I’m probably preaching to the choir here, but right now is a pretty busy time. We’re doing our own garden planning, getting ready to launch the seed-n-start business locally, plan out the beekeeping stuff for the year, iterate on our house plan to try to reduce costs more so we can afford it, and the list goes on..
Rudy’s Note: As an aside, thanks for those of you who expressed concerns about the legal and other potential perils of a seed business.
Our seed vendors are all for what we’re planning and have extended good pricing to accomodate it.
I’ve also spoken with the appropriate state folks, and the legalities here aren’t all that wonky. A $20 fee is all we need to worry about. But thanks for the concern and thoughts!
I had an interesting conversation with a local farmer this week. He was lamenting the fact that he’s come to the conclusion that it’s just not possible to survive as a farmer here locally. He’s shifting to focus more on producing as much of his own food as possible and selling the excess, as opposed to just plain selling to market.
It’s a dilemma to be sure. Most of the “successful” folks here dumped a bunch of money into a place and have been operating at a small but livable profit. The problem is that once you look at how much you have invested, it doesn’t look quite as profitable anymore. Most folks simply farm as a side gig and have a primary job that pays the bills.
It seems to me that to be successful in an agricultural endeavor here, and probably in many other parts of the country, you have to do more than just grow stuff and take it to the farmers market.
While production is certainly a primary source, you also need to branch out to succeed. You need to educate people, both consumers and other farmers. You need to branch out beyond your core production. It’s simply not enough in a more rural area to specialize.
Education is really one of the key things here. Without it, you’re facing an up hill battle trying to get folks to buy your food. They need to understand the difference, they need to TASTE the difference.
You have to get past any price shock that folks may get when they walk up to your table.
Which is another thing. As long as you sell your stuff for a significant bump over supermarket prices, you will struggle. I hate to say it, but it’s the way it is. Unless you’re in yuppieville, you’re up a creek.
After all, as my lovely wife likes to point out, if someone’s living paycheck to paycheck they’re probably not going to buy a head of cabbage at the farmers market for $5 if they can get it at the grocery store for $2.50. Heck, we don’t live paycheck to paycheck and we balk at the prices we see.
It’s hard to drop prices, but you have to live in the market and with market realities. And the market isn’t just the other ten tables at the Farmers Market, it includes everywhere else that folks can buy food.
The guy we bought our winter squash from this year is a great example. He charged a price that was fantastic for his crops. It was cheaper to buy from him than from the store. Do you think we’ve bought any squash from the store since then? Nope, because we stocked up and bought a bunch of stuff from him.
Bottom line, you can’t expand the market without two things. Education and competitive pricing. It doesn’t have to be rock bottom pricing, because competing purely on price is a fools game. But you can’t price yourself out of the market, which is what too many folks do.
Another option is to provide stuff you can’t get elsewhere. If you are competing with a non commodity type item, then you’ve got a leg up. Folks can’t just walk down the street and get it at Safeway.
Have multiple streams of resilient income. Take us for example. We’re not farmers, but we’re going to sell seeds and plant starts. We’re going to sell honey and hive products. We’ve got a couple other ideas of things we can sell on the local market.
But our primary focus is as it should be. Producing as much of our food as we possibly can. It cuts our living expense and increases our resilience. All of the market products above are byproducts of that. They’re not the core goal.
You should do the same. No matter where you live, strive to produce as much of your families food as you possibly can. You’re going to need it.