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MU guidesheet gives selling tips for local food producers
COLUMBIA, Mo. – The growing popularity of local markets for fresh food presents farm families with opportunities to increase profits, said a University of Missouri Extension community food specialist, but the challenges of marketing and selling directly to consumers can be daunting to some.
“While many farmers may be intimidated by the idea of selling, it is important to remember that selling skills can be learned,” said Bill McKelvey of the MU Extension’s Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program.
McKelvey, along with MU Extension sociologist Mary Hendrickson and Joe Parcell, an MU Extension economist and director of the Missouri Value Added Development Center, have written an eight-page guidesheet, “Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers.”
The guidesheet describes ethical, customer-friendly selling techniques and offers practical advice on building relationships with customers, discovering customers’ needs and preferences, advocating for one’s products and providing quality service.
The number of farmers markets in Missouri has doubled in the past decade to more than 130. In addition, farmers also have opportunities to sell at roadside stands, through cooperatives and to institutions and supermarkets, he said.
“Customers are looking for food that is fresh and local. They also want to get to know the people who grow their food,” said McKelvey.
However, it takes strong selling skills to attract and keep local customers,” he said. Sellers also need to do their homework to assess the competition and stay abreast of consumer trends and new developments in direct marketing and farming.
Customers are willing to pay for food products that are clean and of a high quality, McKelvey said. They also are willing to pay more to have the opportunity to get to know the farmer and be a part of the community.
“People consider price, but they also take value into consideration. The stereotype that farmers markets are the place to get cheap food is not accurate,” he said.
The guidesheet includes an extensive list of resources, including publications, Web sites and contacts.
MU Extension Guide G6222, “Selling Strategies for Local Food Producers,” is online at http://extension.missouri.edu/explore/agguides/hort/g06222.htm and available through your local Extension county office.