Holiday Farm Sales – An Opportunity Not to be Missed!

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, Jane of all trades, is a farmer, educator, blogger and more!
Cathleen Vought

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.

 

6 Market Farming Crops That Tap Into the Healthy Holiday Cooking Trend

When you’re trying to make the most of limited greenhouse resources, trying to plan your crop scheduling around culinary trends may sound futile. However, a willingness to at least try and keep up with long lasting trends in cooking can make the difference between success and failure at market farming. With traditional holiday foods featuring high levels of saturated fat, sodium, sugar, and refined flour, there’s been a decade-long shift towards healthy holiday cooking that you can tap into. Try at least one popular farm vegetable crop listed below that can help boost your sales during the holiday season.

  1. Cauliflower

With the increase of adherence to vegetarian and vegan diets, many home cooks have recently turned to roasting whole heads of cauliflower in place of meat main dishes like turkeys and hams. Mashed, pureed, or even riced cauliflowers has been a trendy replacement for starch heavy potato and rice dishes for nearly a decade now. This is one of the more time and labor intensive cruciform vegetables to grow, but the higher price per pound for a quality head makes it worth the work of adding it to your marketing farming efforts. Smaller side shoots and miniature varieties ripen fast and are easily marketed as quick roasting and easy to slice after cooking whole.

  1. Lentils

Lentils won’t work for greenhouse or hydroponics growing in most cases, but it’s a great rotational crop for small farms with open field acreage and a relatively long cool season with mild temperatures. Locally grown lentils demand a high price per pound as a specialty organic crop, while they’re also replenishing the soil where you grow them since they’re a legume that fixes nitrogen. Make sure you’re willing to invest in small scale winnowing and threshing equipment if you add this crop to your routine. Brown, green, red, and yellow lentils are all commonly used to create tasty vegan and vegetarian meat-free lentil loaves for holiday meals that are packed with flavor, protein, and fiber.

  1. Sweet Potatoes

Growing in a hot and humid climate or a heated greenhouse environment instead? Try sweet potatoes for a double crop that is in high demand for all sorts of holiday dishes. While many market farmer customers are primarily familiar with eating the roots of the sweet potato, they’ll be happy to learn that the greens are mild and nutritious as well. Sell your trimmings from exuberant growth in your greenhouse or hydroponics system to make money on salad mixes in addition to sweet potatoes sold to make Thanksgiving casseroles and Christmas pies.

  1. Root Crops

Root crops often go out of vogue for decades at a time, but they’re enjoying a renaissance for now and deserve attention since many of them grow quickly and produce a harvest within one to three months. From specialty radishes to colorful carrots, tiny tender turnips, creamy parsnips, and even unusual sunchokes, you have plenty of options to find root crops that fit your chosen market farming method and climate. Many root crops like parsnips are lower in carbohydrates than potatoes and other holiday standards, so they’re popular even among market shoppers following paleo and low carb diets.

  1. Winter Squash

While butternuts and acorn squash were once primary in demand only for holiday meals, now these squash are easily sold from long-term storage all year round. Unique and unusual hybrids of spaghetti squash mixed with sweeter kabocha and pumpkin are in high demand for trendy holiday dishes that also happen to fit into many diets and satisfy healthy eating concerns. Be sure to outline the exact features and benefits of specific winter squash at the market since many varieties feature high levels of important vitamins and nutrients with low fat and moderate carb content.

  1. Kale

Kale’s time as a superstar has come and gone, but it remains a staple for healthier eating for many people. It’s one of the easiest greens to mix into stuffing, salads, appetizers, and even vegetarian and vegan main dishes like nut and lentil loaves. While it’s no longer quite trendy enough to plan an entire season around, most markets will support a steady sale of many dark and bitter greens during the holiday season. Commit to a little space for the most popular varieties of kale in your farm vegetable crop planning for a easy to grow holiday crop that remains in-demand from year to year.

Regardless of the crops you choose to grow for holiday markets and CSA delivers, you’ll need the right farm planning software to manage recordkeeping and rotational information. Check your fall and winter growing and sales plan at a glance by using Farm Grower Manager to keep everything under control and boost productivity at the same time.

Jessica Kolifrath farmer, educator and blogger

Jessica grew up eating homegrown tomatoes and showing rabbits at livestock shows, so it’s no wonder she has her own 3 acre organic hobby farm today that will soon be home to a small licensed nursery for valuable trees and native shrubs. When she’s not busy with her own gardens and chickens, she enjoys helping build greenhouses and weed the blueberry fields at her friend’s 30 acre organic fruit and vegetable plant farm.