The Value of What You Grow
by M. Sakran of Porter, TX
It’s a beautiful morning in September. It’s a little cool, but starting to warm. The sky looks clear, and there’s a breeze. You woke up early that morning and loaded the truck. Box after box of beautiful produce. The colors were deep, they seemed to glow, and there was a scent that you just couldn’t describe.
You’re standing there now, at your farmer’s market booth. Baskets of beautiful pears, peaches, zucchini and squash are laid out. Your little hand painted signs clearly display the prices for each kind of produce and each size of basket.
People come and go. You have conversations with regulars and meet new people. Everyone is delighted by what you have for sale.
But then someone comes up. You haven’t seen them before. Maybe they’ve never been to a farmer’s market. They stop, at a distance from your booth, and look at what you have. Maybe they go by a few times. They get a little closer and pause for a moment. Something is wrong though. As they stand and look, they look at you with questioning eyes and say, “I know all this looks great, but I can get pears for half as much at the grocery store in town. Peaches too. Plus the zucchini’s on sale. This all looks good, but why should I pay twice as much for what you have?”
This has probably happened before. Maybe more than a few times. It’s a legitimate question. People want value in what they buy. It’s a very reasonable thing.
When this question is asked, you are probably flooded with answers. You know intuitively why what you sell is not like what they can get at the store. You know it is worth the price because you know what it is, where it came from and what it took to grow it. You are standing there, overwhelmed, because you are so enthusiastic about what you want to say. It can be a bit much.
While you want to let this person know about the value of what you sell, you don’t want to be pushy or sound like you are debating. What you want is a person who becomes a happy customer, not someone who leaves after being talked to for five minutes. What can you do?
Well, it’s not really that hard. You really just need to know two things: the value in what you sell, and how to tell someone that the right way.
There is a lot of value in the produce you sell that contrasts it from what someone can buy at the grocery store.
First, you probably sell varieties that are different from what the grocery store sells. Hopefully you know what they sell, and you can tell the customer that they can’t get this kind of produce at the store in town. With pears as an example, the grocery store probably sells Bartlett and Bosc, but you sell Pineapple and Tennessee pears. You can let the customer know this. As you’ve probably tried dozens of different varieties, you can let the customer know why yours are different. Be brief and talk about things like taste and texture that are easy to get across.
Speaking of taste and texture, that is probably what your produce is grown for. It isn’t grown so it can travel five hundred miles and ripen for six months in a warehouse. This is important. There isn’t a comparison between what you sell and what’s at the store. Obviously you can tell this to someone, but the best way to get this across is with a free sample. There’s no better way to let someone know something tastes good, than to let them taste it. There are rules about giving someone food, things about safety and hygiene and things, so be sure and follow them.
Third, your produce comes with a connection. You aren’t selling something grown on a thousand acre farm, five states away, and owned by a multi-national corporation, that was picked three months ago. You are selling something grown here, picked yesterday, down the road, by you, on land you own, where you work, where your family lives. You are selling more than produce. The best way to get this across is just to be knowledgeable and enthusiastic. Answer any questions the person has and be able to describe, very briefly, the story and connection of your produce. It might not hurt to think about this ahead of time. Don’t rehearse or memorize (you don’t want to sound corporate, right?), but just think about how to talk about what makes what you grow special.
Fourth, is your produce certified in any way? For example, by being organic or something like that? If so, let people know. Your synthetic pesticide free produce is a far cry from the traditional produce at the store. If you aren’t certified in something, that’s okay too. If you grow your produce using certain practices, just be able to talk about those. Know what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides you use. Learn to talk about them simply. Let people know how what you use could be different from what they can buy in town.
Fifth, you come with knowledge. For example, with pears, some pears are best eaten as a dessert. Others are better for cooking. Other’s still are better for preserves. If you know this and grow different varieties, let people know. Be able to talk about how to use what you grow and the different ways it can be used. Maybe have recipe cards that you can hand out. You know a lot about how your produce can be used and this is valuable to someone. You can easily get that across.
Sixth, while your produce might seem more expensive, it probably isn’t. Not to use a pun, but the person you are talking to probably isn’t comparing apples to apples. When the person saw the produce at the store, it was one of two or three varieties, grown using commercial agriculture techniques, shipped in from miles away. That’s the produce they saw for a dollar per pound. Had they wandered a little more in the store though, they might have found, depending on the store, locally grown, organic, heirloom produce. If they had seen this, and the price it costs, they would realize that what you sell isn’t really that expensive. In fact, it might be cheaper. The best way to get this across is just to know and be able to talk about what makes your produce different from what is traditionally sold. If you can let someone know they were comparing apples to peaches, they might not think your apples are really that expensive anymore.
When someone genuinely questions why they should pay more for what you sell than for what they can get at a large grocery store, it’s not really that hard to be able to tell them why. Just be able to talk about the difference between what you sell and what they can buy at the store and what makes your produce special. You already know all you need to. Just take a little time, think about how to say what you want to say, and watch as that person understands the difference and becomes a happy customer.