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Top 10 Tips for Marketing Your Small Farm Products

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So, you want to market your small farm products to the wider world? Of course you do - that's what small farm businesses do. There are so many ways to market your products that the options themselves can seem overwhelming. Here are some tips to keep you on track - and earning plenty of dough.

  1. Develop your business plan first. A small farm business plan identifies your customers and your market opportunities, allowing you to tailor production to your goals. It is your roadmap, showing you how you will make your small farm enterprise profitable, as well as detailing how you will promote and market your product.

  2. Diversify your products and markets. Brainstorm lots of possible products, and don't limit yourself to one small niche. Having more than one crop or value-added product can help limit your losses - if disaster strikes, it's often not going to affect all your crops (hurricanes aside). The same goes for markets. If you only have one outlet for your products, you are limiting yourself, and betting the farm, quite literally, on sales through that one outlet. There are many ways to market your small farm products, so don't limit yourself to one.

  3. Consider alternative and specialty crops. Alternative, specialty and value-added products are the things that not everyone is going to be selling. Let's face it, no one needs more tomatoes and zucchini at the farmers market in August. But if you're creating something that few others do, you're in a much better position to sell what you have, at a higher value.

  4. Be willing and able to adapt. Trends in demand wax and wane, so you may need to move out of production of a product if its demand has waned. Consider trends as guidelines, but realize that fads move quickly, and if it takes a lot of learning and special equipment to produce your product, you could be out of luck once the market moves on.

  5. Try to have income year-round. One of the pitfalls of farming is its seasonal nature. There are many ways to extend your income into the fall and winter months, though: a fall or winter CSA share can help, as can a high tunnel to extend your growing season. Value-added products are also great filler for the off-season. CSAs themselves give you a steadier cash flow and an influx of money at the start of the season when you need it to pay for labor, equipment and seeds.

  6. Test market products. Get to know your customers and offer them new products on a small-scale basis, asking for feedback. Use friends and family members - give away your test batches and ask them to be brutally honest.

  7. Advertise. It's important to invest in advertising and branding for your small farm. Many farmers are not natural businesspeople, but it's critical to your success that you either learn how to be one, or hire someone who is to do the advertising and marketing part of your business.

  8. Package proudly. Consider attractive packaging which helps distinguish your product as high-end and premium. Take time designing a unique, striking logo that customers will remember. Write up tantalizing descriptions of products. Give customers and CSA members recipes that they can take home with them (with your website link on the recipe card).

  9. Add value. Don't just sell milk - sell cheese! Take fruit and make it into jam. Take wool and spin it into yarn, dye it, and even knit it. Instead of hunks of beeswax, make candles, salves, and lotions. Age honey into delicious, premium mead. The possibilities for value-added farm products are endless. Make sure to tie this back into your business plan so you don't spin your wheels. You must add value, but know where this value-added product is being marketed and who your customers will be, or else you risk wasting a lot of time, effort and money.

  10. Make your farmers market stall beautiful. With some investment of time and effort, your farmers market stall can be enticing, overflowing with quality, colorful produce, clearly marked for price, and displayed in a very attractive way. Make a Bundle at the Farmers Market goes into this in more detail.

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