From farmer to consumer: How to make direct marketing work


CORVALLIS, Ore. – Consumers these days are eager to buy the ripest, freshest, high-quality fruits and vegetables they can find, and many farmers are stepping up to fill the demand at farmers' markets, roadside stands and U-pick operations.

Farmers who consider selling directly to the public understand that they can save money if they eliminate middlemen, but might need marketing advice to succeed. A wealth of details on how to make farmer-to-consumer marketing work is available in a series of newly revised publications from Oregon State University Extension Service.

The OSU publications help farmers evaluate their marketing needs and expectations and provide information on market alternatives.

"Self-evaluation is also a key," said Larry Burt, an OSU Extension economist and co-author of the series. "Direct market producers should enjoy meeting people who visit the farm or stand; if visitors do not feel welcome, they probably won't return.

"Although additional income is often the first reason farmers decide to become retailers, many enjoy the flexibility of owning their own business,” he added.

Burt said that some farmers do not produce enough to attract processors or commercial buyers and instead use the opportunity to sell high-quality products that can vary from commercial standards in size and appearance.

Other considerations such as legal requirements, employment and zoning restrictions in starting a farmer-to-consumer business are detailed in the OSU publication series. All the publications are free of charge and can be found on the OSU Extension Service Web site.

•    PNW 201-E, Farmer-to-Consumer Marketing Overview: http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw201-e.pdf
•    PNW 202-E, Production and Marketing Costs http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw202-e.pdf
•    PNW 203-E, Merchandising, Pricing and Promotional Strategies http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw203-e.pdf
•    PNW 204-E, Place of Business and Product Quality http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw204-e.pdf
•    PNW 205-E, Personnel Management  http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw205-e.pdf
•    PNW 206-E, Financial Management http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw206-e.pdf