Newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agricultural Information Service: A project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT). This issue of ATTRAnews is available online.
Planning and Planting for Your Markets
Until recently, most farmers and ranchers just raised food and animals. Someone else did the marketing. Now many producers sell their own products, hoping to capture more of the consumer dollars. Growers are also adding value to what they raise and creating new products. In this issue of ATTRAnews we offer tips and share guidelines for some of the best ways to market what you produce.
In this issue:
Adapted from ATTRA’s Agricultural Risk Management Guides, which are available in English and in Spanish.
Know what you are selling. It is more than just the product. It’s a bundle of valuable things that are appreciated by your target customers.
Know who you are selling to. Each group of customers has a different set of characteristics and needs. You have to adapt your sales approach to meet these demands.
Know your own story. Your business’s story adds value to your product and you should emphasize it. You need to be able to tell your story in the time it would take you to ride an elevator to the top of a building with a potential business investor.
Don’t make assumptions. Don’t guess about the viability of your business plan or the behavior of your customers. Find some way to prove what you think is true.
Be customer oriented, not product oriented. Think, “My customers want lettuce. How can I get it to them the way they like it?” Don’t think, “How can I find someone to buy my lettuce?”
Sell features and benefits. Say, “This red lettuce contains more vitamins to keep you healthy,” not just, “I have red lettuce to sell.” Each feature has a benefit that your customers value. Point these out to make a sale.
Be a price maker, not a price taker. Don’t sell commodities. When you’re selling something that can’t be distinguished from another farmer’s product, you can’t control the price. If the other farmer has more to sell, you will lose.
To manage risk, diversify carefully in all directions. Growing many crops for many kinds of customers will reduce your risk of loss. But your management job can become overwhelming and then your quality and service will slip. You must strike a balance between diversity to manage risk and management time to maintain quality.
Start as small as possible and learn the market. Find the smallest way you can enter the market in order to minimize your risk. Once you learn how it works, you can increase your production.
It’s a chicken-or-egg situation. How do you know you can produce something until you try? And how do you know you can sell a new product until you have it in hand to show people? The answer to both questions is: produce a small amount of product the first time. This way, any mistakes will be small and less costly. If you produce a large supply of a product without first securing your market, you may not be able to sell it, no matter how well it turns out. The take-home message is: experiment on a small scale this season to line up your market for next season.
National Agriculture Library’s Alternative Farming Systems Information Center (AFSIC) offers extensive lists of resources on practical topics such as direct marketing, on-farm enterprises, value-added products, farm business planning, farm animal welfare audits, certification programs, and alternative crops. Telephone 301-504-6559.
Agricultural Marketing Resource Center is a national information resource for value-added agriculture. The center is a national partnership of land grant institutions and state departments of agriculture.
Localharvest.org is a comprehensive national self-listing directory of producers who sell to the public.
Eat Wild is an online marketplace for pasture-based farms and ranches.
North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association provides networking about all kinds of farmer direct marketing, concentrating on farmers’ markets and agrotourism.
Sheepgoatmarketing.info is a national resource for sheep and goat marketing.
Price reports are available from several online directories such as those of the Rodale Institute and the Maine Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association. Both organizations offer an abundance of information about good farming and marketing practices.
Access e-Commerce, from the University of Minnesota Extension, works to enhance rural development through electronic commerce.
Market Maker helps producers in more than a dozen states promote their operations and products.
Southwest Marketing Network provides extensive resources for producers.
Growing for Market magazine publishes practical indepth articles about how to make a living on a small farm. Telephone 1-800-307-8949
Sell What You Sow! The Grower’s Guide to Successful Produce Marketing
The New Agritourism: Hosting Community and Tourists on Your Farm
The New Farmers’ Market: Farm-Fresh Ideas for Producers, Managers and Communities
All three books are available from: New World Publishing, 11543 Quartz Dr. #1, Auburn, CA 95602, telephone 530-823-3886
Looking for products to add to your farm’s output? In addition to this list of publications about marketing, ATTRA has hundreds of publications about specific crops, livestock, processing techniques, and organic and sustainable production methods that can diversify your operation and add to your bottom line. These are all available for free. You can see and download them at ATTRA's web site. Call 1-800-346-9140 to order a paper copy.
Adding Value through Sustainable Agriculture—online only
Agricultural Marketing in the U.S. Southwest IP251—print version only
Direct Marketing IP113
Local Food Directories—online only
Market Gardening: A Start-up Guide IP195/201
Marketing Organic Grains CT154
Marketing Strategies for Farmers and Ranchers IP181—print version only
Nuevos Mercados para Su Cosecha SP309—papel o audio
Selling to Restaurants IP255
Start a Farm in the City IP350
Tips for Selling Directly to Restaurants
Tips for Selling to Independent & Small Grocery Stores
These pros, cons and tips are adapted from ATTRA’s Agricultural Risk Management Guides, available in English and Spanish.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before Starting a New Enterprise
Where am I going to sell the products?
Do I have time to devote to this new enterprise?
For Land-Based Enterprises
After you have determined that the enterprise is something you really want to do, consider these additional questions.
What is the water drainage like?
Buildings and Machinery
Do I have adequate facilities?
How much labor will be required?
New and Updated Publications
New Value-Added Guide from ATTRA
ATTRAnews is the bi-monthly newsletter of ATTRA - National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. The newsletter is distributed free throughout the United States to farmers, ranchers, Cooperative Extension agents, educators, and others interested in sustainable agriculture. ATTRA is funded through the USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service and is a project of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), a private, non-profit organization that since 1976 has helped people by championing small-scale, local and sustainable solutions to reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources.
Teresa Maurer, Project Manager
Comments? Questions? Email the Weekly Harvest Newsletter editor Karen Van Epen at .
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