Consider Farm Production Experience before Jumping into New Markets

A farmers market in Tennessee

​Selling farm products at farmers markets is considered an "entry level" marketing strategy for producers wishing to direct market their produce. Other strategies like 'Pick Your Own" require a higher level of expertise and commitment for success. Photo courtesy UTIA.

Consumers in Tennessee and nationwide are buying products direct from farms by the sack, basket and bushel. “Selling farm products direct from the farm to the end customer, which is also called “direct farm marketing,” can be a rewarding and profitable way to diversify a farm’s marketing plan says Rob Holland, director of the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture (CPA). As producers contemplate gearing up for the 2016 production year, Holland recommends operators select a type of direct marketing approach that matches their production experience and expertise.

“Some customers may require large volumes of very high-quality products,” said Holland. “Other customers may be more forgiving on product quality, perhaps even willing to learn along with the farmer as they try something new.” Holland says roadside stands and farmers markets are often “entry-level” market channels for farmers growing a new product or exploring a new marketing strategy.

On the other hand, markets that use the farm as the marketing location – like a retail stand on the farm or inviting customers onto the farm to “Pick Your Own” products – demand a higher level of production expertise. “Customers traveling out to the farm usually want adequate quantities of high-quality product to purchase,” said Holland. “Offering poor quality or running out of products could create a negative experience for consumers.”

Megan Bruch Leffew, a marketing specialist with the CPA, added that “Community Supported Agriculture” is often ranked as the direct farm market channel requiring the highest level of production expertise. This marketing technique offers customers a certain amount of goods, during a set period of time, from the farm. “CSA is a sort of subscription concept,” said Leffew. “In that marketing model, the failure to deliver high-quality, consistent volume and a wide mix of products can create a barrier for repeat business and negative word-of-mouth referrals.”

For more information about evaluating different direct farm marketing strategies, both Holland and Leffew recommend the UT Extension publication “Choosing Direct Marketing Channels for Agricultural Products” (PB1796). The document is available free at your local county UT Extension office or online at the UT Extension publications website:  Enter “PB1796” into the search engine. For additional publications on direct marketing, enter that term into the search engine.

More information about the CPA and its services are available online at the center’s website:

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Megan Bruch Leffew, Marketing Specialist, Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777,

Rob Holland, Director, Center for Profitable Agriculture,