Marketing Consideration for High Tunnel Farming
Produce grown in a high tunnel will be of little value if it cannot be converted to cash. Therefore, markets will be the first area to examine.
A farmers’ market can be a good sales option for producers and can be a primary source of income for armers who attend a number of markets throughout the eek. For those just getting involved in direct marketing, farmers’ markets are a great way to test the market and determine what customers want.
Farmers’ markets usually charge a nominal weekly or annual fee. In addition, you will need a canopy, tables, and signage. This allows the grower to utilize this avenue for marketing with very little initial investment.
The farmers’ market offers exposure to a number of potential customers in a short time period. If you attend these markets on a regular basis, you will also have the opportunity to establish relationships with customers – a good way to secure repeat business.
One strategy for growers is to be “first to market” with vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers, thus having the opportunity to charge premium prices. In order to take advantage of this opportunity, check to see when farmers’ markets in your area begin operation.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
Community supported agriculture (CSA) refers to a partnership between a farmer and a community of supporters. At the beginning of the year, supporters purchase a “share” of the farm’s production. The farmer uses this money to cover the cost of seeds, fertilizer, equipment maintenance, and labor in order to produce a healthy supply of fresh produce throughout the season (usually May through October in Wisconsin).
The high tunnel can offer the CSA operator several opportunities:
- It’s a great way to mitigate risk by preselling shares early in the year.
- The high tunnel may allow a grower to offer a greater number of “share” weeks and thus charge more per share.
- The grower could offer a separate share for spring salad greens, thus increasing income.
- Another possibility is to offer a winter share and combine with stored vegetables such as potatoes,carrots, etc.
However, the CSA also has its own unique costs such as boxes for delivery, weekly newsletters, packaging, etc. All of these costs must be taken into consideration.
Restaurants and Specialty Shops
As with every marketing niche, there are certain challenges. Most restaurants have limited cooler space and therefore may require deliveries several times per week. This can mean more time spent driving, invoicing, completing paper work and more time spent away from the farm.
Another point to consider is the restaurant’s normal payment schedule. Unlike a farmers’ market where you leave each day with cash in hand, you may wait anywhere from two weeks to 45 days or more before receiving payment. Therefore, product liability insurance will be another cost to consider.
By working directly with chefs, you can gain a marketing edge by becoming acquainted with the latest ideas and trends in the restaurant industry, allowing you to tailor your product to specifically fit their needs.Next >>> Wholesaling