Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lesson Learned from Farmer's Market Approach to Marketing Vegetables from Anticala Producers' Group in Butuan City over a three week period

  1. Farmers don’t automatically know how to sell their produce.  Training and coaching is needed to become a good salesperson.  This training should include how to make the vegetable stand more appealing, proper dress, engaging the customer, recording orders, handling money, stand layout, sanitation, stand orientation (sun and shade) and stand location.
  2. Vegetables should be marketed in a clean and appealing condition with post-harvest sorting done before loading at the farm.
  3. Vegetables going to market should be sorted according to size and ripeness and segregated accordingly.  Mixed sizes and mixed ripeness leads buyers to rifle through and dig and pick out what they want which is unsanitary and blocks out other buyers. At least 2 scales should be available for use and these should be clean and accurate.
  4. For small sized vegetables, having prepacked products wrapped and priced is a useful thing to do so one does not end up weighing small amounts of things like Baguio beans.
  5. Any “cutting” of vegetables such as squash should be done with a clean knife and in a sanitary fashion and the cut vegetable should be wrapped with plastic wrap immediately.
  6. Prices of vegetables should be clearly posted.  Sellers should have an idea of what the going price for each variety is at the local market and at the local supermarket and price their products accordingly (ie a few pesos less than local market price if possible).
  7. Buyers will invariably ask more about the product and sellers should know as much as possible about the product.  One question is “are these organic?”  In the case of Anticala, the answer should be these are “low chem” and only inorganic fertilizer was used along with organic fertilizer.  No dangerous pesticides and herbicide sprays were used on these vegetables.  Weed control was through use of plastic mulch.  Note, no matter if the vegetables are organic or not, the consumer should be advised to always wash them before consuming.
  8. Sellers should emphasize that these vegetables were picked only a few hours before being sold and emphasize freshness. Sellers should note that these vegetables were not packed in bags or baskets and abused during transportation. They were harvested with love and care from the people now selling these same vegetables. 
  9. Variety sells and if other fruits like durian, banana or rambutan or vegetables like chayote are available, these should be included in the items for sale
  10. Sellers should clearly advertise their group and have a phone number on a card available to hand out and share for potential orders.
  11. Vegetables should be sold from a table if possible, up off the ground and should never be exposed to direct sunlight.  A tent or covered area to sell vegetables is necessary.
  12. It is appealing if the sellers wear matching aprons, hair net, plastic glove and even a name tag in order to enhance the look of the booth.
  13. Make sure that vegetables/fruits and money collected is secure at all times to avoid theft. Ask the local policeman to come by from time to time if one is available.
  14. Filling out a prepared order slip that lists the vegetable and price on it is very useful as people may purchase several different types of vegetables and fruits at one time.  The seller will need to keep track of weights and then do a total amount of sale.  Each seller should also have a pen and calculator to use.
  15. Selling may continue at a brisk pace with few breaks.  Make sure to bring adequate supplies of water and food and some plastic chairs as sellers will get hungry and tired. 
  16. Encourage people to bring their own recyclable bags but make sure to have plastic bags available for vegetables and fruit sold.
  17. Sellers should have a plan in place before market day regarding what they plan to do with any excess vegetables not sold.  Since refrigeration is not yet an option, selling to local restaurants or kitchens is one good option so that only empty crates need to be returned to the growers area.
  18. Since there may be 5 or 10 producers involved in providing product, a final calculation of all sales needs to be done and each producer needs to receive his fair share minus costs levied by the group for marketing and for transportation.  Accounting should be transparent so there are no questions regarding how income was divided.
  19. Once sellers get the hang of marketing from a stand, they should continue the marketing discussion to come up with ways that volumes of vegetables can be marketed quickly.  Selling direct to the consumer from a stand is fun but time consuming.  Taking bulk orders, if the volume is high enough can help save time and expand sales.
  20. Sellers should create a rapport with buyers so they are encouraged to return week after week.  Part of the Farmers’ Market approach is the ability of the buyer to get to know the producer and feel more connected to where their food comes from. 
Sellers should take note of which items sell the best and which items are most profitable to guide product placement and amounts to bring the next week.  They should also make sure not try to sell any old or damaged products.