This is a repost from my grow for market series. Please click on the older posts at the bottom of the pages to get back to this whole series. Thanks
One of the best feelings for me throughout my nursery career has been a combination of joy, pride and accomplishment derived from giving or selling something that you produced from a seed to the finished product. to someone else. It’s like giving a part of yourself to the eventual customer, and if they want to pay you for it, so much the better. These are some of the things you will feel if you start growing for market. Also tired, pissed off, cheated and lied to. But the good outweighs the bad by a long shot.
Growing for market can be something you do on a part time basis, like growing some extra tomato starts and a few zucchini seedlings. You take whatever you have that you think will sell to the market on Saturday morning then count your cash at the end of the day. Then there are folks out there that have farms that grow acres of berries or melons that count on the market for a good part of their living. I figure most people that will read this blog are going to fall into the middle of this range. I will use myself as an example. I grow some baskets some bedding plants a few veggie starts and some oddball stuff for my markets. I have a pretty good following, not because I have the best stuff at the market but I think because folks just get to like you. That’s important at any market. Your reputation becomes known to the customers and to the other vendors. I would expect my reputation is, he grows some okay stuff some good stuff and some crap. And he only comes for three months of the season. So, some good some bad. That’s my rep and that’s what I have to work with. I created it so I will live with it.
If you think that marketing is in your future then it’s time to start your research. Have you ever been to a Farmers Market? Do you know someone who has? Have you got the time to grow for the market, or bake or cook or whatever it is you would like to sell. If you are going to grow, do you have the facility to grow in? Have you grown before? Do you like dealing with the public?
I think the best way to start is start going to some markets. Walk the aisles see what people are selling. See where the lines are. See how the stalls are set up. Get a feel for some of the successful vendors. You will know them by the lines at their stall. Watch how they interact with each customer. Note if they have a smile on their faces. Watch how easily the transition from one customer to the next. As you get comfortable with them go up and ask them about marketing. Almost any vendor is happy to see new vendors coming into the market. There is kind of a circle in markets. The more vendors you have the more customers you will have. While that may cut into a vendors action a bit it also presents more customers to sell to. What came first the market or the customer? This is not a trick question. The more the merrier in both vendors and customers.
What should I sell? How much? At what price? What do you do well? Do you bake a mean apple turnover? If you do you are set as baked goods seems to me to be one of those things that always creates a line up at their stall. Add some coffee and pop on ice and you are set. Are you good at woodworking, and does you market allow things that are hand made? I you are and they do then start making trellises and tomato cages. Don’t quit your day job though. I see some really nice stuff at the markets that I do that just plain doesn’t sell. The vendors are very personable but selling their goods is really tough. Keep that in mind but don’t let that burst your bubble. How about starting a few tomato plants and setting them into your wood planters. Not planted in them just sitting in them. Then know something about that type of tomato. For me it seems that the more I can tell the customer about that plant the better chance they will but it. I know common sense stuff.
I’m going to assume based on the fact that you are visiting my website or blog that you want to grow plants to sell at market. Great now what? Remember when you were scouting that market? What was selling. There really isn’t that much different that you can dream up that someone else isn’t already doing. However you may be able to present the same product in a different way. I don’t try to compete with half of the other vendors at our markets by selling 4″ tomato starts. I sell only gallon tomatoes. I don’t get the highest price at the market but I do sell all of my gallon tomatoes.
Everyone wants to know what sells. Everything, now, what can you grow? There are the easy things like marigolds and the hard things like begonias. Start with the easy and work your way up. One of the things you will find if you decide to grow flowers is that there are tons of companies out there that grow the starts for almost anything you can think of. You can buy as little as 4 flats of 50 liners/plugs from a grower and have them shipped to your door for less than $125. These are patented plugs that are ready to shift into a 4″ pot or 3 or 4 to a 12″ basket. All you need is a place to grow them on after planting them. You may want to grow stuff from seed. Same thing have you, can you and have you got the room. I have found that growing plants from cuttings pays very well. We’ll look at some plants and plant ideas tomorrow. If you have questions feel free to put them in the comment section. I’ll get back to you soon.