Crop Packaging 101
Freight Farmers use a wide variety of packaging depending on where they sell their produce. We've compiled some resources to help you determine what kind of packaging best suits the needs of you and your customers.
The 4 Market Types:
1. Direct to consumer
Retail markets involve selling directly to the customer. Depending on the varieties of produce you grow, and where you plan on selling, you may need several different kinds of packaging.
Farmers Markets: Small markets pose a great opportunity for farmers to make personal connections with the people buying their food and the relationships you build with your customers will keep them coming back. Many farmers market vendors display their produce in large bins or boxes, letting customers select their own individual produce. You can also use trays or breathable bags. Zach Bain of Lowell Lettuce uses an eco-friendly packaging combo from Good Start Packaging and Be Green Packaging. Zach opts for the 54 oz. boxes to package 4 heads of mini lettuce.
Public Markets: Like farmers markets, public markets allow for that face-to-face connection but with the added bonus of having a more permanent setup. Connie and Shawn Cooney of Corner Stalk Farm package their leafy greens in a brown paper bag cut in half with their logo stamped on the side. The effect is a simple, but unique look that sets their product apart.
CSA: Community Supported Agriculture can be a great option for farmers who want to cut down on distribution time. They allow farmers to pre-sell a portion of their crops, guaranteeing a market come harvest time. It's important to be confident in the quantity of crops you can produce to have a successful CSA, so if you're just starting out, you may want to consider building up your business before offering customers the option to join a CSA. In terms of packaging, using a cardboard box is a good option, but make sure it's lined with plastic or another material to ensure the box doesn't crumble from the moisture.
Pro Tip: sell branded reusable tote bags. You can make them by getting in touch with a local screen-printing shop to brand them with your logo and business name. They are low-cost to make and a great marketing opportunity!
2. grocery store/ Food co-op
Product packaging varies from store to store, so if you're selling your crops at a grocery store, it's always a good idea to have a conversation with them about packaging expectations. Below are a few ideas that have worked well for our farmers in the past:
Clamshells and Trays: The options that Zach from Lowell Lettuce uses (listed above under farmers markets) are also suitable for grocery stores. Friday's Fresh Market uses a variety of clamshell sizes, and also markets lettuce blends to assemble a tasty, on-the-go salad to customers.
Perforated or breathable bags: Conventional produce bags from Webstaurant run about $0.03 per bag. There are also a range of more environmentally conscious options. As previously mentioned, Good Start Packaging offers compostable biobags at around $0.06 per bag.
Produce wholesalers can be a great way to distribute an entire container farm’s worth of lettuces, greens, or herbs every week. Wholesalers generally prefer to have produce delivered in 6-12 count cases or boxes, but to be sure, talk to your wholesaler and find out what kind of packing best suits their needs.
Another great way to to sell produce in bulk is by forming partnerships with local restaurants. The Farm-to-Table movement is gaining traction, and as a Freight Farmer, you have the unique advantage of being able to supply fresh produce year-round. Some Freight Farmers utilize reusable packaging like large plastic bins. (Pro Tip: make sure to have a few extra bins that you can rotate. That way you can pick up your old bins each time you make a delivery).
Get Creative and Have Fun!
Choosing packaging may seem like a daunting task, but it's a great opportunity for you to distinguish your product and spread brand awareness. Jerry Martin, owner of Vet Veggies displays a short description next to his produce at a local grocery store that tells the story of his company.
And be sure to let your customers know how to find you online by prominently displaying your website and social media accounts!