If you’re among the growing number of young farmers and homesteaders and you’re planning for your first selling season, you may still be questioning how to make the most from your new harvest. Whether you’re planning on selling at a local market, delivering dozens of CSA boxes, or quite simply leaving a cooler outside for your neighbors with an honor-system cash box, here are a few tips for building a loyal client base and making the most of what you have to offer.
Excite and Educate Your Customers with Recipes
Offering a free recipe for your customers is a great way to sell more of your lesser-known offerings or push produce that was surprisingly overabundant. This can be something as easy as a dip for everyday snacking, as simple as a quick pickled item for topping that casual family taco night, or something more adventurous like designing a complete meal kit-in-a-box with a protein, side, and starch.
Consider your resources and plan ahead to help get your clients interested and excited for new items to come throughout the growing season. You might even use this as an opportunity to educate and promote sustainability by featuring recipes for some commonly wasted or avoided foods, such as Radish Green Chimichurri or Nasturtium Salad. And it’s a great way to continue building your audience by posting recipes alongside other content on your social platforms.
Take Advantage of Convenience
There is a cost to convenience and many people are still willing to pay it. Lots of home cooks prefer the comfort of pre-prepared cuts of meat to butchering themselves at home. If you’re farming and selling meat, that can leave you with a lot of unsalable off-cuts.
You may have had an unseasonably warm or wet growing season resulting in unsightly produce that is still just as tasty, but still a potential waste. Don’t lose out on the opportunities from these oft thrown-out pieces. Instead, look at the possibility of making and selling your own stocks and soups.
Those leftover chicken feet and backbones will make an amazing foundation for braised greens. The beef oxtails you have can turn into an incredibly rich base for Asian soups and Southern stews. And all those “ugly” vegetables many customers overlook for their appearance will still develop into a wildly delicious broth for infusing into grains like rice and polenta. You can easily put a pot or two on the back burner to passively simmer as you take care of other tasks throughout the day. Gift your customers the convenience of this service and use this flavor in your favor by offering these stocks — fresh or frozen — alongside the rest of your inventory.
Set Up a Compost Take-Back Program
If you have any customers with a green thumb or interest in gardening, themselves, offer to take back their food scraps in exchange for your farm fresh compost at no additional cost. Not only does this symbiotic relationship provide you, the farmer, with an additional source of trustworthy food waste to continue developing your composting system or help feed your animals, but it’s also a surprising perk for your customers as they discover and develop their own paths into sustainable food systems. It is also a great way to build trust and loyalty between you and your clients as they will be able to get a peek into your planting process and the health of your soil.
Remember to provide a list of acceptable compost items for your system, then let your customers freely swap out bags at your farmstead or offer pounds of fresh compost as an add-on to your CSA box. Recognize, too, the option this creates for you to sell any excess seeds you saved from the previous season.
You may ultimately develop an audience for an all-in-one gardening kit, further encouraging your relationship with your customers and your customers’ relationship to sustainable growing practices.
Planting is one thing, but selling is another — don’t forget that as you begin your farming journey. Word of mouth is the best advertisement, so when it comes to your customers, let your passion and hospitality lead the way.
Zack Shornick is a chef and hospitality manager with a passion for sustainable agriculture and who founded the men’s beard and body care company, Raleigh’s Grooming. He and his wife are traveling across the country in their upcycled DIY camper van, searching for the perfect plot of land. Connect with Zack at ZackShornick.com and on Instagram. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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