How a farmer chooses to sell ones produce is a decision that should be the best for one's farm. There are many methods and tactics to selling. Today I will visit the two most common ways to price produce sold at a Farmers’ Market. These tactics can be used in any environment, but my experience is with Farmers’ Market so I will not vouch creditability in another venue.
Everything that we do as small business owners, small scale farmers, and entrepreneurs must be streamlined and efficient. It must sync seamlessly into our business plans and not interfere with the balance of our personal systems in place. The old rules hold true whether we are planting, preparing beds, harvesting, or protecting our products. It also must hold true when we sell our products. I mentioned it in a previous blog, but the old corporate america mantra/acronym K.I.S.S. reflect my thoughts on the matter perfectly (Keep It Simple Stupid). I prefer to sell by quantity, or sometimes I call it 'eaches', because for me...its simpler.
When selling by ‘eaches’ you have the ability to set your price by the number of products you have for-sale. This makes it simpler to achieve a certain sales goal. It also lets you influence supply and demand with less thought and variables to the customer. For example, in the first days of Spring you have 25lbs of tomatoes harvested. You know these will pull a premium at the early markets as they aren’t readily available yet but customers are eager for them. Typically they go for $4 per pound. That would gross $100 on your tomato sales. If you wanted to raise your price because you know demand is higher (and you put in extra time/effort to get these to market sooner) you would put them at $5 per pound. However, if you sold it by quantity, you could prepackage your tomatoes to have .75 pounds per container and still sell them for $4. There appears to be no fluctuation in price based on market demands.
Also, when selling by quantity you can set the price to not require complicated change orders. For instance, very recently I was buying sweet potatoes from a vendor in Lake Charles Louisiana for $1.50 per pound. My 3 potatoes came out to $4.36. When I paid with a twenty it the took the farmer valuable time to find the correct bill assortment, and count back loose change. This time is exaggerated further when you do not have full register tills. If you operate out of a cash box or bag it is even harder. When I sell by eaches, everything on my table is priced at $3. I can quickly make change for a long line of customers without fear of losing a customer. I worked in a large retail environment for years, and counting back change to customers is always an opportunity for loss. Even a small mistake cuts into your bottom line profits. It also encourages the farmer to round down and cut corners when a customer doesn't have exact change. Who really wants to deal with a pocket full of change anymore either?
Now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all peaches and cream selling in each quantities. There is significant prep work involved. Each night before (or during setup) market I spend hours weighing and sorting produce. I first take a rough total weight of everything harvested then divide that into equal parts. I then weigh out each container full to ensure every customer gets the exact same amount. The benefits of this outweigh the extra time. It leaves everything ready for market. I can setup in 20-30minutes. Everything is already in containers. It leaves me free to mingle, socialize, and get excited about talking about my farming with customers. It even made it simple for someone else to help out (i.e. kids) should the need arise. Its very nice to be able to say “Everything is $3”. It’s also very easy to sign the farm stand/booth (signing tips coming soon!) with consistent pricing offered by following the ‘eaches’ method.
The deciding factor for me was that if you sell by weight you need a significant investment in a quality scale. These scales are then regulated by the state’s (Texas was) weights and measurements division. It all seemed a bit pricey and overly complicated for my little backyard farming operation.
Ultimately the decision comes down to what fits best into your vision and your goals for your farming operations.
Jeremy E. Elwell
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