Jan 18, 2022
Farm market business considerations for 2022

As we enter another year, it’s good to think about the future of our business. Not just for the new year ahead, but the decade. The decade of the 2020s will be noted for some massive changes, which include retail farm markets. Retail, in general, is busy trying to understand what the customer wants and how do they wish to purchase it. E-commerce is here to stay with ordering online, but customers also like to shop in the physical store. As a retailer, you need to think about how you interact with your customers. You are managing a brand that is more than a customer experience in your market. The shopping experience needs to translate to a great online experience as well. Consider creating online incentives to visit your market. Give the customer a “call to action” for shopping online and in person.

Are you considering transitioning your farm and market in this decade? If so, the time to start the process is now. On average, transitioning can take several years, so if you plan to turn over the business to someone else by 2030, start having the conversation in 2022.

Supply chains continue to bullwhip. Consider what items for your market you need for next fall season. I had a discussion with one manager at the beginning of their fall agritourism season, and one of the many things that kept them up at night was their apple cider slushy. They needed to order straws for the slushies but could not get them, which led to the question of “can we use paper straws?” “Will paper straws work with a slushy?” “The cost of lids and cups has gone up, so how much of the cost can I absorb or do I need to increase my price?” “How much is the customer willing to pay for a slushy?” That’s just one example of many that I know market managers had to deal with over the season. To avoid a repeat of that, what do we need to do? We need to manage around the things we can’t control. We can’t do much about the supply chain and products stuck on a ship in the Pacific, but we can create strategies to manage around it.

If your market doesn’t already accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as Food Stamps), you may want to consider signing up. The process can be cumbersome and lengthy, but it could be worthwhile as the government recently increased the amount that SNAP recipients can receive each month.

Fresh fruit and vegetable demand continues to increase. Organic produce is expected to have another double-digit increase in demand for the year. Focus on quality and good merchandising. In just about every consumer survey, quality is the number one thing your customers look for. Price is second or third, so a high-quality product that is displayed well can command a good price.

Lastly, look at your marketing plan from the previous year to evaluate what worked and what needs improving or eliminated. Marketing plans, production plans and market efficiencies are part of managing things we can control.

— Brian Moyer, Penn State Extension

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