Good Advice for All Business Owners, Including Farmers

Franklin, Tenn., farmers market
​Chatting with your customers at a farmers market is one way to survey their needs and expectations. Photo courtesy Tennessee Department of Agriculture.

Focusing on customer wants and needs is a hallmark of successful retailers. The same is required for farmers selling goods directly to customers. “Characteristics, values and preferences of a farm’s target customers should be considered for every decision related to marketing products,” said Megan Bruch Leffew, a marketing specialist with the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture (CPA).

As more Tennessee farms consider direct farm marketing – selling farm products direct to consumers – producers should ask questions that help identify consumer demand and preferences for their products. Leffew said asking the right questions helps. “Where are your customers or potential customers located? How far might they be willing to travel to purchase products your farm is offering? Where can they currently buy such products, and how often do they buy them?”

Gathering more specifics about potential customers can help farm marketers tailor a successful marketing plan. Information about the frequency of product purchases, as well as how much of a product customers are likely to purchase at a particular time, can help farms plan production quantities. Information about preferred product attributes is also helpful. 

“Are your potential customers willing to pay premiums for certain things grown nearby? And how much more might they be willing to pay? Those are important questions to answer,” said Rob Holland, Director of the CPA.

One good strategy for finding this kind of information is to have as many conversations as possible with customers. Conversations can range from informal chats with farmers market customers to surveys sent to a farm’s existing mailing list.

For more information about different direct farm marketing strategies, see 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: 

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions.



Megan Bruch Leffew, Marketing Specialist, Center for Profitable Agriculture,

Rob Holland, Director, Center for Profitable Agriculture,