If you are growing fruits and vegetables and find yourself unable to eat everything that you harvest, you might be looking into selling your extra produce.
By successfully growing produce, you are already doing something amazing considering the obstacles the produce must overcome, like the 30,000 types of weeds and 3,000 species of nematodes that act as competition for your plants.
Compared to that, selling your produce will be easy. However, if you’re at a complete loss as to where to start, here are a few things to consider when you’re looking into selling produce.
Find Out Zoning Laws
Depending on the size of your garden, you might need to look into local zoning laws. If you’ve already been growing your garden for years you are probably in the clear, but there is a chance that you’ve been unknowingly breaking zoning laws and when you start selling your produce it will come to light. To avoid being charged a fine or another penalty, make sure that everything you’re doing on your property is allowed.
Build Personal Relationships
While you’re considering where you would like to sell your produce, do some “market research” by building personal relationships with people you might consider selling to. The best way to figure out where you can sell your produce is to know where similar products are being sold. So if you’re interested in selling your produce to a farm stand try shopping there and asking the owner about what they look for in the produce they buy.
If, for example, you have a tree that grows maqui, you could strike up a conversation about how the tree looks or its 16-20 foot height and the beauty of the tree and casually mention how delicious and nutritious the berries are.
Figure Out Who You Want to Sell To
There are a few options when it comes to selling your produce, and figuring out which one you’ll choose will determine how you go about selling your fruits and vegetables. Reaching out to local small businesses, which account for 99.7% of businesses in the U.S., is a better idea than reaching out to a superstore or grocery chain. Here are some of the main places to sell your produce:
- Restaurants. When it comes to restaurants, look for places that have alternating menus or daily specials. The odds are you aren’t going to supply enough for a consistent menu item, and although chefs will be flexible, if you try to sell your produce to a restaurant that keeps its menu for months at a time you may not be able to meet the demand.
- Farmers Markets. Farmers markets are a great way to sell your homegrown produce. Different markets will have different requirements for having a stall, so make sure to check out your local farmer’s market to find out more. It’s also a good idea to go to the farmer’s market on your own and see how the other stands are set up and see how they sell their produce. You may even be able to share a stall with another produce vendor, which could be especially useful if you don’t have enough produce for a full season’s worth of selling.
- Your Own Produce Stand. If you live in an area where you are allowed to do so, setting up your own produce stand on the side of the road with your fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to get rid of any extras you may have. This is a good option for you if you live in a well-trafficked area that allows roadside stands. This is a great time to check on zoning laws again to make sure that you’re allowed to have a “business” on your property.
- Selling to Another Produce Stand. If you aren’t allowed to sell produce on your land or if you don’t have enough extra to sustain your own stand, selling your products to another stand is a great option for you. You can bring your extra produce when you have it, and you won’t have too much of a commitment to fill a stand or an order with a restaurant if you don’t have as bountiful of a harvest as you expect.
- CSA. A CSA, or community-supported agriculture, program is a program where people pay a fee to receive fresh and local fruits and vegetables throughout the year. You can have everyone pay a certain price upfront if you know how much you’ll harvest, or you can have customers pay weekly or monthly. You can always start small with friends and neighbors, and as your harvest increases, you can try to have more people buy into your CSA.
Make sure that you are respectful and kind no matter what avenue of selling you go into with your produce. Having strong personal relationships with your customers will help you in all of your business proceedings.
Expand into Homemade Food
If you’re selling to farmers markets or a farm stand, you can also try expanding into homemade foods made out of your produce. You can make jams, pies, or other baked goods using your locally grown produce so you can expand your small business even more.
If you know, for example, that your fruit tree will have a huge harvest at a few points during the season and it’s not realistic for you to sell every piece of fruit, making it a jam and having those to sell on weeks when you don’t have as much other produce is a great way to be consistent in your sales abilities.
Consistency Is Key
The real key to selling your own produce is being consistent in what you produce. If you tell a restaurant that you’ll be able to give them a certain amount of a product, and then you end up having a significantly smaller harvest, they probably won’t want to do business with you in the future.
Make sure that you are communicative about what you can provide and that you are able to come through with at least as much as you say. In addition, if you say that you’ll deliver to a farmer’s stand on Friday evenings, make sure that you actually drop it off. These other business owners are depending on you once you make a deal with them, so keep that in mind during your interactions.
If you want to get organic certifications, there are a few different ways that you can go about getting it. However, with the way that bigger produce farms are beginning to move into the organic avenue, the organic label is becoming slightly less valuable.
If you have direct interaction with your customers, you can tell them about your growing practices; no matter what, you are growing and selling locally, which is attractive to many customers. If you still want that organic certification, the USDA and ATTRA have some guides.
Selling your own homegrown produce isn’t necessarily the easiest process to start, but once you are in the swing of your sales, things will feel easier. Just remember to be kind, willing to compromise, and consistent, and your produce selling small business will flourish.
Image credit: Amber Engle via Adobe Spark