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Market Garden Selling

Market Garden Selling

Many people find market gardening an attractive method of selling vegetables. The following fact sheet explains how to set up a market garden and how to increase sales.

Market Gardening

Market gardening is the practice of growing and selling produce on or near the farm site, where the farmer is the end seller. While a market garden is more work, it offers greater per unit returns. Market gardens can be of various sizes. Most, however, are less than 20 hectares (50 acres) in size. Some larger operations can cover over 40 hectares (100 acres).  Market gardening gives growers complete control over sale of their produce.  

Getting Started

The key to successful market gardening is finding out what produce consumers want to buy and how large a market there is for each type of vegetable.  If there is no visible market for certain vegetables, then there is no reason to grow them.  

Competitors

Start by surveying your area for an hour's drive in any direction to determine the current competition, what they are growing and size of the market base. The produce section of local stores also provides an indication of what vegetables are popular with local clientele.  Ask your neighbours what vegetables they buy. This will all help determine what to grow.  

Location

Once you have selected your crops, determining the optimum location for marketing is the next step. Select a marketing location that is near to and easily accessible by traffic, allows room for a building and parking, and is close to your fields.  Proximity to fields helps cut down on transportation costs. An easily accessible location helps ensure that new customers will not get lost trying to find it.

Although not all of the parking space will be used all the time, peak periods -- such as when new potatoes and sweet corn first come out -- will require a certain amount of room. Look at existing markets in your area, taking notice of how much room they have for parking.

Logistics

Once you permit people to enter your property, they become your responsibility. It is therefore advisable to take out some type of liability insurance on your property. This will protect you in the unlikely event that someone is injured while at your establishment.

The site should be clean, free from debris and have washroom facilities.

The facility should have sufficient shelving to display all the produce. Ensure that produce is adequately displayed and identified. Label the produce with information on how to use and store the vegetables. You may want to provide recipes as well.  

Structures

Structures are up to the owner.

For smaller operations - a building the size of a garden shed with enough space for the vendor and shelving units to display produce may be sufficient.  These are similar to roadside stands normally found at the end of a driveway.

Larger producers - will need a building that has enough room for shelves, cold storage and for customers to walk through. It should be constructed to keep out the wind and the rain.  Think of it as a store and set up the layout accordingly. The aisles should be laid out allowing easy access to all products.  There should be adequate lighting and the facility should be clean.  It is best to have your cash register at the front to allow you to greet people as they enter, and to reduce customer confusion and/or shoplifting.

Other items to sell

In addition to a wide variety of vegetables, many market gardens also sell fruits, crafts, garden tools, soil mixes etc.  This permits one-stop shopping for customers. The greater the variety you offer, the wider range of customers you will attract.

How to get traffic

Advertise. The type and amount of advertising required will depend on the size of your operation as well as the size of your market. Larger operations will have larger advertising needs. Larger markets may need to use of television or radio ads to make consumers aware of the selection at your market at peak points in the season. Alternatively, a mid range market may only require a weekly newspaper advertisement.

Placing the advertisement in the same area of the paper each week will help develop a regular clientele who will search out your ads. Advertisements should include location, crops that are being sold, hours of operation and phone number.

If you are a newly opened operation, or have added some new section or innovation, a news story will help.  Approach the local newspapers or radio and television stations to see if they would be interested in interviewing you on your new business. This is a cheap and effective form of advertising. Many owners look to advertise around a grand opening or launching of some event.

They may be more receptive to doing a story if you are purchasing some advertising from them.

If your farm is close to an urban centre, garden tours may be a good form of advertising.  Tours allow people to see how you produce the food they eat. Tours are especially popular with young children. Many will want to return, and will bring their parents with them. Schools are often looking for this type of opportunity.

Signage

Signs are one of the most effective tools you can use to promote your market garden.  The sign a producer uses provides information to the consumer about the operation. Even if it is costly when starting out, a bright, well-displayed sign will pay for itself.  If your market garden is located away from town, you will need to have more than one sign showing how to get to your property. Ensure that the directions on how to get to your market garden are clear.

Brand recognition is another key concept. When designing your signs, use your market logo, if you have one. This will help customers identify your produce. Brand recognition is also important if you sell at a farmers' market. Recognition of your logo will help you promote your vegetables to consumers there, and encourage them to come out to your market and purchase again.

Pricing

This will vary from area to area, the time of year, and from year to year.  As a rule, it is best to see how much is being charged in local stores, and then set your prices accordingly.  Most times, you will have the freshest produce, so your price should reflect that.

Try to maintain a consistent price. If you get a reputation for dropping your price, then customers will time their purchase accordingly, and you will not be as profitable.  

Landmarks

Everyone tends to remember an object that is a little out of the ordinary. If you can develop one of these, it is to your benefit. A giant replica of a crop you produce, or any landmark will stick in people's minds. It will also help when giving directions. Other options include petting zoos or having unusual pets that people will remember.

Labour

Finding and keeping a dependable workforce will be one of your most important tasks.  You will want employees who are not only hardworking and pay attention to details, but who are also courteous and work well with the public.

You may want to assign duties according to the person's attributes.

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