If your goal is to make money growing vegetables, treat your gardening activity as you would any other marketing venture. Know what you're growing, what you're selling, at what cost to you and what price to your customers, into what markets, and with what promotional tags to bring customers back for more. Growing and selling your own vegetables is a great way to make money while enjoying a long season of sunshine, rain, fresh air and a close relationship with Mother Earth.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Things you need
- Planting pots
- Heirloom vegetable seeds
- Garden soil
- Planting tools
- Card table
- Bushel, half-bushel, quart and pint baskets
- Food scale
- Lists of local restaurants and food markets
- Rental booth or space at a farmer's market
Control your costs. Plan at least a season in advance in order to take maximum advantage of cost efficiencies and pre-marketing opportunities. Buy any supplies you need in the off season, when they are usually deeply discounted.
Keep a detailed inventory of everything you buy and how much it costs. You'll have to subtract your costs from your revenues at harvest to determine whether you're making a profit.
Control your input expenses. Harvest good garden soil from your own property rather than buying it by the truckload. Keep an active compost heap going year-round to avoid buying expensive fertilisers. Recycle your starter pots. Harvest rainwater. Use space on all of your sunny windowsills to reduce your dependence on grow lights during winter and early spring.
Invest in heirloom vegetable seeds. You can harvest the seeds to use in following seasons, and you'll be sure of your product, because heirlooms reproduce the same product generation after generation. Unused heirloom seeds will stay fresh for up to 10 years.
Market your product in advance. Contact local restaurants, grocery stores and seasonal markets to gauge their interest in buying in-season, fresh, local products. Find out what they need and how much they'll buy. Don't over-promise what you can't produce, but use your customers' wants and needs as the basis of your growing venture.
Think seasonally. As you prepare your vegetable plantings, be sure you have sufficient product for the entire season. From early spring asparagus to the last brussel sprouts of November, give your customers a reason to think of you all season long.
Plan Ahead to Make Profits
Operate a self-service roadside stand. As your produce ripens, prepare a display near the road. It can be as simple as a card table, a sign advertising price-per-pound, and a lockbox for self-payment. Leave a stack of plastic bags, ties and a weight scale along with the produce. You can also weigh and box the vegetables yourself before offering them for sale. Just adapt the signage to indicate price-per-basket.
Join a farmer's market. Call your local extension service for a list of markets that operate in your area. Scout each one before deciding which to join, to be sure you'll get ample foot traffic and won't be spending more than you're taking in.
Continue to contact local restaurants and markets weekly with offerings from your local, fresh-grown vegetable garden. Leave a business card, voicemail number and an e-mail address so they can reach you when they want you.
Know your local market prices, and price your vegetables according to what the market will bear. Know what your price point is and meet it. Market intensively during slow periods. Slash prices briefly at the conclusion of a day at the farmer's market in order to move product that hasn't sold.
Find a Vegetable-Market Venue
Sell in combination packages to encourage customers to buy more items. Selling tomatoes? Think salsa. Display your tomatoes alongside onions, cilantro and hot peppers. Think pizza. Surround your tomatoes with onions, garlic, sweet peppers and onions.
Add value. Include recipes with each sale. Offer a "baker's dozen," which means including one free item with each dozen sold.
Display your vegetables well, no matter where you sell them. Give your customers a reason to come back for more. Offer to save seeds for them so they can grow their own favourites next year.
Package and Promote
Tips and warnings
- If you sell your vegetables at a farme's market, augment your sales with other activities involving vegetables such as selling gourd birdhouses, conducting dehydrating demonstrations, and demonstrating canning tips.
- Check your local laws and ordinances to make sure you comply with all their requirements for permits, setbacks and other location- and health-related issues.
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