Making Money from Homegrown Produce
Making money from homegrown produce is a good way to add to the income on a small farm or even a property with enough room for a small garden. How you go about it depends a lot on what you are selling, where you are located, and your personal preferences. With the current consumer trend towards locally grown produce, selling your homegrown vegetables and fruits is just good business sense.
Of course, before you do anything always check with your local government for city and county codes and permits that you may need to be aware of. Fines can be pretty steep if you break a law.
Selling Produce at a Farm Stand
A farm stand is the most convenient way of making money from homegrown produce. You simply set up shop at the end of your driveway, put up some signs a mile or so down the road, and begin raking in the cash.
Well, almost. There are a few things you have to consider.
What type will you have? Will you have a table and an umbrella for shade or will you build a wooden structure?
Putting up signs and advertising on the internet are good starting places. Some other places to advertise are:
- The local newspaper
- Have a website and facebook fan page
- Use social media like Facebook and Twitter
What will your hours be? Gone are the days when you could feel comfortable leaving your wares out with a coffee can that said "Pay here". You are going to need someone to man the stand as well as continue on with the normal duties and chores of your household. Choose your hours carefully and make sure that you are consistent. People need to know that you will be open when they get there.
Decide on Your Goods
What will you sell? Variety and quality are the keys to a successful farm stand. Also consider selling homemade jams, jellies, and bread fresh from the farm. Yard eggs, if your chickens are prolific, can be very lucrative as well. Consider having homemade sweet tea available, and maybe sandwiches. Again, always check with your local government for special codes and permits that you may need.
Keep your prices fair. Comparison shop in your area, at the Farmer's Market, the grocers, and other farm stands and see what you can reasonably ask. Also, check what other people are selling. If everyone is selling tomatoes but no one is selling cilantro you may want to add some cilantro to your garden.
Offer not only the normal and average things but items that are unique to your farm. Handspun fiber is an example of something that might be unusual yet sell very well.
Selling Produce at the Farmer's Market
Farmers Markets have both positive and negative qualities.
One the plus side you will probably have a lot more people coming by and the opportunity to sell more produce over all. Generally farmer's markets are only open a few days a week, leaving you more time to devote to your farm chores.
One the other hand, you will have to pay a fee to sell at the farmer's market and you will be surrounded with your competition. You may have to drive long distances to get there and so will not be available at your home for other things.
Check It Out Before You Commit
If you are going to sell at a farmer's market visit it a few times before you become a merchant there. See what others are selling, how the traffic is, and what people are buying. Make sure you understand the rules and requirements as well as how the fee structure is set up.
Are other farmers selling things besides produce? Ask questions, talk to people and know what you are getting into and whether or not it will work for you.
It's A Growing Trend
Selling Homegrown Produce to Restaurants
Many restaurants want to be able to say that they use fresh, local produce.
If you choose this route your produce needs to be of the very highest quality. Be aware that the things you are able to sell may be somewhat different than if you were selling at either a roadside stand or a farmer's market.
Restaurants will more likely want to use unusual vegetables and fruits, as well as the normal things. They may use more fresh herbs than the average consumer are well. The best way to go about selling homegrown produce to a restaurant is to call and talk to the manager or chef (often this is the same person). Do this early in the day and definitely not at lunch or dinnertime. Make an appointment to allow him see and taste some of your homegrown produce.
Keep your prices lower than you would if you were marketing to a consumer because you will be selling much larger quantities. Let him know about how much you can supply him with. In other words if you have five tomato plants make sure he knows that you have a limited amount of tomatoes.
Many people enjoy taking trips to U-Pick-Em farms. The whole family can go and pick produce and enjoy a farm experience and a day in the country. You tell them where to pick, give them baskets and let them do their own work, collecting the money for what they pick when they are done.
This works great for some people and some crops but is probably the least desirable way to market your produce unless you are really a people person. You have no control of children running through your crops and throwing ripe strawberries at each other while parents look on and laugh. You have no control over the people who step mercilessly on tomato plants as they are picking. Before you choose this option you should talk to those who either are doing it or have run one of these types of operations to inform yourself of the realities involved.
Always Analyze Your Aptitude for Income
What does that mean? Well, keep your brain working. Look around at what you have and what you can do with it. If you are good at starting plants then plan to start a few hundred heirloom tomato plants and offer them for sale in the spring. If you have goats that give extra milk then consider homemade cheeses and even ice cream. Look at your property with a critical eye and plan for the future. Set goals and have a vision.
By doing these things you can add to your income stream and eventually you may even be able to make enough money to use this as a primary source of income.