Find The Right Market For Your Crops

Find The Right Market For Your Crops

Rick Van Vranken

Rick Van Vranken

My first eMail of the morning was asking what to charge for a specialty vegetable. I bit my tongue and tried to explain politely that pricing produce is a function of what the market will bear and what your competition is charging. If selling retail, checking out other farm markets and produce grocers can help show if there’s a reasonable average range you could live with or within. It’s only when there’s not much available from your competitors and you’re the only local supplier, that maybe you can ask for a bit more.

The wholesale trade is basically the same, but it depends on whether you plan to sell to a wholesaler/distributor, or a retailer. If you are selling to a wholesaler or a distributor, ask what they are paying for the crop and how they want it packaged, delivered, etc.


If you’re planning to sell directly to retailers, you’d want to know what the wholesalers are charging for the crop. This kind of market research, or to say, potential pricing, is something that should be done before planting, not when you’re up against having to move a crop. This way, you will know whether you can produce it profitably before spending any effort trying.

An article on titled “Myths About How People Share Content Online” prompted me to jot down some notes for this column a few months ago. It reminded me that whether you’re marketing on the Internet or at the community farmers’ market, if you assume how your customers are going to react to your products, it makes an … . Well, you know the saying.

Make No Assumptions
These Internet myths included stereotypical assumptions. Tech savvy youngsters are more likely to share brand information because there are more of them surfing, right? And Internet use is higher on weekends when people have “more free time.”

Actually, according to the article, “People engage with shared content 49% more on weekdays … click[ing] on sports content four times more on Mondays and Tuesdays, and food content 10 times more on Thursdays.” Keep that latter point in mind and don’t wait until Saturday morning to push out news about your weekend specials.

And how old is your target market? Fifty-five to 64-year-olds are most likely to share brand content, while those glued-to-their-smart phone millennials are the least likely to do so.

Misreading your customer base, whether online or at the local community farmers’ market, will lead to bringing the right crop to the wrong market. You’ll likely bring home much of your produce if you head into an urban market without determining first if you were setting up in an Italian or Hispanic neighborhood versus Asian or African-American communities.

When a new market opened in Atlantic City in the mid-1990s, a few farmers returned home with a lot of greens, and I’m not talking about cash. They thought they knew who would be shopping without looking closer at the changing demographics of the community.

Do Your Homework
Before heading to market, you can have one of your tech-savvy employees, whether millennials or boomers, do a little online research. If they can’t dig community demographic information out of the U.S. Census data, most municipal and/or county governments have planning or economic development departments that are more than willing to provide assistance in identifying target markets to help new businesses becoming established. Most want to bring new products and services to their residents and at the moment, farmers’ markets are high on their priority lists for a variety of reasons. They want to make sure you bring the right crops to the right markets.