In the last post, we went over some of the ways in which Conor Crickmore simplified his on-farm operations. Today we’ll see how he simplified his marketing and sales efforts.
Conor and Kate used to do CSAs, but they decided to scratch the CSA and focus on farmers’ markets since markets are more forgiving in terms of what crops you need to grow. When you sell at farmers’ markets, you find out quickly what kinds of vegetables sell well and which don’t. This allows you to try growing new things, see if they sell, and get better and better at growing them.
Conor prefers farmers’ markets to wholesale because wholesale buyers want more consistency, which means there’s not much room to experiment on things.
Presentation Tips for the Farmers’ Market
At farmers’ markets, small farms generally set up their table, place a few kinds of vegetables out, and slowly sell them. Meanwhile, there’s a huge farm across the way hauling in a truckload of vegetables and piling them really high. Although the quality of their vegetables isn’t great, they have a line because they look big.
So Conor and Kate decided to pretend to be a big farm. They set up at the farmers’ market as beautifully as they can, and they pile their vegetables high and make their whole booth look gorgeous. They even go the extra mile of rearranging the display when someone touches the vegetables because they noticed that people have an aversion to touching vegetables other people have already touched.
The messier your pile, the less you’ll sell.
Ironically, Conor and Kate aim to price their vegetables so that it’s a little bit hard for people to pay for them. They reason that if nobody’s complaining about the price, then it’s probably way too cheap.
They approach pricing the way a grocery store does. For example, they sell two bunches of kale for $5 and one for $3.
Every quarter counts, and Conor makes sure he’s maximizing every sale. While they do have standard pricing for vegetables, if they can earn more for them, then they’ll definitely change the price. If no one else has sugar peas that day, then the price will go higher; but if the market is saturated with a certain vegetable, they’ll move their price down.
They also employ salespeople to market their specials and their sale items. Having someone focused on sales can make you hundreds of dollars in a day and thousands of dollars by the end of the season.
Shifting prices a lot means that there have been times that Conor overshot. But since he’s always at the farmers’ market, he can make those changes right away. But his rule of thumb is this: solve the problem first before lowering the price.
If the price is the problem, then put specials on it. Sometimes Neversink adds one or two displays of that product. They also try putting it near the cash register, and they also make sure that the signs are nice and big.
If something just isn’t selling, and they’re working hard to sell it, then they reevaluate and consider getting rid of the crop and growing something else.
In the next post, we’ll cover more about markets and how Conor views his CSA as a completely separate business.
You can learn more by checking out our podcast with grower Conor Crickmore:
And you can find all our market gardening podcasts at Farm Small, Farm Smart—the longest-running podcast on market gardening in the world.