In comparison to processing tomatoes which are sold to processing centers by the truckload, the marketing of fresh market tomatoes is vast and very complex. A few major considerations in fresh market tomatoes are the timing from harvest to customer, the price differences between market value and wholesale clients, and what type of customer base you will have. Some of the selling options are on-the-farm stands, farmer’s markets, community supported agriculture (CSAs), local grocers, local restaurants, and institutions such as colleges and other organizations within the foodservice industry. So where does one begin when they want to find the best market for their farm products?
Making a Name for Yourself
A logo is the first and lasting representation of your farm. You may want to work with a graphic designer to create a logo that not only speaks to your farm’s mission, but is also easily scalable to fit all sorts of places from packaging, to website design, to farmer’s market banners. The colors, fonts and images that are used should elicit the “feel” of your farm and the types of crops you are raising. When you meet with your designer be sure to express the exact impression that you would like to present to your customer base, Ask for 3 or more design options and work together until it’s perfect. This is one of THE most important components of marketing your farm business.
Identifying Your Market
Every country, state and town have their own clientele. When you begin marketing your small farm to the public, it’s important to study your local area paying close attention to culture, economics, gender and age ranges of people who typically frequent the markets you wish to sell your products from. For example, if your farm is focused on growing Asian greens, melons, spices and eggplants, it might not work out so well to sell at a market that has a large population of European culinary influence. Walk a farmer’s market, ask questions and pay close attention to who buys what. Grow crops that are in high demand.
A League of Your Own
Now that you have designed your logo and studied your market, it’s time to set yourself apart from the rest. If you’re the adventurous type, maybe you want to go out on a limb and market items that are abnormal in comparison to the rest of the market’s offerings. To do that, it may take some extra effort on your part to educate shoppers and build your customer base when most people have never experienced your rare offerings. Free samples/taste tests are sure to draw people in, or recipe hand-outs to send with eager customers who want to try their hand at cooking with your special products for the first time may be useful. If you sell to local restaurants, it may be a good idea to provide a photo or sample of a menu they have designed featuring your produce.
Get Together with Other Farmers
Networking with other farmers who are part of the same local market area you belong to is a great way to quickly gain insight when you are first starting out. The USDA provides several program that help to connect small farms with marketing sources such as the Farm to School Program 1 which is a program that incorporates food from local sources into the National School Lunch Program. Another program the USDA offers is a Local Food Directory that allows farmers to register their business information that is then provided to consumers as listing of local farms, farmer’s markets, CSAs and food hubs. 2
Direct advertising is quite possibly the most important aspect of your farm’s marketing plan. There are a plethora of social media outlets and email marketing platforms to help you get the word out about your farm, market dates, plant sales, weekly offering, etc. Use these outlets to communicate the latest updates with your customer base, which will keep them engaged with you and your products.
Face-to-face interactions are another key component in direct advertising. Have you ever come across a farmer’s market stand where the cashier is sitting in the back of the booth playing on their phone? Or maybe they are grumpy because they had to get up at 3am to prepare for market. Who would walk up to such an uninviting scene and hand over their money? I can’t imagine many people would feel comfortable in this kind of situation. Put your most social, customer friendly person on the job, sales will reflect what you project.