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Specialty Crop Growers Should Consider Farmers' Markets

One of the faster growing segments of fresh fruit and vegetable sales in Mississippi, as with the rest of the U.S., is direct marketing.

As opposed to selling wholesale, direct marketing is when a producer sells his or her produce directly to the consumer. This can be via on farm retail sales, roadside stands, community supported agriculture (CSA’s), buying clubs, pick-your-own farms, or farmers’ markets.

As of early 2014, Mississippi had 81 farmers’ markets. This number represents a sharp increase from just 10 years earlier when there were barely a dozen markets statewide.  Nearly every county in the state has a market, while there are even a few with two or more.

The prevalence of so many farmers’ markets in Mississippi is great for the shopper since he or she does not have to travel very far to find high quality, locally grown produce.

For the grower, this large number is very helpful as well. In addition to selling at the closest farmers’ market to the farm, many growers stagger their selling days by using two or more markets every week. This is especially convenient when markets operate on different days of the week.   For example, if all of the markets within 50 miles are only open on Saturdays, this makes it difficult to sell at more than one.

The advantage of direct marketing to the grower is that the retail sales price received is much higher than the wholesale price at which they would otherwise sell their products. By selling to the ultimate consumer, there is no loss in cash flow to the handlers and resellers that bridge the grower to the consumer when using wholesale channels.

Since most producers work full time off the farm, farmers’ markets give them an alternative to row cropping and an opportunity to sell their produce directly to consumers. Farmers’ markets are ideal for growers who can’t produce enough to meet the large demands of supermarkets that want to buy at least 40,000 pounds at once.

Specialty cut flower production: Growers aren't limited to fruits and vegetables at farmers' markets

Marketing is probably the most important thing for you as a specialty cut flower grower, after you have figured out the growing techniques, unless you are growing flowers just for your own enjoyment and not seriously seeking profit.

As with any produce business, you must have good market knowledge to run a good specialty cut flower production business. A good cut flower business is less about how many stems of zinnias you could grow or how many bouquets you could make but more about how much profit you could get from the things you produce.

Specialty cut flowers are “special” in that they normally have shorter postharvest lives than roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums and do not tolerate long distance shipping conditions. Their marketing channels are very similar to those for locally-produced vegetables. Cut flowers can be sold by stem, bouquet, or a combination of the two in the market, and there are success stories in each category.

Farmers' markets can offer growers better prices for cut flowers than most other market channels such as online sales, florists, and grocery store sales. They are more suitable where shoppers are willing to pay higher prices.

A farmers' market is a great way to establish direct personal contact with customers who buy your flowers, which could lead to the other forms of sales. Display is a key for sales at the farmers' market, so top-quality flowers and high postharvest standards are almost equally important.

Publications of interest to growers:

Consumers

Consumers have an opportunity to purchase the freshest fruits and vegetables available.

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Growers

One of the faster growing segments of fresh fruit and vegetable sales in Mississippi is direct marketing.

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Communities

There are many benefits when rural and urban communites organize farmers' markets.

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