Consumers value food items, ornamentals and other items

UT Farmers Market shopper

The Farmers Market at the UT Gardens, Knoxville, is one of more than 125 farmers markets in Tennessee.

Direct farm marketing is growing in Tennessee. Results from the recently released 2012 Census of Agriculture, conducted by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, show the share of Tennessee farm sales from direct marketing rose from a reported $15.4 million in 2007 to $19.2 million in 2012.

That number likely understates the actual amount of farm products sold directly to consumers. “The actual value of direct marketing to Tennessee farms is probably greater, as the Census reports only farm products sold directly to consumers for human food consumption,” said Megan Bruch, marketing specialist with the University of Tennessee Center for Profitable Agriculture. “Direct sales of ornamental and other crops, like pumpkins, are not included in the Census estimate,” she said.

Tennessee farms are using different ways to get those products direct to the consumers, said Bruch. Many start out at community farmers markets—
there are more than 125 farmers markets in Tennessee. Other farms invite the public onto their property to “pick your own” produce, like apples, berries and pumpkins. “We’re seeing farmers in Tennessee, and around the country, being very creative when it comes to taking their crops direct to customers,” said Bruch.

Some farms offer subscriptions, often called CSA (community supported agriculture), which provide a certain amount of fresh produce delivered direct to customers every week or two. Still other farms offer a “serve yourself” option, where customers pick up produce – and even meat – from refrigerators or farm stands, leaving their payment in a lockbox. “That kind of arrangement helps some farms keep their labor costs lower,” said Bruch. Others who produce more product volume are bypassing wholesalers and selling directly to local restaurants and grocery stores.

For more information about direct farm marketing in Tennessee, see UT Extension publication “Choosing Direct Marketing Channels for Agricultural Products” (PB 1796) at your county UT Extension office or online here.

You may also visit the Center for Profitable Agriculture website.

The Center for Profitable Agriculture is a cooperative effort between UT Extension and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture.  With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state.  In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issues at the local, state and national levels.



Rob Holland, director, or Megan Bruch, marketing specialist, UT Center for Profitable Agriculture, 931-486-2777,


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