Image courtesy of The Misty Manor Mercers
Looking at the Black Friday and Small Business Saturday ads the past few days, the pain that many farmers feel this time of year hits home. The farmers’ markets are mostly closed down for the season, and so is that extra income that comes from them. Even if you’ve had a separate harvest, it’s probably done for the year and you know that money needs to be budgeted carefully to make it work through a long winter. The holiday season is coming and there’s an expectation for presents, family visiting and travel in the air. How are you going to get in a little extra money coming in for the season? Holiday sales! Here’s a quick look at a few options you can consider to bring in some additional money over the course of the holiday season.
- Celebrate the season – on the farm! Offer one or many opportunities for people to come to your farm for a seasonal event, such as offering hayrides around your property, pick-your-own options and similar possibilities. Agri-tourism has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past decade or two as people want to get closer to their food source. You have the opportunity to grow a larger, more loyal customer following as more people learn about your operation and family. This is also a great time to bring in more customers to next years’ farmer’s market booth by promoting that as part of your overall process.
- Add value. You may sell the most amazing tomatoes during the market season, but with a little work, you can offer preserved items through the rest of the year, such as tomato sauces, salsas, sun-dried tomatoes and similar options. This will require a certain amount of research into what’s allowed in your state, county and, should you choose to bring them to market, in the farmer’s market as well. However, organizations that have certified commercial kitchens available, such as churches and community groups, are often happy to rent them out during their downtime provided that the facilities are cleaned up well afterward.
- Organize a farmer’s market holiday market. Some farmer’s markets will provide their vendors with the opportunity to reach out into the community after the season has closed down for one or two special events to move a little more produce, value-added products, CSAs or similar aspects that help promote both the farmer’s market and the farms themselves. These events are often planned indoors if the weather isn’t just perfect or can’t be anticipated for that time of year. Though this may require a certain amount of advertising and a bit of word-of-mouth to get a good turnout, but can be an excellent source of extra holiday income.
- Diversify your offerings. Though you may provide plenty of produce during the summer, what about your beautiful end-grain wood cutting boards that you’ve been churning out during your downtime, the amazing quilts or crocheted blankets your daughter turns out so regularly or the wonderful homemade soaps and candles your aunt puts together? Adding a few crafts to fill out your booth, especially when produce is starting to let up, provides you with a great way to bring in more customers who may not be looking for produce while bringing in more income for your farm as a whole.
- Advertise for free with other forms of media. If your market has officially closed for the year, that doesn’t mean that your opportunities for selling produce or value-added products are over! Facebook’s Marketplace, Craigslist and Etsy all offer options for moving a few more items after the main farmers market season has ended, though they’ll require a little more work to get the ads worded how you want for the best effect. You’ll also want to check with your local, state and county laws about whether you’ll require a business license to sell from your farm, though there are exemptions in many cases and several states have exemptions in place for farms that are selling “at the farm gate”.
By taking a few of these off-season market farming approaches to improving your income and opportunities, your small farm can remain sustainable and growing throughout the entire year, making your holidays merry and bright and the new year more promising than ever. Whether your family farm’s focus is on hydroponics, avoiding genetically modified organisms, organic or natural production, greenhouse opportunities or simply staying sustainable, making your operation more efficient in terms of recordkeeping, crop management, farm planning and production management, you can ensure that your family farm will stay strong to be passed on to the next generation. Have an amazing holiday season and a fabulous new year as 2019 comes rolling in!
Cathleen Vought is a freelance content and copywriter living on a small farm in southwest Missouri with her husband and daughter, two dogs, a few dozen Shetland sheep and chickens, too many cats and a Morgan-Arabian mare with serious attitude. A strong believer in social entrepreneurship, she has over two decades of experience as a volunteer disaster and medical responder, living the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” She spends her free time working with wild edible and medicinal plants, fiber arts, playing with hot glass at her torch and renovating the family’s historic farmhouse.