How to Sell Small Farm Organics
Larger organic operations often have an easier time finding buyers than small organic farms. However, it doesn't have to be that way. For one thing, don't ignore typical markets. Even though you're smaller, you can still find some of the same buyers that larger operations find. Secondly, focusing on local customers is a smart bet for smaller organic farms. Below are some ways you can sell organics locally, on a smaller scale.
At Your Farm - Right to the Locals
You can set up a small farm-stand, offer U-pick services or even consider adding a small shop to your property and sell your fresh goods in this manner. Note that if you do sell right at your farm, you have to advertise that you've got farm produce to sell or no one will come to you.
Be sure to place contact info and directions on your farm's website. Consider hanging posters in co-ops and smaller natural grocers or at other local places, such as schools and libraries.
At the Farmers' Market
Farmers' Markets are a perfect place to set up shop year-round. Most areas have at least a few Farmers' Markets and their numbers are growing. Make sure you have an attractive stand and set prices that are reasonable when compared to other sellers. Also, if your local market has a well-known strawberry seller already, well offer another item.
Start a CSA
A CSA can be a lot of work to get started, but can also pay off if you get a successful CSA running. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a unique local farming system where a farmer will offer “shares” or "subscriptions" of the farm for sale to members of the community. A good CSA system allows for low-cost marketing and may help guarantee a decent percentage of seasonal sales.
Restaurants that serve organic food are popping up all over the place. Usually, organic ingredients are harder to source for most food establishments. These restaurants will likely jump at the chance to associate with and buy from a reputable grower year-round. This is a win-win situation, so long as you stay professional and offer great products.
Smaller Co-Ops & Grocers
Selling to smaller organic retailers works much like selling to organic restaurants. Keep in mind that retail establishments are more likely to be certified organic than a restaurant though and thus have more stringent handling practices.
Also, many small co-ops and even larger organic retailers have their own specific organic labeling practices in place. They often want a percentage of products free in order to carry your goods at their store. So, make sure you discuss all the details with a store before selling it to them.
The USDA Farm to School Initiative is a program that helps connect schools (K - 12) with regional or local farms so that the school may serve fresher, healthier, locally produced meals to the kids. This is an excellent program to get involved with and something you may want to check out as a small-scope organic grower.
Selling online can be tricky. For one, most people will not buy fresh food online, unless it's in the form of a CSA subscription or grocery delivery system. Both of these are ways you can sell online if you deal with food. If you're a small organic operation that processes crops into value-added goods, you may have a wider online market.
Farms featuring organic honey sticks, organic salsa, organic herbs, organic dried lavender or organic soaps may be able to make a decent living by selling online.
Local Community Events
As a small organic growing operation, you should keep your eyes out for cool local events that draw in patrons. For example, seasonal holiday celebrations, summer art fairs or local park events that feature sellers of various goods.
Make sure to read fliers at local stores and local newspapers, so you don't miss events. You can also talk to your local business association organization or visitors bureau because they'll know about events way ahead of time.