Are you starting a Freight Farms project in your community?
You might be wondering, who do I sell to? Which crops should I grow? What prices should I set? Here are a two important things to know right off the bat:
The answers to these questions are very market specific, so your best bet is to contact us directly for specialized information.
Ask these questions to people in your community! Go out and speak with multiple types of businesses in your area that could benefit access to hyper-local greens 365 days a year. The sooner you start speaking with potential customers about your project, the sooner you’ll have a good sense of what crops are in high demand, volume requirements, local produce prices, and more, which will help you build your business plan.
Understand the value of your product.
Before you start speaking with local businesses, recommend you read our post on local, organic, hyper-local, and naturally grown produce to understand the quality of the produce that grows inside the Greenery. It's important that you have a good understanding of the value you are bringing so that you're able to speak confidently about it to potential customers:
Hyper-local: Offer same or next day delivery since you’re located close to the customer.
Pesticide Free & Food Safe: All the crops grown in the Greenery are clean and safe in the event of an outbreak.
Longer Shelf Life: By harvesting and delivering the same day, you bring customers produce at it’s peak freshness and nutrition. It can easily last for three weeks in the fridge.
Year-Round Availability: Offer consistently high-quality produce regardless of the season.
Grow Unique Crops: Grow crops that customers can’t get anywhere else.
Approach the right customers.
Over the years, we’ve learned a lot from our farmers about which markets are most responsive to the Freight Farms mission. We’re exploring the top three: restaurants, direct-to-consumer, and specialty/grocery stores.
Restaurants make great customers because you’re working with individuals who value high quality, exceptional taste, and unique varieties (and are willing to pay more to get it). With the rise of the farm-to-table dining trend, this is the ideal time to approach potential restaurant customers.
Approach chefs or managers at high-end/farm-to-table restaurants in your area with the following value propositions:
You can grow a wide variety of interesting plants that are likely not available through conventional channels because there isn’t a large commercial market. Bring the Freight Farms crop guide with you.
You can easily customize your farm to grow what they need. The Greenery’s quick turnaround let’s you be flexible and fluid to meet the restaurants’ demands.
With the Greenery, you can guarantee quality and quantity. This allows the restaurant to plan it’s business and sourcing accordingly. Additionally, this means you can establish a consistent price that doesn’t fluctuate with the seasons.
Longer-lasting produce means less wasted food and money for the restaurant.
Local and food-safe growing means no down time in the event of outbreaks of food-borne illnesses.
Explore your area: Are there established farmers markets? Talk to your neighbors: Is there a demand for a CSA program?
(CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. You separate your harvest into separate ‘farm shares’. People sign up for a ‘subscription’ to your farm and receive a share every week or two weeks.)
When you approach consumers directly, your biggest hurdle is to justify an increased price. Maximize your success by targeting customers who express interest in paying for quality in other markets (craft beer, artisanal foods, organic produce). Speak to these value propositions:
Many CSAs and farmers markets are seasonal, meaning they stop in the winter. On the other hand, you can provide summer greens all year long.
The beauty of the Greenery is that you are able to grow hyper-locally in any location. For your customers, this means greens harvested and delivered the same day, so they get their food at peak freshness and nutrition.
You’re shaving off the 1-2 weeks produce typically spends in transit and giving them back to your customer! Your greens will stay fresher, longer–lasting 3-4 weeks in fridge.
Not only are your greens free pesticides, herbicides, and waxes, but they’re also safe from disease. As a farmer in a transparent, distributed system, your greens are safe from centralized outbreaks of food-borne illnesses like E. coli.
Bonus tip #1: Many people are unfamiliar with hydroponics or vertical farming. Having a display or printed materials that explain how your produce is grown, and how it’s special will help convey the value of your greens to potential customers.
Bonus tip #2: Farmers markets are an excellent place to meet people in your community that are interested in fresh and local food. The people that are regulars during the market season will likely sign up for a CSA in the off-season.
Do you know if any of the locally owned/regional grocers are focused on carrying and promoting local produce or products? Several regional chains and small business grocers across North America are focusing more and more on carrying locally sourced items and focusing their brand on local/natural/organic foods.
Specialty food stores
Specialty food stores are excellent customers to target because they already cater to customers that are looking for local, artisanal cheeses, meats, and beer, and wine. Your produce matches this brand, and can help round out the stores year-round offerings. When speaking to the store owners, highlight these values:
Your produce is unique, high-quality, and artisanal. It compliments the existing selection and can help the store retain more of the customers’ dollars by making the speciality store a one-stop-shop for all local goods.
That being said, local is your biggest asset in this market. The entire specialty food store industry is based on customers looking to support local businesses. It is to the store owners’ benefit to have a local option available.
For specialty stores, working with large farms or wholesalers may be difficult for small stores that move limited amounts of product or may not have enough cold storage space to accept massive orders. Your flexibility means you can accurately meet their demands, so there’s less overhead.
Larger grocery chains are another great place to sell your produce. From our experience, this is a channel best suited for a mature farming business with two or more Greenerys. That is because, once you hit mass market, your produce will need to be price competitive. Being able to offset lower prices with higher production will help you be successful. Here are you biggest value propositions for sourcing managers at grocery stores:
When it comes to mass-market, it’s all about the buzz words! Fresh, local, pesticide- and herbicide-free… these are the terms everyone’s looking for on their packaging. For that reason, it’s going to make your produce appealing to the decision makers.
Your produce is food safe. Grocers all over the country had troubles with multiple E. coli recalls in 2018, which took huge amounts of produce off the shelves and ruined trust with the consumer. Your produce comes from a controlled, food safe environment, making it safe from systemic disease outbreaks.
Your good for their food-waste reduction efforts. Many grocers face criticisms about how much food they throw away. Your produce will stay fresher, longer, meaning it’s more likely to be purchased before being deemed ‘un-sellable’.
Bonus tip #3: Since most of the time you wont be present to ‘pitch’ your product to shoppers, your packaging needs to be impactful. Attractive and bright labels will attract attention, and a quick explanation of the produce will help justify a higher price point.
Bonus tip #4: Consider giving away samples on busy shopping times (Sunday afternoon!). That way you can have a face-to-face interaction and let the produce sample impress potential customers. Like with the direct-to-consumer strategy, make sure to have pamphlets available with your information. This is also a good place to collect information from shoppers interested in a CSA.
Keep in mind…
All of these customer channels (and others) can be very successful and rewarding. However, as you plan your business, make sure to consider the resources each of these customer segments needs. This includes operational resources (time spent packaging, driving, finding customers) and financial resources (packaging, printed materials, farmers market fees). Having a solid idea of what you’re willing to commit to before getting involved with a customer segment will help you with growing pains later on. To see how these requirements can affect you profits, contact us to access our Business Planning Tool.
Keep an open mind! Most farmers start in one customer segment, then switch to another, or end up diversifying their business to multiple segments. Stay curious, talk to people, and see where their interests lead you.