More places to sell your product. Contract growing is a market I haven’t chased after. Contract growing can come in many sizes. You can dedicate your whole nursery top one or two buyers or you can just contract grow as a sideline. The problem for growing for one or two or even three retailers is that if you are into production and say that store or retailer goes out of business or sells out to someone new you may be stuck with all of their product and no market for it. You should ask for some deposit when you enter into the agreement. I would ask for at least the cost of the product you are going to have to buy in to fulfill your end of the deal. That way if they do quit business at least you aren’t out the whole amount. Don’t think it won’t happen to you, even the biggest stores can get bought out or go under, it happens more often than you think.
I once had a chance to grow fuchsia and petunia baskets for a large retailer in our area called Fred Meyer (now owned by Kroger) I couldn’t have asked for a sweeter deal,lots of baskets close to home and a good price. I started to figure out the space I would need to grow for them and it looked like I would need most of my greenhouse space. Then while in the planning process I realized that they had a supplier before me, what happened to them? Then I started thinking of just how easily they could cancel our agreement and realized that if they did my income would drop by about 80%. I considered this for a couple of days and believe me it was hard to call them and tell them I wasn’t interested.
What I consider to be small contract growing is growing for local landscapers or local motels or restaurants. Also think about hospitals churches, office complexes, school districts your parks departments, city county and state, and florists.
Every town has a florist that wants nice baskets the week before Mothers day. I had one such florist in our area that never wanted to have us grow for them but they would show up the weekend before Mothers day and want to buy our best baskets, at a discount of course. I would tell them the price was already on the basket and I would not have a problem selling all of my best baskets retail by the next weekend. They were offended (every year) why couldn’t they buy my baskets at 60% of retail so they could double the price after holding the basket for maybe 5 days. You have to consider every angle before selling at a discount. Once you have a good reputation you should never have to sell at a discount to your retail prices. Keep your prices reasonable and your quality up and you can turn away the folks looking to cash in on your considerable efforts.
Fund raisers is another type of market. If it’s a fund raiser aimed at a specific holiday or season you can plan well in advance. Schools all over the country used to use fund raisers to buy uniforms and sports equipment. I am seeing a comeback in this idea for hard up fund raisers. If you can plant the seed at the schools churches and other service organizations and show them how to best plan for their function it could pay some good dividends. Gift certificates and silent auctions comes to mind too.
Okay I’m starting to run out of gas here. I don’t have a book to turn to about starting a nursery this is all coming off of the top of my head each day so I’m just filling pages with my experiences if you have suggestions or questions please leave them in the comments.