entice The Local Press To Cover Your Farm Market
Sometimes getting publicity for your business is easier than you think. All you need to do is figure out how Read More
Produce case at Hopcott FEATURE
Farm Marketing
July 22, 2016
Find Out Where Growers Want To Sell Their Produce
Earlier this year, we asked farm marketers which of their current business channels they would like to increase. Not surprisingly, Read More
Photo courtesy of Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market
Farm Marketing
July 6, 2016
Florida Clarifies Its Agritourism Law
The state recently updated its 2013 law in an effort to clear up any confusion around the gray areas that emerged after law went into effect three years ago. Read More
The Latest
Farm Marketing
August 18, 2016
How Is American Farm Marketer Doing So F…
American Farm Marketer launched early this year, and we'd love to hear your thoughts about what we're doing right, and where we can use some improvement! Read More
Farm Marketing
August 18, 2016
5 Farm Marketing Ideas Recently Spied By…
Our editors visit farm marketers all over the country and see great ideas. We each picked one or two that you can put into action. Read More
Farm Marketing
August 17, 2016
The Top American Farmers’ Markets …
See which farmers' markets made the cut for American Farmland Trust's annual list. Read More
Farm Marketing
August 8, 2016
It’s National Farmers Market Week
USDA highlights the role farmers markets play in the community. Read More
Farm Marketing
August 5, 2016
Buying From Farm Marketers Really Does H…
A new study from UC Davis shows buying directly from farmers has a much bigger impact on the local economy. Read More
Farm Marketing
August 5, 2016
How Anguili’s Farm Market Built A …
Late in the night of July 27, a fire engulfed Anguili’s Farm Market, located outside of Youngstown, OH. Equipment, produce, and Read More
Farm Marketing
July 22, 2016
How To Book A Great Band For Your Festiv…
Want to add live music to your fall festivals? Here's a step-by-step guide on how to find the right band for the right price. Read More
Farm Marketing
July 22, 2016
How To Entice The Local Press To Cover Y…
Sometimes getting publicity for your business is easier than you think. All you need to do is figure out how Read More
Farm Marketing
July 22, 2016
Find Out Where Growers Want To Sell Thei…
Earlier this year, we asked farm marketers which of their current business channels they would like to increase. Not surprisingly, Read More
Farm Marketing
July 6, 2016
Florida Clarifies Its Agritourism Law
The state recently updated its 2013 law in an effort to clear up any confusion around the gray areas that emerged after law went into effect three years ago. Read More
Farm Marketing
July 6, 2016
Which Ethnic Vegetables Are In Highest D…
The U.S. is famously a melting pot of cultures from around the world, some of which have cuisines that can differ Read More
Farm Marketing
July 6, 2016
Farm Marketers Discuss How Farmers’ Mark…
When American Farm Marketer published an article mulling over how farmers’ markets have changed (after reading an article on the topic Read More
Farm Marketing
June 28, 2016
Parts Of Michigan Close To Drought Statu…
USDA report indicates parts of the state have received less than one inch of rainfall in June. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 24, 2016
Ideas For How To Label Your Products [Ph…
Take a look at how several different local food producers designed their labeling to not only include legally required information, but also marketing messages that make them stand out. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 24, 2016
Florida Publishes Great Resource For Agr…
Florida Agritourism Association releases a hefty 66-page guide to running an agritourism operation, one packed full of advice that crosses state lines, as well as state-specific information. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 24, 2016
Are Farmers’ Markets Losing Their …
The Washington Post published an in depth article questioning if farmers markets have become such a social venue, that customers are buying more prepared food than fresh produce. Read More
Citrus
June 23, 2016
Survey: Consumers Hungry For More Info O…
University of Florida researchers find learning opportunity among poll results regarding genetically modified foods. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 15, 2016
Former MLB Slugger Finds Field Of Dreams…
Retired Boston Red Sox player Mike Greenwell turns his gardening hobby into a full-time farming passion. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]