Wise farmers know to find markets before they grow.
Growing products with market in mind gives farmers an advantage. When you know your customer, you can deliver exactly what your customer wants, when and how they want it. This adds value for your customers and profits to your pocketbook.
Mapping, data collection and surveying are 3 ways to find markets for your farm products before you sow the first seed or step foot in the barn. The goal is to learn as much as you can about customers, their preferences and opinions, what they value and what appeals to them.
If you are lucky enough to live in Ohio, The Ohio Market Maker website is a great place to start your market research. The business search tab allows you to locate agribusinesses by type or keyword. You can filter results to pinpoint local food retailers, packers, processors and wholesalers.
You can use Market Maker to search for potential partners that complement your current operation. A small producer could use the tool to find other small producers interested in cooperative selling. Alternatively, you can use the tool to map competitors and gain a competitive advantage.
Simply Map is a nationwide research database, but you can filter results to map specific locations. The database provides business and consumer data. Unlike Market Maker, it is not agribusiness specific. You can export data to create a detailed report. Free access to Simply Map is available through your local library.
Collecting data gives farmers keen insight into the mind of the market. The Agricultural Marketing Service, Economic Research Service and U.S. Census Bureau are credible sources to find up-to-date data.
- The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service publishes data, reports, publications, and other information to help farmers identify markets and price their products.
- The USDA Economic Research Service provides data on consumer spending for food and household goods, as well as general consumption trends.
- The U.S. Census Bureau is the go-to resource for population and economic data.
When it comes to finding a market for your farm products, numbers don’t speak louder than words. Surveying customers can give you keen insight to market needs.
In my opinion, face-to-face conversation is the most enlightening way to survey a market. Talking with customers tells you what drives their purchasing decisions. Hone in on their language; do they use words like “local” and “sustainable” to describe the products they want? Using their language in your product marketing is a surefire way to capture their attention and the attention of likeminded customers.
Survey responses might give you a business-boosting idea. A butcher may foresee higher demand during the holidays; you can tweak production to increase your supply during that time of year. A produce manager might identify a hot specialty crop that will make a great addition to your product mix.
If you can’t connect in person, phone calls, mailings, email, social media and online surveys are additional ways to survey markets.