Profitability for Your Farm Products

No matter what you sell, success begins with a strong marketing plan. Learn strategies to maximize profitability for your farm.

| Jan/Feb 2019

  • What you decide to grow for profit on your farm will impact your ability to find the right consumer outlet.
    Photo by Getty Images
  • What you grow, when you grow it, how much of it you grow, and how long it will stay fresh are the four major factors that will forever impact you ability to sell your products.
    Photo by Chuck Place Photography
  • A local coffee shop that wants to sell local food may be a great place to feature your products.
    Photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto
  • Don't be afraid to think outside the box when determining your product markets.
    Photo by Forrest Pritchard
  • Your product's success comes from how you market it.
    Photo by Forrest Pritchard
  • Once you concentrate on identifying marketing opportunities, you may be surprised by the ocean of possibilities that come flooding your way.
    Photo by Getty Images
  • Farmers markets are just one strategy to market and sell your products.
    Photo by Getty Images
  • Opening your own country store is especially advantageous if you're producing large amounts of food for market.
    Photo by Getty Images
  • When properly balanced, market diversification makes your farm and your balance sheets stronger.
    Photo by Getty Images
  • "Start Your Farm: The Authoritative Guide to Becoming a Sustainable 21st-Century Farmer" by Forrest Pritchard
    Photo Courtesy of The Experiment

You’re all set to start producing vegetables, turkeys, apples, or milk for sale. But exactly what you ultimately decide to grow — when it’s in season, how difficult it is to harvest or process, how perishable it is, and how challenging it is to transport — will greatly impact your ability to find a suitable outlet, and get you paid for your hard work.

What you grow, when you grow it, how much of it you grow, and how long it will stay fresh are the four major factors that will forever impact your ability to sell your products. The more you can broaden or limit these variables — for example, extending your offerings year-round, or finding ways to reduce the transportation of your most perishable products — the greater your chances will be of finding the right markets to fit your farm.

Identify

Of course, everything you grow will come with its unique advantages as well as challenges. On my friends Don and Delores Magnani’s farm, located an hour south of Washington, D.C., they grow fresh figs, a sticky fruit that’s too delicate to ship long distances. But because they take the extra time to carefully pick them the night before they’re to be sold, then truck them straight to the farmers market themselves, they make an absolute killing when the fruit is in season. Their stand is easy to recognize; it’s the one where people are lined up 20 deep! They’ve effectively cornered the market on this fragile fruit.

My friend Mark Toigo in Pennsylvania grows tomatoes in greenhouses throughout the winter, and sells them to regional Whole Foods locations. But much like the figs, these heirloom tomatoes have delicate skins, and can’t take much jostling on tractor trailers and loading docks — his tomatoes are distributed from New England down to North Carolina. To solve this problem, the tomatoes are placed in recyclable clamshell containers with Mark’s name and logo, six to a pack.



Providing a product that’s typically only available via the commodity system, my friend Steve Ernst in central Maryland has diversified his farm of many hundreds of acres into non-GMO grains, offering blended animal feed to local farmers and hobby livestock owners. Steve and his sons have constructed their own storage bins and bagging operation, eliminating their former reliance on trucking it to the closest rail yard. These days, people come to him with their orders, arriving in SUVs and pickup trucks.

So what do these three very different producers have in common? They’ve each identified both the advantages and shortcomings of their individual products, accentuated the positive, and honed in on a marketing strategy that best suits their production.





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