Our August 18th EarthDance field talk was about Wholesale Marketing. Matt LeBon did a great job of explaining all the steps of marketing your vegetables to the wholesale audience. In summary, this is what he explained.
Before marketing, you’ve already decided what you want to grow – and why you want to grow it. Does your space lend itself to greens or orchards or a multiple array of vegetables? Do you just want to grow berries? Once you’ve figured this out and you begin to grow food, then its time to thinking about how to to market it.
If you are going to start growing in the spring and hope to supply your produce to local chefs, start the conversation in the fall. Make an appointment with the restaurant chef and then take in your wares for them to sample. Always take in a sample of what you’ll be producing next season. While this may be difficult to do sometimes (e.g. I won’t have berries until June), sampling is key.
Always have an idea of what price you will ask for your produce. Typically, the price will be about 20% less than what you’d sell the produce for at a farmer’s market. A Price Sheet shows not only professionalism but understanding of your business, your clients and the relationship you are building.
The optimum arrangement is for chefs to tell you what they think they’ll want prior to the season. For example, a chef may order 20# of kale for the 12 weeks you’ll have kale. Or mixed greens for as long as you can supply them.
Matt sends his chefs pictures throughout the week of what is looking good on the farm. This allows the chefs to think ahead and plan for the week to come. Also, if a chef is expecting husk cherries from you and you are out, try and find another farmer to supply the produce. When you check on your chef’s order early in the week, you mention that even though you’re out of husk cherries, farmer XYZ will deliver the cherries instead of you. This saves the chef the legwork and makes you more of a partner in his business.
Matt suggested a farm visit for your chefs…this makes a huge difference when they can see where their food is from…just like everyone. It creates a connection.
Since chefs are our #1 marketing, by sharing our produce with their customers, giving us a nod when they do “EarthDance Salad” on their menus, like Chef Rex Hale does at The Restaurant at the Cheshire.
EARTHDANCE FARMS LOCAL GREEN SALAD Lemon Anchovy Vinaigrette, Soft Boiled Farm Egg
While I’m not sure how and if I’ll be marketing like Matt suggested, it was good to learn the fundamentals of what to do. This coming Saturday, I’ll be working the Farmer’s Market for EarthDance. Excited to see what this will be like!